March 17, 1967 | Metropolitan Opera
Mourning Becomes Electra
Composer:Marvin David Levy
Librettist:Butler, Henry aft. O'NeillHenry Butler
Act I:
Christine Mannon awaits Adam Bryant, the sea captain with whom she fell in love in the absence of her husband, General Ezra Mannon. Lavinia Mannon, their daughter, having discovered her mother's affair, warns that her father is returning from the Civil War that night. Lavinia learns from Jed, an old servant, that Adam is the bastard son of her father's late brother and a servant girl. Both died cursing the Mannons for cutting them off from the family. Lavinia, herself infatuated with Adam, believes his liaison with Christine is prompted by revenge. When confronted with Lavinia's suspicions, Christine admits the truth. Adam gives Christine a vial of poison she asked for and rushes away. Ezra is welcomed home by townspeople, neighbor Peter Niles (who has been courting Lavinia), and Peter's sister Helen (in love with Lavinia's brother Orin, whose return is expected in several days). Ezra sees Christine in a window and rushes into the house, leaving Lavinia resentful. Ezra begs Christine's forgiveness for the cold marriage he has given her. Now he hopes for a new beginning. When Christine tells him it is too late, he accuses her of wishing him dead. This provokes her into revealing her love for his bastard nephew. The furious Ezra is suddenly seized by pain. He calls for his medicine, but Christine substitutes the poison. Ezra cries out for Lavinia, who hears his last words accusing Christine.

Act II:
Lavinia ushers her brother Orin into the parlor and tries to ally him with her against Adam. Christine begs Orin to trust her, but he warns that if Adam comes there he will kill him. Lavinia puts the vial of poison on Ezra's body, then tells Orin to let their mother in. Christine screams when she sees the poison. Lavinia rushes Orin away as Christine begs God to punish her but spare Adam. On his ships's deck, Adam, enslaved by his love for Christine, bids farewell to the sea. When Christine arrives, Adam leads her to the cabin below. Lavinia and Orin, who have followed her, spy on the couple from the skylight. Christine tells Adam that Lavinia knows about the murder. Adam agrees to flee with Christine in a few days. As he escorts her off the ship, Lavinia and Orin slip down into the cabin. When Adam returns, they murder him. Outside the house at dawn, Christine hears Orin exclaim that he has killed Adam. On the brink of madness, Christine imagines herself in Adam's arms and rushes into the house. When a pistol shot is heard, Lavinia proclaims that justice has been done.

Act III:
Lavinia returns home from a year long trip with Orin. She reminds him that they traveled to forget the past. After Peter and Helen welcome them home, Orin takes Helen aside to speak privately. Peter is overwhelmed by Lavinia's new beauty, and announces to Orin that Lavinia has agreed to marry him. Helen, now clutching an envelope containing a manuscript Orin has entrusted to her, asks Lavinia's help in saving him from himself. Lavinia recovers the envelope and Orin, defeated, dismisses Helen. He tells Lavinia he has written a history of the Mannon crimes. He dreads the thought of losing her, to the point of threatening legal punishment to keep her bound to him. Finally crossing the boundary of sanity, he attempts to make love to her. Horrified, Lavinia commands that he die and set her free. He locks himself in the study and shoots himself. Peter assures Lavinia that they will soon marry and leave the town forever. She desperately embraces him, but inadvertently calls him "Adam." Peter now understands that she always loved Adam, that Orin tried to tell him and tried to warn Helen of the family's dark secrets. Lavinia sends Peter away and asks Jed to close the shutters of the house. Summoning the family ghosts to welcome her, she seals herself in the Mannon "tomb."

Click company name to view productions details.
Florida Grand OperaMourning Becomes Electra11/9/2013 - 11/22/2013
Seattle OperaMourning Becomes Electra10/1/2003 - 11/1/2003
Lyric Opera of ChicagoMourning Becomes Electra10/9/1998 - 11/11/1998

OPERA America/ Grants Awarded
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New Works Exploration Grants2014
The Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase 2009
The Next Stage1998

Title Information

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Approximate Runtime (hh:mm)

Number of Acts

Musical Style
Lyric melody; both conservative and modern elements; some critics have remarked on the seeming influence of Benjamin Britten; some delicate and evocative orchestral effects; through-composed

Vocal & Musical Forces
Three flutes (piccolo); 3 oboes (English horn); 3 clarinets (bass clarinet); 3 bassoons (contrabassoon); 4 horns; 3 trumpets; 3 trombones (bass trombone); tuba; timpani; harp; 3 percussion; 2 electronic keyboard samplers (2 Kurzweil K2000 with Orchestral ROM Updates); percussion (bass drum, tamtam, tenor drum, suspended cymbal, snare drum, tambourine, small wood block, temple blocks, castanets, large triagle, chimes, crash cymbals, guiro, ratchet, sleigh bells, whip, sizzle cymbal, bongos, tom-toms, chinese bell tree); banda (2 horns, trumpet, trombone, bass trombone, drum kit [traps]); strings; two dramatic sopranos, lyric soprano, high baritone or tenor, lyric baritone, dramatic baritone, bass-baritone, bass; supers

Original Cast
Marie Collier (Christine Mannon)
Evelyn Lear (Lavinia Mannon)
Raymond Michalski (Jed)
Sherrill Milnes (Adam Brant)
Ron Bottcher (Peter Niles)
Lilian Sukis (Helen Niles)
John Macurdy (General Ezra Mannon)
John Reardon (Orin Mannon)

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