The hardest show for the Lyric Opera to market this season is likely to be Richard Strauss’s gory, sensual psychodrama Elektra. Based on the sprawling Greek myth about a cursed clan, this 1909 opera was denounced as the height of decadence by critics back then. But its score, which anticipated the agitated modernism of Schoenberg and Berg, is among the most sophisticated, meaningful, and technically adroit ever written by Strauss. To convey the emotional turmoil and savage downfall of a house plagued by incest and debauchery, Strauss and his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal focus on the fate of three women: Klytamnestra and her daughters Elektra and Chrysothemis. Lust, vengeance, and frightful nightmares drive these betrayed women to the verge of nervous breakdowns. The music is appropriately dramatic, violent, and insightful, filled with shrieks and bloodcurdling screams. (Strauss was so drained by this experience he never tackled such a heavy subject again.) This Lyric production, imported from Covent Garden and directed by Gotz Friedrich, features several experienced screamers: Eva Morton and Marilyn Zschau trade the title role halfway through the opera’s eight-week run; Nadine Secunde plays Chrysothemis; veteran Leonie Rysanek, who’s sung all three parts in her career, takes on the role of the harridan mother. Leonard Slatkin conducts. Tuesday and next Saturday, October 3, 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker; 332-2244.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frederic Ohringer.