Clytemnestra at the Kennedy Center Posted on December 12th, 2008 by

Here’s a Washington Post review of Martha Graham’s new production of “Clytemnestra”:

Your married sister runs off with a guy and causes an international incident, which happens to be the Trojan War. To get her back, your husband volunteers your daughter to be sacrificed. When he comes home (a full decade later), after overseeing a victory campaign of lavish raping and pillaging, he brings an enslaved concubine with him. To live in your house.

And you’re supposed to be okay with this.


No wonder Martha Graham felt that Clytemnestra’s story was ripe for the retelling. The Greek queen has come down on the wrong side of legend because she killed King Agamemnon rather than overlook his misdeeds — and an act of regicide trumped all else in the ancient code. Fast-forward to pre-Betty Friedan 1958, when Graham creates an evening-length dance-drama, “Clytemnestra,” a feminist view of the back story to the crime, with the choreographer herself (at age 64) in the title role.

Yet was it the ancient matriarch, or Graham, who needed to be justified?

Audiences have the chance to mull this question anew with the Martha Graham Dance Company’s handsome reconstruction of “Clytemnestra,” which had its American premiere at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater on Tuesday. This dusting-off marks the work’s 50th anniversary and its first performances since 1994.


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