The Little Opera That Could: “Mourning Becomes Electra”

Nov 7, 2013

The Florida Grand Opera is only one of a handful of companies to perform "Mourning Becomes Electra."
Credit Justin Namon/Florida Grand Opera


Even if you’re an opera fanatic, there’s a fair chance you haven’t seen "Mourning Becomes Electra." The opera, written by Broward-based composer Martin David Levy, has only been performed by four companies since its debut in the late ‘60s and never before in the Southeastern U.S.

It’s even difficult to find music samples on YouTube.

Sung in English, "Mourning Becomes Electra" is a retelling of the Greek tragedy, Aeschylus’s "Oresteia" trilogy, set in New England during the Civil War.  A wife falls in love with another man and poisons her husband — but before he dies, he’s able to tell his daughter what happened. 

"It’s all about family relationships, kids and their parents," said the production's director, Kevin Newbury. "It’s very Freudian."

"Mourning Becomes Electra" has had trouble gaining traction. It was first performed by the Metropolitan Opera in 1967, and it virtually disappeared for three decades before the Lyric Opera of Chicago successfully revived the work in 1998.

Another revision for the New York City Opera and Seattle Opera in 2004 earned the work even more praise. A New York Times critic wrote that the production was a “kicking, screaming contemporary opera that deserves a future.”

Now, "Morning Becomes Electra" can tick off a fifth company as the Florida Grand Opera opens its 73rd season with a new production. Newbury says FGO's version is more surreal through its use of sets, video screens and light projections that "emphasize the ghost theme underlying this piece."

Performances are November 7 and 9 at the Broward Center and November 16, 17, 19 and 23 at the Arsht Center.