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A Sane Sister: Gluck's 'Iphigenie En Tauride'

There are plenty of dysfunctional families in opera. But few have ever had more serious family "issues" than the one that provides the backdrop for Christoph Willibald Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride. It's the same psychotic clan that Euripides made famous in his play and that Richard Straussshowcased in his psycho-drama Elektra.

Elektra's household may be one of the most unhappy in all of literature. Her parents, Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, were in serious need of a marriage counselor. Agamemnon spent much of his time away from home, in battle, so Clytemnestra took up with another guy. When Agamemnon finally did return from the wars, she killed him. This drove Elektra mad, and it drove her brother, Orestes, to revenge. He murdered Clytemnestra, along with her illicit lover.

Elektra also had a sister, Iphigeneia. So what happened to her? In one version of their story, Agamemnon kills her as a sacrifice to appease the gods and earn good fortune in battle. But in other versions of the legend, she survives — and turns out to be, well, not quite so crazy as the rest of her family. And that's the story Gluck sets to music in Iphigénie en Tauride.

World of Opera host Lisa Simeone presents the happier version of the Iphigeneia story — the one where she survives her troublesome family, saves her brother's life, and returns home to Greece. It's a production starring soprano Mireille Delunsch as Iphigeneia, from the Opéra Garnier, in Paris.

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