Summary Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev. Oresteia


The musical trilogy in three parts (eight scenes)

Libretto by A. A. Venkstern


Agamemnon, King of Argos

Clytemnestra, his wife

Aghist, his cousin

Electra, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra

Orestes, son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra

Cassandra, Trojan Prisoner

Apollo of Loki

Athena Pallada




The slave

The shadow of Agamemnon


Mezzo soprano












The people, the servants of Clytemnestra, the soldiers, the prisoners, the bodyguards, Areopagites.

The action takes place in Argos in Ancient Greece.


XII century BC. e.


For the first time the idea of ​​an opera on the plot of “Oresteia” arose in Taneyev in 1882. Keen on the theme, the composer studies the creations of ancient Greek tragedians and works on them. The final choice fell on the work of Aeschylus (525-458 BC). The libretto was written at the earliest participation of the composer by a well-known connoisseur of antiquity AA Venkstern. The main work on the creation of music “Orestes” lasted 7 years, from 1887 to 1894. The completion of the opera was preceded by the appearance in 1889 of a software overture, which is a symphonic version of the embodiment of the same idea.

Opera Taneyeva was first staged on October 17 (29), 1895, in the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater. The premiere had undoubted success. However, because of the author’s disagreement on the numerous bills arbitrarily made by the management, the opera soon disappeared from the stage. The second time “Oresteia” was staged after the death of the composer, in 1915.

The myth of Orestes, which

captured the imagination of the composer, is one of the oldest. Already in the “Odyssey” Homer tells of the chain of bloody atrocities in the house of Atreides. Many centuries later this tradition was developed by the three greatest tragedians of Greece – Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Of these, the most monumental and completed version belongs to Aeschylus. At the heart of his trilogy “Oresteia” lies a series of sharply tragic collisions. Agamemnon – the king of Argos – perishes, treacherously struck by the hand of his wife Clytemnestra. For his father’s death, his son Orestes, who kills his own mother, takes revenge. This he brings upon himself the wrath of Erinius, in the form of which incantations of conscience are embodied. The chain of crimes is interrupted only when the law of revenge is replaced by the law of moral justification. Only prolonged suffering Orest redeems his guilt.

Like the tragedy of Aeschylus, the opera is divided into three parts, named “Agamemnon”, “Hoeforah” (bringing sacrificial libations) and “Eumenides” (the goddess-avenger). The opera vividly reveals the conflict of ethical ideas, affirms the triumph of higher intelligence over the world of blind and dark passions.

The composer’s underscored attention to revealing the main ethical idea of ​​the work affected the interpretation of the characters. The most convincing musical and scenic embodiment was received by the main heroes of the tragedy – Orestes and Clytemnestra, as well as Cassandra – the bearers of the idea of ​​retribution. Brightly depicted gods – Apollo, Athena and the opposing furies. The images of Aegistus, Agamemnon and, to some extent, Electra, are more fluently outlined, only indirectly related to the basic ideological and artistic content of the tragedy.


The palace of the genus Atrid. Night. The watchman gazes into the distance. By the order of Queen Clytemnestra, he is waiting for the signal lights, which should usher in the fall of Troy. Ten years have passed since Agamemnon left his palace and led the troops besieging the impregnable fortress city. But in the distance a fire breaks out; then, undoubtedly, the good news came. Female slaves leave the palace with a laudatory hymn in honor of Zeus. The queen solemnly informs the audience about the victorious return of Agamemnon. But her joy is feigned. Clytemnestra cherishes the dream of cruel revenge Agamemnon: she can not forgive him the death of his daughter Iphigenia, brought Agamemnon as a sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. The queen’s companion becomes her lover, the Aegist, who feeds the mortal enmity on the descendant of the genus Atreus. Once the father of Aegist – Tiest was expelled from the kingdom by his brother Atreus. Then, as a sign of imaginary reconciliation, Atreus arranged a feast, at which he treated Tiestus with the meat of his own murdered children. Upon learning of the monstrous crime of his brother, the unfortunate father cursed the Atreus forever.

Solemnly meets the people of Agamemnon – conqueror of Troy. The queen tells the slaves to purple to make Agamemnon’s way into the chambers. This sign of the highest honor has for her a special, hidden meaning. The color of purple, the color of blood should promise her successful fulfillment of the secret design. Yielding to the insistence of the wife, the king of the spread cloths enters the palace. In his chariot Agamemnon brought captive Cassandra, the blind daughter of the Trojan king Priam, endowed with the gift of prophetic prophecy. Cassandra tells the people about the terrible crimes committed in this house, and about the coming retribution. Predicting the death of the king and his own inevitable death, the captive leaves. And soon Clytemnestra, shaking with a bloody sword, informs the people about the murder of Agamemnon and Cassandra.

Vainly pleads Clytemnestra of the god Morpheus to send her to oblivion. The thought of the committed crime persistently pursues it. Every night the queen sees the specter of the dead, predicting a terrible punishment for her – death by the hand of her own son. Clytemnestra sends Elektra and the slaves to her father’s grave in order to propitiate his spirit with abundant sacrifices. Electra agrees to fulfill the will of the queen, but she will not pray for forgiveness to criminals, but about a just and soon retribution.

In an olive grove, on the grave hill of Agamemnon, Orestes, who returned from exile, pays tribute to filial devotion – a strand of his hair. From a distance the choephors are approaching. Not noticing the hiding Orestes, Elektra prays the gods about the revenge of the murdered and the return of his brother. Suddenly she finds out in a foreign wanderer Orest. The joy of meeting can not stop feelings of anger and sorrow; At the grave of his father, his brother and sister solemnly vow to take revenge on the murderers.

Unidentified by no one, Orestes comes to the palace to report false news about his death. The pretended mourning Clytemnestra can not hide her joy. For from now on, fate does not frighten her, predicted by the shadow of Agamemnon. Aliens go into the inner chambers. Suddenly the death cry of Aegist is heard. Now comes the turn of Clytemnestra. Embraced by fear, she pleads with her son not to commit a grave crime of maternity. But Orestes, guided by the will of the god Apollo, strikes the queen with the sword. Horror embraces Orestes, and he escapes, pursued by Erynius, the goddesses of avenging.

On the shore of the desert sea, Orestes vainly tries to escape from the spirit of revenge – furies. Death itself can not become a means of salvation for those they persecute. Furies block the way to Orestes, who decided to dash into the sea. Despairing, he travels to Delphi, to the temple of Apollo.

Even having reached the temple, Orestes does not get rid of the pursuers. Apollo drives the furies and orders Orestes to go to Athens. There he must ask Athena Pallada, the goddess of light and reason, to appoint a fair trial.

In Athens, at the altar of the goddess Orest awaits the decision of her fate. From the Areya hill Areopagite judges descend. Orestes finds out with despair that their voices are divided equally. Then Athena Pallada herself stands for Orest’s justification. Henceforth the bloody quarrels have ended, over which the laws of reason and justice have triumphed.


“Oresteia” is an opera of a lyrical and epic depot. It is based on the moral conflict of forces, personifying good and evil. This determined the interpretation of the actors who often act as bearers of generalized ideas. A special peculiarity is attached to the work of an abundance of monumental choral scenes, bringing it closer to the oratorio. Here the composer in his own way continued the traditions of the Russian opera, giving them a new interpretation in connection with the content of the ancient tragedy.

Orchestral entry, based on changes in the musical theme of rock, with its severe drama introduces action into the atmosphere.

The first act (“Agamemnon”) consists of two paintings. In the first, the central place is occupied by the images of Clytemnestra and Egist. In the aria with the chorus “Look there”, the queen is embraced by a jubilation common with the people; confident intonations give rise to a sense of spiritual recovery. The appearance of Aegist anticipates a meandering, full undercurrent threat characterizing his cowardly, treacherously vindictive nature. In his subsequent monologue and the story of the feast, a sense of hatred for Agamemnon prevails. The brief duo of revenge of Clytemnestra and Egist ends with the severely unyielding theme of the vow – the musical culmination of the first picture.

The second picture is divided into two parts. In the first, the feeling of victorious triumph reigns supreme. The triumphal march and the chorus of soldiers accompany the entrance of Agamemnon. In his duet with the queen the warm lyrical tones predominate. The nature of music changes dramatically with the appearance of Cassandra. In the scene of her prophecy, endowed with tremendous tragedy, an agitated recitation alternates with rounded melodic episodes; arioso “The invariable will of fate” captivates the purity and rigor of feeling. The stage is crowned by a courageously bright theme with a chased rhythm, drawing the image of the future avenger. In the further development, two majestic choruses like the majestic frescoes are lauded, mourning the dead.

The second act (“Hoefory”) consists of three paintings. The first is characterized by an ominously disturbing mood. Arioso Clytemnestra “Oh, hear my prayer” is full of mental anguish. The scene of the apparition of Agamemnon is sustained in twilight-unsteady, bizarre tones; Against the backdrop of the ominous moves of the orchestra, the singer’s cues sound with terrible force. Feeling with horror from the duet of the queen and Elektra with the choir – the musical climax of the scene.

In the second picture, the central role belongs to Orestes. The music of his appearance is imbued with a mournful and light mood. Deep sincere desperation is imbued with Arioso-lamentation of Orest over the grave of Agamemnon “Oh, Father.” The chaste and pure image of Elektra reveals itself in her arioso “Grieve, pity, father,” full of sadness and firm faith. The big duet-scene of Elektra and Oresta develops from dramatic excitement to a joyous ascent.

The third picture marks the culmination of the action. In the murder scene of Clytemnestra, the conflicting experiences of the criminal queen are revealed: determination, deep sorrow, touching supplication, unquenchable hatred; they are opposed to the unyielding will of Orestes. In the final scene, majestically-smooth melodies, personifying the image of Apollo, are contrasted by the sharply angular theme of furies.

In the third act (“Eumenides”) – three paintings. The first one conveys the spiritual torments of Orestes. In an anxious-excited introduction, an image of the violent pursuit of the goddesses-avengers arises. In an ecstatic monologue Orestes vainly pleads with the furies to leave the persecution. The response of the choir is full of vindictive anger. Expressive orchestral accompaniment creates a picture of the revelry of dark elements.

The brightest contrast gives rise to the music of the second painting, which is the perfect picture of the beautiful realm of Apollo. The orchestral introduction and the scene of Apollo with Orest are sustained in calmly solemn, enlightened tones.

The beginning of the third picture is permeated with a sense of the proximity of the denouement. Dramatic tension reaches its highest power in Orios’ arioso-circulation “Regret, goddess.” The appearance of Athena Pallada is accompanied by a light, soaring, theme. An enthusiastic dithyramb sounds the final chorus, glorifying the wisdom of the goddess.

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Summary Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev. Oresteia