1 Contents Special thanks to our education community partners

Activity guide overview 3 A brief history of 5 Vocal spotlight 7 Characters in 9 Elektra overview 10 Synopsis 11 Composer biography : 12 Interview with conductor Alex Prior 13 The music of Elektra 15 Greek 16 Expressionism in Elektra 18 Activity: Creative concept 19 Activity: Storyboard 21 Activity: Poster design 23 Activity: Character reflections 24 Activity: Design a playbill 25 Elektra further listening 26

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edmontonopera.com/discover/education production of Elektra starring Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs

2 Education and Activity Opera 101 Guide Overview Opera is the art form of all art forms — it combines theatre, orchestral music, unamplified live singing, visual design, This education and activity guide is designed for teachers, and much more. Going to the opera is not only a beautiful students, and those who are interested in engaging with artistic experience, it can also be a very educational trip. various aspects of the opera both before and after attending the performance. Opera gives students the opportunity to engage with a

variety of historical movements in literature, art, and The first part of this guide is more reading-based, with a politics. Each opera sheds light on the era it was composed detailed overview, synopsis, and conceptual discussion of in and contains themes relevant to today’s world. Edmonton Opera’s Elektra. This is essential learning before you proceed to the activities because it places the To make the most of your opera experience, please read the production within a specific framework. Teachers may following pointers on opera etiquette before attending the distribute the content for students to read as-is, or choose dress rehearsal. to go over the material with the entire class.

Arrive early! This guide is intended for all grades attending the performance; there are some suggested ways to adapt the Your tickets will be available at the auditorium 45 minutes content based on difficulty level, but teachers are prior to show time. Please allow enough time to seat your encouraged to modify activities to suit the needs of their group — we suggest 20 minutes. The dress rehearsal for class. Elektra will begin promptly at 7 p.m., so allot extra time for

ticket pickup, seating, etc. It is also best to have students Please contact us with any questions about this guide at use the washroom prior to locating your seats within the [email protected]. We can provide resources theatre. for further discussion, suggestions on how to tailor activities and content for your class, and more.

3 Applause is welcome! • Please stay seated. Once in the theatre it is courteous to remain seated until the end of the Opera is spectacle. Your presence in the audience is performance. Please do not leave the theatre unless essential to complete the whole experience. Enjoy the there is an emergency. performance and respond to what you see. Unlike • No food, gum, or drinks of any kind (except water) in television or film, every live performance is unique: only the theatre. you and the performers will share the experience you have • Students are welcome to bring packed food items, in the theatre. Your warmth and good humour are but these must not be eaten in the theatre. Food may important to them, so when you like something, tell them only be consumed out in the lobby. with your applause. • Bottled water is allowed in the theatre. Applaud after the arias as well as after the performance; • Acoustics are very good in the auditorium, so you can shout “Bravo!” for a man, “Brava!” for a woman, any sounds of food being unwrapped, bottles being and “Bravi!” for more than one person, or the whole crushed, etc. will be heard throughout. performance. Keep in mind: No cameras or recording devices. • Use the bathrooms before the rehearsal begins. The artists’ images and performances belong to them and • Be silent if the performance has to stop for a few we ask you to respect that by refraining from recording moments (this is a performance, but also a working their work in any way. rehearsal so it may be necessary to stop at times). • If you must use the washroom during the Other pointers: performance, please be accompanied by an adult supervisor. The ushers might let you in again when The performance of Elektra is 100 minutes with • there is an appropriate pause in the action, and in no intermission. Elektra, there is no intermission. • Turn off your cell phones and all electronic devices. • Keep movement and voices down to a minimum, as this is a live dress rehearsal performance.

4 5 6 7 8


Elektra — Daughter of and Klytämnestra

Klytämnestra — mezzo-soprano Elektra’s mother

Chrysothemis — soprano Elektra’s sister

Orest — Elektra’s brother

Aegisth — Klytämnestra’s lover, Agamemnon’s cousin

9 Overview expressionism that was not yet mainstream. The in Elektra is large and produces clashing sounds, which

create a dissonant and chromatic landscape for the opera. Elektra is easily one of the most ever The music is not ‘pleasant’, rather it relies on some degree composed, and also one of the most difficult to perform. of sensory assault. When Richard Strauss premiered this piece at Dresden in 1909, the audience could not believe their eyes and ears — Strauss’s greatest triumph with Elektra was creating a they had just experienced one hundred minutes of radical score that does not allow the audience a second’s rest from operatic genius. They stood perplexed and benumbed for the action. The opera starts with absolute intensity, and several moments before bursting into thunderous cheers carries its energy throughout, keeping the audience on the and applause. edge of their seats for the entire duration. The singing also never loses its magnitude — especially for Elektra. This is a Based on the ancient Greek myth of , this opera challenging role for any soprano to perform, and needs follows the journey of its tormented protagonist as she immense vocal stamina, requiring her to jump from one mourns the death of her father and promises revenge on dramatic note to another. Elektra has often been described her mother for killing him. It explores the deep as the most visceral and commanding one-woman show psychological turmoil that grief can bring to a fragile mind, ever written. turning Elektra from a noble daughter into an obsessive murderer. As you settle into your seats for the performance, prepare yourself to delve into the darkness of a mind possessed by The music of Elektra is also particularly inventive because hatred. Elektra is no ordinary piece — it is theatre that it seeks to both mirror and fuel the protagonist’s emotional immerses you completely, blending ancient myth with states. When the orchestra becomes dissonant, Elektra’s modernist music to create a spectacular opera narrative mind descends into chaos; when she runs around the stage never experienced before. frantically, the orchestra keeps up with tremendous pace. As Elektra’s emotional state deteriorates, the music We hope you enjoy the Alberta premiere of Richard becomes even more complex and harsh. Strauss’s masterpiece Elektra.

Stylistically, Strauss almost belongs in his own category. Both Elektra and his previous opera defied the musical conventions of the time, and embodied an

10 Synopsis however, backs out, leaving an enraged Elektra to act on her own.

The servants outside the royal palace are debating whether Elektra runs up to one of the strangers who just arrived at Elektra will come out of hiding today, or if she will continue the palace, asking him questions about Orest. The stranger to grieve her father’s death. They mock Elektra for her is revealed to be Orest himself, who had disguised himself madness, as she appears and steers clear of the group. to sneak into the palace. Ecstatic at this reunion, brother and sister comfort one another. On her own, Elektra agonizes over her father’s murder, recounting how he was killed by her mother Klytämnestra The hour of vengeance now upon them, Orest heads into upon returning from Troy. Elektra declares her revenge on Klytämnestra’s chambers and proceeds to fulfill his bloody Klytämnestra, plotting murder with the help of her sister revenge. Elektra revels in her mother’s panicked screams. and brother Orest, whose arrival she awaits. Aegisth, Klytämnestra’s lover, arrives in the palace at this moment and faces the same gruesome fate at Orest’s hands. Chrysothemis rushes in suddenly, informing Elektra that Klytämnestra and her lover Aegisth have decided that Possessed by euphoria and madness at this successful Elektra will be locked up in a tower. double murder, Elektra dances, and dances, and dances, until she drops. Elektra’s fragile mind succumbs to its Klytämnestra enters, engaging Elektra in conversation, frenzy. telling her about the nightmares she has been having. Elektra replies that a sacrifice must be made in order to Orest leaves the palace in silence. cure Klytämnestra of those nightmares. She then declares that the sacrifice, in fact, is Klytämnestra’s own life. Elektra describes the brutal ways in which Klytämnestra will be murdered, that too at the hands of her own son Orest. Two strangers then arrive, and Klytämnestra is taken away to meet them, leaving Elektra alone again. Chrysothemis runs back to Elektra, informing her that their brother Orest has died. In at first, Elektra soon decides that she and Chrysothemis must carry out the murder. Chrysothemis,

11 Composer Biography— it’s unplayable on the piano as well.” The influence he Richard Strauss (1864-1949) drew from Wagner was because of his friendship A highly skilled composer and conductor, Richard Strauss’s with Alexander Ritter; the advice to conductors, particularly of his own work was, Strauss wrote “Above all, don’t be dull.” One critic noted that even if were a turn away from his Strauss had never composed, he still would be listed among Brahms influence and the most important musicians of his generation for his instead heavily influenced conducting reputation alone. by Wagner. Elektra, in 1909, marked the beginning of his partnership with Hugo von Strauss was born June 11, 1864, in , the first child of Hofmannsthal, which would last 25 years. the second marriage of Franz Joseph Strauss. The elder Strauss was the first horn player of the Munich Opera, and Strauss had a worldwide reputation as a conductor, and the younger Strauss received piano lessons when he was conducted at the Munich Opera (1886), Weimar Court four years old and composition lessons by age six. Later, he (1889 and 1894), the (1919 to 1924), would also play the . He became the assistant of Hans visited the twice (1904 and 1921) and was Von Bulow at the Meiningen Orchestra in 1885, becoming the musical director at the Berlin Opera for 12 years, the principal conductor the following year at Von Bulow’s starting in 1898. recommendation. Although he was invited to a position in the new German He wrote two operas before his mega-hit Salome — government during the 1920s, he did not align with the Guntrum (1894) and (1901), neither of which new regime. He came into conflict with the Nazi were well received. Strauss knew how to test the limits of government particularly after he insisted on collaborating an orchestra, and the music for Salome makes use of with Jewish writer Stefan Zwieg for , extended tonality, chromaticism, a wide range of keys, and by the 1940s left Germany for Bavaria and then Vienna, unusual modulations, tonal ambiguity and polytonality. Austria, where he continued to write music. He spent much Supposedly, at an orchestra rehearsal for Salome, when the of the post-war period in Switzerland, and died on Sept. 8, oboist indicated that a certain passage might be playable on 1949, at his home in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, at the piano but not the , Strauss replied “Don’t worry, the age of 85.

12 In conversation with What are you looking forward to with Elektra?

Alexander Prior, I am so excited to conduct Elektra. It’s one of those really pivotal, brilliant, and most exciting masterpieces in the

conductor of Elektra repertoire. It is any conductor’s dream to be working on this opera. Plus we have a stellar cast and an incredible Vibrant, passionate, and wicked smart — that’s how we orchestra here in Edmonton! It’s going to be a good event. would describe Alexander Prior, the internationally acclaimed conductor who Is there a particular makes his Edmonton Opera approach you are going to debut with Elektra this season. take? At the wise young age of 24, Prior has conducted at leading Strauss is great for conductors opera houses across the world. — you just have to do what he Edmontonians are familiar with wrote and everything works. So his work, having seen him often my approach is to do exactly over the past few years with what Strauss wrote, openly and the Edmonton Symphony honestly, and let the music Orchestra, where Prior’s speak. Of course, you have to charismatic stage presence has add excitement, energy, and made him a favourite with the colour. Especially colour. orchestra and audiences alike! He was recently appointed the Strauss is also very precise new Chief Conductor of the about the sound of each word in the German language. So Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and we will be seeing a lot as an orchestra, we will have to be really conscious of the more of Prior in the coming years. words that are being sung and play accordingly, in order to tell the story very clearly through music. How does our enthusiastic maestro feel about conducting Strauss’s complex and dramatic masterpiece Elektra? Read on to find out.

13 Where would you place Strauss musically and What do you think audiences will love about Elektra? historically? Elektra is a really good opera for first timers and He is on the cusp, and I don’t think he can be put in a box. experienced operagoers alike. It is the orchestral equivalent Strauss became much more conservative as he went along, of heavy metal music — intense, visceral, and immediate. but in Elektra there is a modernist sense of foreboding. The music is a good head banger at times, which is quite Both Elektra (1909) and Salome (1905) are very aware, fun, and allows a very physical experience. Elektra can also through story and language, that the world is on the cusp of be an emotional experience, because it addresses the something terrible. With horrific things themes of longing, loneliness, and a happening in the Austro-Hungarian desire to find justice when there isn’t Empire at the time, it was all going any to be found. Like any great opera, it downhill. The pinnacle of romanticism helps us understand ourselves a bit was beginning to fade away. better. Elektra gives you a short, strong dose of opera in its most intense form. What makes Elektra great? There’s no time to get bored, no time to get sleepy. Elektra is just great Elektra is such a hardcore opera. It offers entertainment! spectacle, vocal fireworks, and a hugely powerful orchestra. Seriously, just the level of power that Strauss gets in the orchestra is unique. It’s almost two hours of being right at the edge of your seat. Like a roller coaster, there’s not a moment of letting go.

14 The music of Elektra psychological turmoil, since bitonality by its nature contains harmonic impulses that are contrary to one

another. Elektra contains several instances of this. Richard Strauss produced a revolutionary score with Elektra. His previous opera Salome had already pushed so many musical boundaries, employing dissonance • — Literally “leading theme” in German, a (explained below) to great effect. Elektra built on that and leitmotif is a recurring musical motto that seemed intended to make the audience feel overwhelmed, represents a person, place, emotion, idea, object, or shocked, but awe-inspired nonetheless. any other element in a musical work. The use of leitmotifs helps to provide structural unity to a Here are some terms that will help with your composition, and they may be combined together to understanding of the music in Elektra. These are all present form a dense and allusive web of thematic material. within the opera, and whether or not you are a music The idea originated in the mid-19th century and was student, you will be able to recognize them while watching developed into a compositional technique by the opera. Richard Wagner. Strauss uses leitmotifs to great effect in many of his works, including the operas Salome and Elektra. • Bitonality — The combination of two keys at the same time. Bitonality may be used for the duration of entire compositions or on a smaller scale in • Consonance — A sweet, harmonious sound without individual chords. An example of this latter type is any tension requiring resolution. The most the “Elektra chord,” which Strauss uses in the consonant intervals are the unison and , fifth, Leitmotif (see below) of the character of Elektra. sixth and third. Consonance is the opposite of dissonance.

Dissonance — Two or more notes that are perceived • It is comprised of the simultaneous soundings of E to be in discord or that “sound wrong” together. major and C-sharp major, re-spelled Dissonant intervals include the Minor 2nd, Major enharmonically: E, G-sharp/A-flat, B plus C-sharp/D- 7th, and tritone. Dissonance feels unstable to the flat and E-sharp/F. Composers sometimes use the listener and calls for harmonic resolution. It is the dissonant clashes of bitonality to signify opposite of consonance.

15 • Chromaticism — Chromatic notes are those that Greek tragedy don’t belong to the prevailing harmony or scale of a musical composition (so named because in early Elektra is based on a well-known play by ancient Greek music notation these notes were coloured). playwright . Electra is regarded as one of the best Chromatic is the reverse of diatonic, which refers to Greek both in terms of structure and content. The notes of a scale or harmony derived exclusively from form of Greek tragedy has been studied widely, and even those available in its given key. Chromaticism can theorized by Aristotle whose Poetics serves as the basis for add and intensity to music by introducing our contemporary understanding of Western theatre. notes or chords that are dissonant to the key and that call for resolution. So what is tragedy? In colloquial usage, • Tonality — The prevailing system of organizing harmony in Western music from roughly 1600 to tragedy means 1910. Within the tonal system, chords are something sad or predominantly based on the pitches in a key’s scale, catastrophic. In and these chords are organized into a hierarchy of ancient Greek drama, greater and lesser importance based on their it refers to a style of distance from the tonic, or home pitch. On a larger theatre that follows scale, tonal compositions are written in a single key, certain structural which begins and closes a work, with more rules. exploratory harmonic material in the middle. The of the word ‘tragedy’ is somewhat strange — it comes from ‘tragos’ meaning goat and ‘oide’ meaning ode or song. The goat- song referred to performances that were done wearing goatskins in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine and theatre. By its very nature, tragedy is meant to be about renewal and communal growth. Despite portraying sad and horrifying stories, tragedies aid both audience and performers in finding spiritual rebirth.

16 Elements of tragedy Fate is the ruling force of every Greek tragedy. The tragic A tragedy typically follows strict structure, that is, it hero or heroine is pretty much ‘doomed’ from the start contains a well-defined beginning, middle, and end. In because their fate has already been decided by the gods. many cases, tragedies also fulfill a more general dramatic Everything that happens in the play takes the protagonist structure: the story starts with exposition, we see the towards their inevitable tragic ending. The protagonist may character’s rising action, resulting in a climax, which quickly think they have free will and believe they can find a ‘happy moves into a falling action and then the dénouement or ending’, but the audience realizes quite early on that this resolution. can never be possible.

Perhaps the most defining element of tragedy is the Catharsis is an element that describes the impact of presence of a tragic hero or heroine. The play is focused tragedy on its audience. Catharsis means ‘purging through entirely on the actions and fate of this one character, and pity or fear’. The audience must bear witness to the horrors peripheral characters or events are primarily in service of experienced by the tragic figure, and in seeing this can this protagonist’s journey. The audience has the most to cleanse themselves spiritually. In essence, a tragedy learn from this character, which is amply evident in the projects the worst possibilities of human nature on stage as titles of each play — Electra, Oedipus the King, at a way for us to feel their impact without actually going Aulis, Medea, etc. through the tragedy ourselves. This is why Greek tragedies can often be absolutely immoral — murder, incest, Plot is also essential to tragedy. Each event in the drama adultery, etc. are part of the narrative and their harsh must be linked in a chain, so that the story tumbles towards consequences are on display for the audience to feel its conclusion. There cannot be any actions that do not disgusted by. serve the central plot. In Electra, for example, there are no subplots; everything that happens directly pushes Electra After watching Elektra at the Jubilee, students are to her fate. When she is standing outside the palace encouraged to reflect on their experience and identify the mourning her father’s death and plotting revenge, Electra’s elements of tragedy they saw on stage. The ‘Storyboard’ sister arrives and informs her their mother activity below is designed to assist in this analysis of the has decreed that Electra will be imprisoned soon. This puts opera. a timer on Electra’s revenge plot and she realizes she needs to act immediately, setting her own tragedy in motion.

17 Expressionism in Elektra dissonant and juxtaposes various orchestral elements to create a heightened experience of chaos, which is

characteristic of expressionism. 1909 was a thoroughly exciting time to compose an opera.

The artistic landscape of Europe was undergoing several It is also interesting to note that Elektra was composed in a radical transformations, of which Strauss himself was a world where Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis were major part. The second half of the 19th century had been widely known. Only a few years before Elektra premiered, dominated by naturalism and realism in theatre, which Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams was published. focused on storylines of ‘the everyday’. Dramatists were Strauss’s opera thus not only embraces expressionism, it interested in decoding the reasons why people act the way also dramatizes his understanding of psychology and they do, resulting in a lot of dialogue-heavy plays. This was trauma. Elektra’s ‘madness’ is a result of her father’s death the world where rational thought dominated, one that and her subsequent isolation from society. She becomes preferred psychological approaches to human nature, one consumed with revenge as a coping mechanism, and her that had just embraced Darwin’s The Origin of Species. obsession defines both the music and staging of the opera.

Many artists felt stifled by this rationalistic direction. Towards the end of the century, we began to see outbursts of emotion, of the unexplained and the irrational, make their way back into art. This was Expressionism. Music, theatre, painting, and sculpture — every art form experienced a sudden rush of chaos. The focus was now on the individual and how they perceived the distorted world around them. And the world was, indeed, changing. Just a few years into the 20th century, the First World War unleashed its devastation on Europe.

Strauss and his contemporaries felt a sense of impending doom and channeled it through their art. In Elektra, we see a protagonist whose world is thrown into complete disarray after the death of her father, and wrestles her ”The Scream” (1893) by Edvard Munch is considered one of the demons during the entire performance. The music is highlights of expressionist art

18 Activity — Creative Concept! Option B: Older Students

Pre-performance activity A Board is used to show a unifying idea for a creative project. Often, directors will use a vision board to focus One very important facet of every production is the design their vision for a production. It features specific elements of the show. Each production has a dedicated team of such as costumes, set design, and props. designers – both costume and scenery – working with the director to make their vision come to fruition. In this Establish your setting: activity, students will create costumes and set ideas for • Do you want it to be set in the time/place that what they think the opera should look like. They can pull the opera was originally written for, or in inspiration from a production that they have seen, other another time and place? productions, and, most importantly, their own • Have a good reason for changing the setting – imaginations. make it appropriate for the story and music

of the opera. Do the themes present remind Option A: Younger students you of a specific time period? Do you envision Read the overview and synopsis of Elektra as a class to the opera having simpler or more complex make the story of the opera clear. Now, students must costumes? Don’t just change the period generate ideas to design this production! because you can – consider what costumes you might like them to wear and where the 1. Divide students into small groups, and give each story might take place. If you pick an group two large sheets of butcher paper. Students appropriate historical event to centre those will trace two students on the paper, and then draw details around, it will help unify the details of costumes on their silhouettes. Choice of which two your production. characters they want to design costumes for is up to the students. 2. In these groups, students can also then design a scenic concept — what does the stage look like? Are there levels or backdrops?

19 Costume Design Props Design

• Research what kinds of clothing people wore • What supplies do the characters in the opera need? in the period/location that you chose to set Do they need swords, brooms, lanterns, axes, etc.? the opera in. What did those of lower social What should those look like to reflect the style of the class wear? What would royalty wear? What setting? Create a properties list and some sketches. accessories might each character have? How would you distinguish major and minor Set Design characters of the opera? • Research the prominent architectural styles of the

• Consider the colours that you would want period/setting that you chose. What kind of houses most represented in the opera – what were did people live in? Were the housing styles different the colours of royalty in the setting of the between low and high social classes? What would opera? What colours best reflect any relevant the royalty/upper class of the period have lived in? themes present in the opera? Is it a bright, • Consider the main locations of the opera – outside hopeful story? Or dark and bleak? Create Elektra’s family home. How might these places look? some colour swatches to use as inspiration What building materials might the people of the for your vision board. • period have had? What should your set be made out Based off your research, create some • of, or made to look like? costumes for your production – pull multiple What decorations might you need for the set? Do images from magazines, Internet searches, • you need curtains, vases, flowers, torches, etc.? etc. to create your own costumes. Don’t just

use other productions costumes – create your • Using your research, create set designs for the main scenes of the opera. As with the costume design, use own. Draw something, use the multiple images from magazines and Internet searches to pull images to make a collage of what looks you want for each character, etc. inspiration from. Make a collage of the images collected, or your own original sketch.

20 Activity — Storyboard Action, and Resolution/Dénouement/ Catastrophe. After filling in their storyboard Post-performance activity with those elements, have them present their storyboard to the class. A storyboard is a sequence of drawings, typically with some b. Option B: They will need to divide the story directions and dialogue, representing the shots planned for of the opera into five specific sections: Setting a movie or television production. It can be used to (Time and Place), Characters, Problem, and graphically represent the main elements of the plot the main events or the plot. After they have (exposition, climax, etc.), or focus on the general plot, filled in that information in their storyboard, setting, and characters. they can present it to the class. In this activity, students will reflect on the performance of 4. For younger students, consider filling out the Elektra that they just attended, and create a storyboard to storyboard as a class, focusing on Characters, represent some of the aspects of the production. Setting/Place, Time, Problem, and Events. Next, have the students fill in their own individual copies to Activity: take home. 5. Remind students that there is more than one correct 1. Choose one of the provided storyboard templates answer for this assignment. For example, students for your class to work on, or create your own to might have a different idea of what event is the better suit the learning needs of your students. “climax”, or have differing opinions on what the 2. Divide your students into groups of 3-5 and provide “problem” of the opera is. each group with templates for a storyboard. For 6. Below are the two templates for this assignment: added creativity, they can construct their own, so long as it includes the same elements as the Note: This activity can also be completed prior to attending template that you select. the performance by simply using the provided synopsis as a 3. Explain to the class that their task is to fill in the guide. However, it is recommended that students revise the elements of their storyboard with aspects of the storyboard after seeing Elektra to reflect any new story of the opera that your class went to see. perspectives they may have gained. a. Option A: They will need to divide the plot of the opera into five specific elements: Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling






22 Activity — Poster design So now that you have some of the basics, design a poster! Be sure to read the content of this guide to learn more Pre-performance activity about the opera — this will inform your poster design. Here When creating a poster for an opera there are many things is an example of our poster for the production of Turandot: to consider. It is important to keep in mind the director’s vision for the production and allow ample time for research through different resources such as online, literature, listening to the music, and watching other productions.

In this activity, you will design a poster for Edmonton Opera’s Elektra.

When creating an image to represent an opera you must consider the time period, setting, themes, characters, and plot. The designer must also keep in mind our audience that we are trying to appeal to and what types of media we will use to reach them.

After researching, it is important to sketch and brainstorm your ideas. It can be helpful to make a collage or mood board of different visuals and ideas that you would like to incorporate into the final image.

Other important factors include the hierarchy of information (what is the most important information and how will you show that importance – size of type, colour, location, etc.), typography, colour (contrast, significance of colour), composition (placement, size and shape), and form among others. How would you illustrate Elektra? Is your image a literal or symbolic portrayal?

23 Activity — Character reflections o What is your best quality? What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? Post-performance activity • Getting deeper: o What are your dreams and goals? What Students will try to further understand the characters of drives you to try to reach those goals? How Elektra by doing an in depth character study. Guide the does this affect the choices your character students through the following discussion questions to makes in the story? What steps in the opera understand their character’s motivations, strengths, do you take to achieve your objective? struggles, etc. o What obstacles stand in your way? Are there any obstacles that are beyond your control Have students consider the characters and the role they (social status, other character’s actions, laws, play in the story. Divide the students into groups, and have etc.)? How will you overcome those each student choose a character to research. Students will challenges? What are the outcomes of your need to create a series of journal entries that reflect choices? conflicts present throughout the story of the opera. They o Looking back from the end-point of the can write all of their entries on one character, or write a opera, would you have done anything few entries for multiple characters. differently?

• Today: ELEKTRA | KLYTÄMNESTRA | CHRYSOTHEMIS | OREST | o Are there any characters in modern-day AEGISTH television, literature, movies, theatre, etc., that remind you of the character that you • Foundations: chose? Are there any characters with similar o How old are you? Where are you from? Where do you live now? Do you have any characteristics or traits? family that we know of? What are your o If your character were alive today, how friends/family like? would they be more or less successful? What o What is your relationship with the other might they have done differently to achieve characters in the opera like? How would your their objectives? friends/family describe you in three words? • How is the character’s personality expressed (Think of mental, physiological, and physical through the music of the opera? characteristics)

24 Activity — Design a playbill A major part of building the playbill is research. Very few of these elements have to be written by students themselves, Pre-performance activity it is more a matter of researching online and compiling the required content. For example, the Edmonton Opera Recommended for grades 6 and above, ideal for grades 9 website contains information like a cast list, synopsis, and and above. artist biographies while a composer biography can be found through Google. At each performance of Elektra, Edmonton Opera distributes a playbill (also referred to as a program) that You can see an electronic version of our Turandot playbill contains some useful content about the opera for audiences here for reference: to read before the performance, during intermission, and even afterwards at home. http://www.edmontonopera.com/connect/multimedia/int ermezzo In this activity, students will design their own mini-version of the Elektra playbill. Based on the grade level, the playbill can be a simple handwritten one-pager focusing on content or it can be a more detailed multi-page document including images, editorial content, etc. Some elements typically found in an opera playbill are:

• Composer biography

• Cast and production team list • Director’s notes/Conductor’s notes • Synopsis • Program notes (a production history, thematic evaluation of the opera, historical context, etc.) • Artists’ biographies • Any exciting or interesting information about the opera, about this particular production, or more.

25 Elektra further listening standing in the courtyard. He claimed to be a messenger on his way to deliver a message to • Elektra full opera: https://youtu.be/jq1qfG0r4LE the lady of the house. After noticing how • Elektra - Allein! Weh, ganz allein! Elektra was grieving for her supposedly- o https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsNAW deceased brother, he reveals his true identity: bslCGo he is Orest, come back in disguise! In this , 1967 studio recording with song, Elektra is initially ecstatic at her Wiener Philharmoniker and Sir . brother’s safe return, but also ashamed of o Elektra comes back for her daily ritual in what she has become and how she has memory of her father, who upon his return sacrificed her own royal state for their from Troy was killed while bathing by vengeful cause. Klytämnestra and Aegisth and dragged out o https://youtu.be/-FnJ6ofGuPg — a into the courtyard. Elektra now starts performance by Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs and imagining the day when her father will be Thomas Hall in the 2015 production of avenged and then of the ensuing celebration Elektra at Teatro Comunale di Bologna. in which she will lead the triumphal dance. o https://youtu.be/AjOseYmPwgI — soprano • Salome – Ach! Ich habe deinen Mund geküsst, Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs, who plays Elektra in Johannan Edmonton Opera’s production, performs this aria at Teatro Comunale di Bologna in 2015. • Elektra - Orest! Orest! Orest! o https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2TzKC 67o9I An excerpt from a film of Götz Friedrich (1982). as Elektra and Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau as Orest. The Wiener Philharmoniker were conducted by Karl https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hr6mjT4A-fc Böhm. 3:15 – Argued to be the most dissonant chord to o Just before this song, Elektra had been date – at its core it is an incomplete A dominant greeted by a mysterious man while she was

26 seventh chord, with the between F# and 2016/17 SEASON SPONSORS A# imposed over top.


https://youtu.be/dfe8tCcHnKY – This timeless composition is most popularly known for its use as the opening theme of ’s 2001: A Elektra production sponsor Space . The piece is a tone poem by Strauss based on ’s novel of the same name.

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