Orestes, son of Agamemnon and Klytemnestra, has killed his mother and is thus pursued by the Furies. In a trial at Athens presided over by Athena, Orestes is tried for his crime and is acquitted. Athena placates the Furies by offering them places of honor in Athens.
The action is based on Aeschylus' ancient Greek tragedy, "Eumenides." The opera begins at Delphi, at Apollo's temple. The Pythia, priestess of Apollo, discovers Orestes and the sleeping Furies inside the temple. Apollo tells Orestes to go to Athens and seek the protection of Athena. Orestes leaves. The Ghost of Klytemnestra appears, rouses the Furies and urges them to continue the chase. The Furies sing of their hatred of Orestes; Apollo drives them from his temple.
Orestes arrives at Athens and takes refuge in Athena's temple, where the Furies discover him. As they are about to kill him, Athena appears. She places Orestes under her protection, but honors the justice of the Furies' claim by instituting a trial to determine Orestes' guilt.
The trial is held at Athens, with Apollo as Orestes' defense attorney, the Furies as the prosecutors, and Athena as the presiding judge. Orestes is acquitted, and leaves to take up the throne of Argos.
The Furies violently protest what they see as an unjust verdict, and threaten to destroy Athens. Athena persuades them to accept a place of honor in her city instead, and be worshipped forever by the citizens of Athens.
The joyful closing chorus escorts the Furies (now the "Eumenides," or "kindly ones") to their new home under the Acropolis.
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Approximate Runtime (hh:mm)
Number of Acts
Tonal/modal with chromatic inflections; number-opera structure, with arias for each principal role; performable by colleges/universities
Vocal & Musical Forces
5 principal roles; 12 Furies (6 sop, 6 alto); SATB Chorus; chamber ensemble (7 players): fl, ob, vn, va, vc, pno, 1 perc
Principal roles: Bridgid Eversole as Athena (soprano, 3 arias); James Rogers as Apollo (baritone, 2 arias); Alexander Kugler as Orestes (tenor, 1 aria); Charmaine Sims-McGilvary as the Ghost of Klytemnestra (dramatic soprano, 1 aria); Pythia (mezzo-soprano, 1 scena); 6 soprano Furies, 6 alto Furies; SATB Chorus