Malcolm Arnold’s one-act ballet score Electra, op. 79, to a scenario based on a much-compressed version of Sophocles’ play, was commissioned by the Royal Ballet and first performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 26 March 1963. The choreographer was Robert Helpmann whose association with the Vic-Wells/Royal Ballet went back to 1933. The Australian artist Arthur Boyd was responsible for the striking sets and costumes, and John Lanchbery conducted.
The cast consisted of Nadia Nerina as Electra, David Blair as Orestes, Monica Mason as Clytemnestra and Derek Rencher as Aegisthus, and there were eight male Furies.
In his full score and reduction for two pianos, Arnold adopted the normal anglicised spelling of the name of his heroine: Electra. But Helpmann’s ballet was billed and performed at the Royal Opera House with the ‘c’ replaced by a teutonic ‘k’, as in the more familiar opera of Richard Strauss.
The first concert performance was given by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Barry Wordsworth, on 5 November 2004, at the Royal Festival Hall, London