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OREST, Vienna State Opera , 17 November 2019




Event Details
Category: Operas Event: OREST Date/Time: 17 November 2019 Venue: Vienna State Opera Address: Opernring 2, 1010 Wien / Vienna (Map)

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Description


The Trojan War is over. To avenge the death of his father, Orestes has killed his mother Clytemnestra who had murdered his father, Agamemnon. The god Apollo commanded him to commit this matricide, which was legitimate under his law.

Scene 1
Orestes is now tormented by voices in his head and is pursued by the Furies. Images from the past haunt him, and in his desperation he calls upon Apollo. However, Apollo is not willing to relieve him of his sense of guilt. Instead he tells Orestes to appeal to his uncle Menelaus, who will soon return to Argos from the war. As a contender for the throne of his murdered brother Agamemnon, Menelaus depends on the city remaining at peace. He could accordingly certainly find justification for acquitting Orestes and absolving him. Apollo transforms himself into Dionysus. Speaking in riddles, he entices Orestes to seek great fame. He then announces the return of Helen, the most beautiful of all women, whom he desires for himself.

Scene 2
Helen, wife of Menelaus, returns from Troy. Once greatly admired, she now finds all doors closed to her. Electra, sister of Orestes, curses her for having started the war that brought people nothing but suffering. She would rather see Helen dead than alive. Following the custom, Helen wishes to visit her sister Clytemnestra's tomb to offer a sacrifice. However, she is afraid of the hatred that confronts her in the city and so asks Electra to do this in her place. Outraged, Electra refuses. She suggests that Helen send her daughter Hermione, who played no part in the war. During Helen’s long absence, the young child she left behind has blossomed into a young woman. To protect her mother, Hermione goes to the tomb with the offerings. Electra is fascinated by Hermione’s innocent charm: "She is what we were unable to be!"

Scene 3
Menelaus arrives and urges Orestes to flee with Electra. The men of Argos have reached their verdict without him: death by stoning for both of them. Orestes reports that it was Apollo who commanded him to commit the crime but has now abandoned him. For political reasons, Menelaus declares that he is unable to help them; as a contender for the throne he cannot afford to make enemies in the city. Cursing Menelaus, Orestes collapses. In view of Menelaus’s refusal to act, Electra indulges increasingly in fantasies of violence against him and Helen. Once again she demands bloodshed to achieve a more just world. Distressed by her fanaticism, Menelaus flees the city.

Scene 4
Orestes and Electra are alone. Orestes longs for love, for a different life, and for an end to all violence. But for Electra there can be no love until justice reigns. As Orestes falls asleep, Electra laments the life she has missed and confides her deep despair to the night.
Orestes dreams of the promise of glory made by Dionysus and wonders if he will need to commit further murders to attain it. Electra plays on Orestes’ emotions to incite him to new murders: he must put Helen to death and kill Hermione as well.

Intermezzo and Scene 5
The war has left deep scars on everyone, with the exception of Hermione. Amidst a scene of devastation, she bemoans the destruction in the world and the hate-filled, brutalized society in which she must live. She wonders how the cycle of deed, revenge and judgement can be broken. She wants to protect her mother from the hatred of the world. Spurred on by Electra, Orestes kills Helen. Horrified, Hermione confronts Orestes with the senselessness of his deed. Their eyes lock.

Scene 6
The men of Argos arrive to carry out the sentence. Electra urges Orestes to kill Hermione as well. Mesmerized by Hermione’s gaze, he is incapable of doing the deed. Menelaus prevents Electra from killing Hermione herself.
Dionysus appears and escorts Helen up to the heavenly firmament. Before the spellbound gaze of the bystanders, Orestes refuses to obey the gods any longer. He resists Apollo’s order to enforce his patriarchal law in the city and shows no interest in the fame that Dionysus offers him. He rejects the capriciousness of the gods. Together with Hermione, he wants to break away from the immutable customs of the gods. He sets off to find a life he can determine for himself. The gods no longer hold him in their sway.


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