Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Elektra Brings Her Complex to Dresden in 1909

"Allein! Weh, ganz Allein"
Hildegard Behrens
Elektra is a one-act opera by Richard Strauss, to a German-language libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal adapted from his drama of 1903—the first of many such collaborations between composer and librettist. It was first performed at the Dresden State Opera on January 25, 1909 conducted by Ernst von Schuch. The cast included Annie Krull (Elektra), Margarethe Siems (Chrysothemis), Ernestine Schumann-Heink (Klytämnestra) and Karl Perron (Orest). The plot of Elektra is based upon the great Greek tragedy of the same name by the tragedian Sophocles. The unrelenting gloom and horror that permeate the original play produce, in the hands of Hofmannsthal
and Strauss, a drama whose sole theme is revenge. Klytaemnestra (Clytemnestra), helped by her paramour Aegisth (Aegisthus), has secured the murder of her husband, Agamemnon, and now is afraid that her crime will be avenged by her children, Elektra (Electra), Chrysothemis, and their banished brother Orest (Orestes). Elektra, who is the personification of the passionate lust for vengeance, tries to persuade her timid sister to kill Klytaemnestra and Aegisth. Before the plan is carried out, Orest, who had been reported as dead, arrives, determined upon revenge for his father's death. He kills Klytaemnestra and Aegisth; Elektra, in an ecstatic dance of triumph, falls dead in front of her horror-stricken attendants.

The Electra complex is the psychoanalytic theory that a female's psychosexual development involves a sexual attachment to her father, and is analogous to a boy's attachment to his mother that forms the basis of the Oedipus complex.The idea is based largely on the work of Sigmund Freud, who uses the Oedipus complex as a point of reference for its elaboration. The term, however, was introduced by Carl Jung in 1913. Freud himself explicitly rejected Jung's term, because it "seeks to emphasize the analogy between the attitude of the two sexes", preferring the use of feminine Oedipus attitude or negative Oedipus complex in his own writings. Freud's research on female psychology, sexuality in particular, was limited by then relevant social conventions of gender and class. Women of the period were considered the 'second sex' and many of his female patients were labeled "degenerates." The "feminine Oedipus attitude" was posited by Freud as a theoretical counterpart to the Oedipus complex. Carl Jung proposed the name Electra complex for Freud's concept, deriving the name from the Greek myth of Electra. Electra and her brother Orestes plotted revenge against their mother Clytemnestra and stepfather Aegisthus for the murder of their father, Agamemnon. According to Freud, a girl, like a boy, is originally attached to the mother figure. However, during the phallic stage, when she discovers that she lacks a penis, she becomes libidinally attached to the father figure, and sometimes goes as far as imagining that she will become pregnant by him, all the while becoming more hostile toward her mother. Freud attributes the character of this developmental stage in girls to the idea of "penis envy", where a girl is envious of the male penis. According to the theory, this penis envy leads to resentment towards the mother figure, who is believed to have caused the girl's "castration." The hostility towards the mother is then later revoked for fear of losing the mother's love, and the mother becomes internalized, much the same as the Oedipus complex.

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