MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

An Elektra That Really Shocks: Boston at Carnegie

Preparing for today’s Met matinee of the much-lauded production by the late Patrice Chéreau.

MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Elektra (left, Christine Goerke) and Chrysothemis (right, Gun-Brit Barkmin), with Andris Nelsons conducting the Boston Symphony; photo (c) Chris Lee

Every year around Halloween, it seems, it gets harder to find ways to spook willing celebrants of the pagan holiday. How can the ritual rechanneling of anxieties and existential fear into thrillers and other forms of entertainment — our society’s safety valve — possibly compete with the daily onslaught of news in the real world today?

Yet, under the right conditions, a few landmarks of art can still deliver the shock that Aristotle tried to justify with the concept of “catharsis.” It’s especially ironic when works once viewed as the spearheads of Modernism accomplish this for contemporary audiences.

When a piece like The Rite of Spring does so, it’s no longer because the music is inextricably identified with a specific moment in music history — a moment of upheaval that…

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