Klytemnestra Libretto

Klytemnestra
a monodrama in five scenes, based on the Greek heroine of Aeschylus's Agamemnon.

Libretto by Misha Penton
Music byDominick DiOrio


Prologue
Klytemnestra is Queen of Mycenae. Her husband, the Trojan War hero Agamemnon, has sacrificed
their daughter, Iphigenia, to secure his victory in war, and has been at battle for ten years. In
Agamemnon’s absence, Klytemnestra paces the halls, ruling and haunting the palace with her grief.
She sings:


Scene 1
My halls' polished wood softly drones beneath my bare feet
Slate offers chilled whispers under frail edges of linen
Unbearable sharp, my spindle threaded
-a skein of night generously unspools the edge of a dream and accepts my cries ---
hushed and sighing hushed and sighing
hushed and sighing hushed hushed and ---
Sighs sweep a veil across aching skies
Shredded clouds twist sapphire and cerulean
Honeyed blood orange horizons on my tongue
Twilight, soak my skin in the last moments before moonrise!
I hold my breath (gasp)
I hold my breath (gasp)
I hold my breath (gasp)
I hold every breath
I hold all the breathing here in this house
from Strauss/Hofmannsthal Elektra:
Ich finde mir heraus, wer bluten muss, damit ich wieder schlafe.
(I will know for myself where blood must flow, so that I may sleep in peace again.)
I light a candle and with its flame
I light a candle and with its flame
I light a candle and with its flame the House of Atreus contains my fire. How many wicks alight? One hundred? One
thousand? Ten thousand? One for each thought rising on seconds my hours out-number even the length of day across
too many I cannot count them years - all desire - my husband, murderous... our daughter our daughter our daughter!
Skin so cold against the altar skin so cold against marble skin so warm against my lips once...
I light a candle and with its flame
I light a candle and with its flame
I light a candle and with its flame each taper awakens, revives!
Beeswax ensconced, captive
Until I reveal its light
Only I keep night from its darkness
Only I keep night from its darkness
Only I keep night from its darkness
Only I can keep each night
Only I can
Only I Only I
Only I keep the darkness
I bind my wrists with spun wool washed in Narcissus' pool
Dyed in the tears of my child born in the new year
The evening star aligns atop pomegranate-laden branches I release my hands and wash here at this copper basin with
water of jasmine and rue, fennel and maidenhair fern....
I light a candle and with its flame
I light a candle and with its flame
I light a candle and with its flame every evening is an introduction to night bereft of sleep
Until I reveal its light
Only I keep each day from its darkness
Only I can keep each day
Only I can
Only I
Only I keep the darkness
from Strauss/Hofmannsthal Elektra:
Ich finde mir heraus, wer bluten muss, damit ich wieder schlafe.
(I will know for myself where blood must flow, so that I may sleep in peace again.)

As signal fires light the hills, heralding the Greek victory over the Trojans,
Klytemnestra awaits her husbands return:

Scene 2

Skyfire sear across forest, breathe and simmer over lake and swirl of stream:
Bring me Troy!
I carry spices and blossoms through our streets
Offering water and wine
Blessings of aconite and windflower clutched close in chants
and shouts strewn bell-high
Sacred fire releases perfume of cinnamon, laurel, sage and clove
Tended by women’s hands
And for you, my love
I plan
I…
In your absence, my bath: herb steeped with flower oil
Dreamlight on travertine knows only the pleasure of women - their soft milk a tang of lavender and summer over hips
belly inside ache chamber threshold
Invitation
I am unknown to any other man


(Agamemnon returns and Klytemnestra lays the sacred tapestries of the House of Atreus at his feet.
She invites him to walk upon them, entrapping him in a curse:)


Scene 3 – Weaving Aria
I weave into the sting and pulse of Night
And my loom
Strand to strand, ties and knots, lash and strap, warp and weft, dyes and breaths
Patterns, figures revealed
Open!
My oracle: the distaff yielding to its sister axis spinning
What once was perfect, still, placid, pure
I make balanced complete essential primitive whole:
Mine
Myself the design: in each thread, twist and braid
Every fiber river soaked, blood inspired: washed in the surge the waning moon draws from me, a supplication collected
in tender swells along my thighs
How flawless and bare I am, wrapped in my creation
And my love? He will softly step upon these: my finest silks, a flood over our threshold.
He returns
I await


(Klytemnestra remembers her daughter, Iphigenia, and her grief fuels the seduction of Agamemnon:)


Scene 4 – Iphigenia’s Song
Imagine
portend
prophecy
omen
Star seeing
Light rising
Counting extinguished wicks in halls drawn in daylight and shadow
harbinger
I imagine
All your returnings
Each to me
To our child
And her winter hands
And sweated cheek
And white inaudible softness
Her dark hair patterns in the weave
premonition
Return to our children
Return to our bed
And I will prepare for your warm warm golden salt salt spiced blood and seed
blood and seed
blood and seed
The Mysteries have taught me dreams of Underworlds full of your shadow
And I will prepare for you
I am warm warm sweet sweet salt salt savor spice fragrant nectar
Return to our children
Return to our bed

(Klytemnestra murdurs Agamemnon in his bath.
Ultimately, their son, Orestes, will return to avenge his father:)


Scene 5
BreatheBuryLightBurn
Water our essentials
Elemental vessel, sword, censor, willow
I sow necessity, fearlessness
Blameless cutlass turn his ashen face to sun to light to etch in even tones across my ready field at harvest
You, witnesses of injustice
All teeth limbs open deep, amorous
His exile should have been made by you
But do not mistake me for wife
Glorious, I have made this house, purified with willow branch caresses
BreatheBuryLightBurn
Earth beneath my nails
Minerals stain my fingers
Soil wet with blessed vessel waters, shells and salt a gift of Sirens
BreatheBuryLightBurn
A thread of breath my voice tells what must be done
BreatheBuryLightBurn
Ignite tapers, again, again, again
Alight
I will wait no longer
BreatheBuryLightBurn
Quench
You are now cool blood spilled and soft bone
and my child? Where is she?
I light a candle and with its flame
I light a candle and with its flame
I light a candle and with its flame every evening is an introduction to night bereft of sleep
Until I reveal its light
Only I keep each day from its darkness
Only I can keep each day
Only I can
Only I
Only I keep the darkness
from Strauss/Hofmannsthal Elektra:
Ich finde mir heraus, wer bluten muss, damit ich wieder schlafe.
(I will know for myself where blood must flow, so that I may sleep in peace again.)


MishaComment