Alkmene (opera)

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Opera by Giselher Klebe

Giselher Klebe 2008.jpg

The composer in 2008
Librettist Klebe
Language German
Based on Amphitryon
by Heinrich von Kleist
Premiere25 September 1961 (1961-09-25)
Deutsche Oper Berlin

Alkmene ( Alcmene ), op. 36, is an opera in three acts, with music and libretto by Giselher Klebe. Klebe based the libretto on Amphitryon by Heinrich von Kleist, which in turn was based on Molière's play of the same name. The composer dedicated the work to his mother, the violinist Gertrud Klebe.

Alcmene mother of Hercules

In Greek mythology, Alcmene or Alcmena was the wife of Amphitryon by whom she bore two children, Iphicles and Laonome. She is, however, better known as the mother of Heracles whose father was the god Zeus. Alcmene was also called Electryone (Ἠλεκτρυώνην), a patronymic name as a daughter of Electryon.

Opera artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

Libretto text used for an extended musical work

A libretto is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term libretto is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as the Mass, requiem and sacred cantata, or the story line of a ballet.


The opera was commissioned for the opening of the current building of the Deutsche Oper Berlin [1] where it premiered on 25 September 1961, the second production in that house.

Deutsche Oper Berlin opera house

The Deutsche Oper Berlin is an opera company located in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin, Germany. The resident building is the country's second largest opera house and also home to the Berlin State Ballet.


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 25 September 1961
Jupiter baritone Thomas Stewart [2]
Mercury bass
Theban field commander
wife of Amphitryon
soprano Evelyn Lear [2]
servant to Amphitryon
bass/spoken part
wife to Sosias
coloratura soprano
A commanderbass
Two colonelstenor, bass


The setting is mythical Thebes.

Jupiter enlists Mercury to plan a new seduction of a mortal, specifically Alkmene, wife of the Theban field commander Amphitryon. Amphitryon is in the conflict of Thebes against Athens. Because Jupiter cannot present himself in his true form to Alkmene, he chooses to appear as Amphitryon. The god appears to Alkmene and makes love with her, with Alkmene thinking that this is her husband who has returned early from battle.

The next morning, the servant Sosias announces Thebes' victory over Athens and the return of the Theban army. He sees a double of himself, who is actually Mercury, who acted as guard the night prior. Confusion follows. Alkmene then sees Amphytrion for what she thinks is the second time so soon after his recent return. Amphitryon becomes suspicious of his wife's fidelity, and summons witnesses to attest that he did not leave the army camp during the night. Alkmene is pained at these suspicions. However, Jupiter appears and tells Alkmene that her partner the night before was no mortal, but the supreme god himself.

The army commanders appear, and they and the Thebans see two Amphitryons. At first, they believe Jupiter to be the Amphitryon. However, the god reveals his true identity, and also tells Alkmene that she has conceived a child, and he will be named Hercules. Alkmeme faints. Jupiter leaves in his sun carriage. Alkmene awakens in her husband's arms, the two of them reconciled.

Hercules Roman adaptation of the Greek divine hero Heracles

Hercules is a Roman hero and god. He was the equivalent of the Greek divine hero Heracles, who was the son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene. In classical mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures.

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Amphitryon Figure in Greek mythology, husband of Alcmene

Amphitryon, in Greek mythology, was a son of Alcaeus, king of Tiryns in Argolis. His mother was named either Astydameia, the daughter of Pelops and Hippodamia, or Laonome, daughter of Guneus, or else Hipponome, daughter of Menoeceus. Amphitryon was the brother of Anaxo, wife of Electryon and Perimede, wife of Licymnius.

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  1. Erik Levi: "Klebe, Giselher", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 2 April 2008)
  2. 1 2 "Double Triumph". Time . 20 October 1961. Retrieved 28 September 2007.