Clytemnestra (1982)

USA, 30 May
colour, 4:3

An American dance fantasy television special directed by Merrill Brockway.

Plot Summary

A dance version of the legend of who has been murdered by her son Orestes and is awaiting judgement by the gods


Director: Merrill Brockway
WNET. New York
Music: Halim El Dabh
Choreography: Martha Graham
Costumes: Halston
Design: Isamu Noguchi

Christopher Plummer (narrator)
John Drummond (introduced by)
Mario Delamo (Messenger of Death)
Peggy Lyman (ghost of Clytemnestra)
Yuriko Kimura (Clytemnestra)
George L White Jr (Hades)
Diane Gray (Helen of Troy)
Bert Terborgh (Paris)
Tim Wengerd (Agamemnon)
Elisa Monte (Electra)
Peter Sparling (Orestes)
Lucinda Mitchell (Phigenia)
Janet Eilber (Cassandra)
Mario Delamo (Aegisthus)
George L. White Jr (watchman/priest of the sacrifice)
Christine Dakin (young Clytemnestra)
Tim Wengerd (ghost of Agamemnon)
Bert Terborgh (Apollo)
Sharon Tyers (Athena)
Members of the company (furies/soldiers)


The New York Times 30 May 1979 Section C p.23
For television, the length has been nearly halved. The result is leaner, more concentrated and, in several respects, more effective. In this intensely personal reworking of the “Oresteia” trilogy of Aeschylus, Clytemnestra continues to dominate the stage. […] There are some narrative statements incorporated into Halim El-Dabh's score, mostly snippets of the “Oresteia” in translations by Richard Lattimore and Robert Lowell. The minimal décor, set against giant backdrops of infinite color, is by Isamu Noguchi, the sculptor. Special headdresses were created by Halston, the designer. As host, Christopher Plummer is excessively overdramatic, creating the impression that he is playing rather than describing Clytemnestra. For anyone who saw Martha Graham dance the role of Clytemnesta, that must remain the definitive performance. She embodied both terrifying strength and terrible vulnerability. She was stunning, memorable in the manner reserved for artistic genius. In the television version, Yuriko Kimura is merely superb, marvellously suggesting the brilliance of Graham the dancer while, more important for posterity, demonstrating the power of Graham the choreographer. Clytemnestra drifts, almost dreamlike (the character of a ghost has been added for television), among the other characters – Orestes and Electra, Helen and Paris, Agamemnon and Aegisthus, Iphigenia and Cassandra. At moments, the intensity can become overheated, creating a kind of “Perils of Pauline” effect in television close-up. But the overall power of the work remains intact. ne enduring eternal myths play themselves out in inexorable rhythms, and once again we are moved and overwhelmed. This is a masterwork of modem dance. It will survive, and having it recorded for television is a of inestimable value. – from a review (TV: ‘Clytemnestra' ends ‘May, We Dance' series) by John L. O'Connor


The New York Times 30 May 1979 Section C p.23 – review (TV: ‘Clytemnestra' ends ‘May, We Dance' series by John L. O'Connor)