52 Letters: #6
The ice cream in the lobby before the show was super outstanding. I got to say hi to Nick and Liz and I got to catch up on all the happenings. SPOILER ALERT: While the Des Moines Metro Opera Season has ended, after you read this, you'll know all about Richard Strauss' opera and about opera make-up and about levels of depression on the stage. And you'll know who dies. (People die. I know. The opera. Sheesh.)
Had I taken the time to google "Elektra Opera" (definitely put opera in there, because otherwise you'd read a lot about Jennifer Garner), I would have read headlines that would have fully prepared me for what I was about to see. But I didn't. And then, boom, you're dancing with an axe above your head and blood on your face. You are one vengeful woman.
It was scary from the get out. Ladies singin' their brains out dressed in stone colored frocks that immediately creeped me out. But I couldn't take my eyes off the stage. The Mask of Agamemnon blazing behind you as you tell me all about how pissed you are that "they" took down your dad (that's Agamemnon, FYI, I didn't know the story line pre-opera, but I did know the mask. Thank you University of Iowa Art History classes). So many levels of depression. So many levels of crazy. And you, Elektra, were the craziest of them all. You're welcome.
The story basically goes like this*:
- Elektra's dad, Agamemnon, is killed by the her Mom and her mom's lover in a pretty gross way (or so said the German subtitles) that involved an outdoor stone bath. She's gone a little nuts, rightfully, and wants revenge in the worst way. Oh and she misses her brother Orest, who I learned ran away and spends time with the horses.
- Elektra's mom (I know where she got the crazy gene, yikes), Klytaemnestra, which I have no idea how to say aloud (Nick tells me it's "KLEET-em-ness-trah" but I am still struggling), is played, in this case, by a 68 year old opera superstar. She's wearing a glammed up head dress and like six necklaces, one has skulls on it with lit up eyes. Klytaemnestra is shacking up with a total D (Aegisth) and Elektra basically hates them both. Oh and they are constantly putting people to death. So that's happening. (in German and in song) After the opera, I met this woman. I shook her hand and said "you were terrifying." (classy Palmer move) This graceful, seasoned Opera contralto smiled, put her hand to her chest and said in a delighted tone "oh, thank you!"
- BOOM. We get word that Orest is dead. NO! Klytaemnestra is cackling with glee (because she's been dreaming about crazy stuff and is afraid, as Elektra points out, that Orest is who she fears, plus she has these creature people following her around like snakes.)
- Elektra has a sister, Chrysothemis, who is played by a sweet and funny red-headed, 7 months pregnant real-life woman. In the opera she basically wants a baby and a husband, but most of all, she wants out of the palace of Klytaemnestra (because she's crazy). She refuses to participate in Elektra's intense plan to off both her mom and her drunk, hussy of boyfriend. The actress, when we talked to her, called herself "the light in the opera" which couldn't be more spot on. Chrysothemis is the least crazy.
- So Elektra has a plan to assassinate her mom and Aegisth, Chrysothemis is basically like "good luck sis, but I'm out" and this stranger rolls up to the palace to confirm the death of Orest. Elektra calls the stranger half the noble man Orest was. And what?! This is OREST, not a stranger. The brother and sister combo embrace in what must be an acceptable German Opera way, but seemed a little too lovey for me. A single tear of light floats down the face of the mask of Agamemnon (seriously) and Elektra sings about how rough she looks now. "My hair was so lustrous it made men tremble" and now her lust for revenge has made her hair frizzy and give her a weary disposition. Orest is going to take on the plan for revenge. Elektra lingers outside the palace waiting to hear the takedown.
- There's lots of screaming and drum playing (by an incredible orchestra). Klytaemnestra and Aegisth (who also wore LOTS of jewels and velvet) are gone. The crowds are celebrating. We can hear them chanting Orest's name. Chrysothemis runs out to tell Elektra they are free, to come celebrate with them. She sees Elektra, dancing something fierce, with an axe held above her head and blood smears on her face. (It's important to point out that theres a river of blood, just like she wanted, running around the edge of the stage at this point. Kudos to the lighting techs at the Opera. It was intense). Chrysothemis is freaked out. So am I.
- Then, like every opera, I feel a swell of emotion. Because guess what? ELEKTRA DIES. That lady, with the formerly lustrous hair, who got what she wanted and snuggle-faced her brother and promised her sister she'd help her get ready for the first date with her new suitors, DIES. Must have been a heart attack, or something. The opera is not a place for a happy ending.
Whew. Elektra you were a wild ride. Seriously. I've described you as "incredible" and "completely nuts." And aw man I loved it. Thanks to all the gifted singers who shared this intensely beautiful opera with me and allowed me to sheepishly call your character crazy in the lobby following the performance. Elektra, you are a nut, but your opera, holy smokes is was great.
*Thank you Nick and Opera people. You are such an awesome asset to my city. EVERYONE should go see an opera next summer. EVERYONE. Also the word "crazy" appears 6 times in this post. That's sayin something.