Budapest Opera: Elektra

Budapest Opera

One of Budapest’s must-sees is the opera house–Evan and I have had it on our list since he first came out here, and we wanted to see a show instead of taking a tour because we heard they were comparable in price.Big and stately, sitting on Andrassy Ut, its exterior is a columned and statued and there are delicate details every place you look. Inside, there are sprawling staircases, marble walls, gilded box seats and plenty of busts of people we’d never heard of. We had nice seats in the second tier, one row in, and right in the center. There were four other people sharing box 11 with us.

We settled in and bought a program, since the usher said there was a synopsis in it in English. As neither Evan nor I are big opera fans–I went once to see my friend Elisa perform in a college opera and that’s about it for our total opera experience–we felt we should be prepared. We were seeing Strauss’s Elektra, which is based on the Greek tragedy.

As the story goes, when it starts, it’s just after Elektra’s mother, Clytemnestra, along with her lover, Aegistheus, have killed Elektra’s father, Agamemnon (OK, that part was somewhat familiar to me from high school literature class). What happens next, though, is that Elektra wants to seek revenge and kill Clytemnestra and Aegistheus, and she wants her brother to do it. Unfortunately, her mother tells her that her brother, Orestes, is dead, so she decided that she and her silly sister who is obsessed with getting married should take things into their own hands. She basically starts to go crazy with her obsession for revenge and as things turn out, Orestes isn’t dead–it was all just a plot so he could REALLY surprise his mom by killing her. And, well, he does. And he kills Aegistheus too.

But here’s where things get weird. Our synopsis (as well as Wikipedia’s) said that Elektra dies after jubilantly dancing herself to death while celebrating the avenging of her father’s murder. In our version, Orestes shoots her with a machine gun–before he even shoots his mother! There were other strange things about our opera, too.

First, it was set in a bath house, which seemed particularly appropriate for Budapest, and it seemed a lot like the many baths in the city–complete with attendants in funny white suits. Then, there was an area of the stage which was supposed to maybe be the forest where Elektra is in exile (maybe?), and it was a bunch of bags of soil stacked up into a wall, and one spindly tree growing out of a bag of soil, which gets a surprising amount of abuse throughout the play, with Elektra caressing it, dancing with it, swinging it around, knocking it over and carrying it up stairs. It seemed to be a symbol for Agamemnon.

Also, I know it’s based on a Greek tragedy and there are always weird family dynamics, but we got to see Elektra making out with both her sister and her brother. As well as rolling around on the floor with her brother. It was a bit creepy.

Elektra also did a really awkward costume change right on stage, where she put on a white wrap dress over her black one and removed her poofy black skirt, which gave her quite a struggle. Though I’ve got to hand it to the girl–she was on stage 95 percent of the show and she sang for a huge portion of it with pretty much no breaks. She and Clytemnestra were the strongest singers. The others weren’t very impressive and often got overshadowed by the large orchestra.

But thank goodness for the synopsis, or we wouldn’t have had any clue who the characters were or what was going on since the opera is in German and the subtitles were all in Hungarian. It was quite an experience.

Then we went to Klassz for dinner. Just as good, if not better than our first meal there. The menu was completely different, which was exciting–I had a salad and lemon risotto, and boy does that chef know how to make a creamy, rich and extremely flavorful risotto. Evan had beef bullion and some sort of pork, which he really enjoyed, too. We still haven’t tried their dessert.

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Check out the rest of the photos on Evan’s site.

2 Responses to “Budapest Opera: Elektra”

  1. Ronna says:

    What a beautiful opera house. They sure don’t make them like that anymore. I also loved the picture of the two of you. You both look great. I am glad you had a chance to go to the opera before you leave Budapest. Ronna

  2. A. R. Char says:

    Our family also went to Electra in Buda Pest. I had seen Electra at Met with Ursula Schroder Finen which received 40 minutes of applause. I could not make head or tail out of this Budapest Electra. No English explanation anywhere (everything was in Hungary)and to this day I don’t know the significance of the Bathhouse! The opera house is outstanding and the opera was baffling.

    A. R. Char

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