King Agamemnon, leader of the victorious Greek armies in the Trojan War, returns home triumphantly to Argos, only to be murdered by his wife Klytemnestra.
The opera begins with a lone Watchman (tenor) seeing a distant signal-fire which signifies the fall of Troy. He announces this news to the Chorus, which rejoices and then relates an event from ten years past, in which Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigeneia, thus allowing the Greek fleet fair winds to sail to Troy.
Queen Klytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife, has been plotting with her lover Aegisthus to kill Agamemnon and avenge Iphigeneia's death. She enters and imagines the scenes of destruction of the sack of Troy, and hints at the dark end awaiting Agamemnon upon his return.
A Herald arrives to announce the Greeks' victory and Agamemnon's imminent arrival.
Agamemnon arrives in triumph, accompanied by Kassandra, the Trojan priestess of Apollo, now Agamemnon's slave: they are hailed by the Chorus. Klytemnestra welcomes both with deceptive hospitality.
Kassandra, in a prophetic trance, relates past events from the house of Agamemnon and foresees her murder at Klytemnestra's hands. Although amazed by her knowledge of past events, the Chorus does not believe Kassandra's predictions of her own death. Kassandra follows Agamemnon and Klytemnestra into the palace.
Agamemnon's death cries are heard offstage, and Klytemnestra appears in triumph over the bodies of Agamemnon and Kassandra. The Chorus, horrified, rebukes Klytemnestra and mourns Agamemnon.
Aegisthus, the new King, enters to relate his own long-standing grudge against Agamemnon. The Chorus angrily revolts, but Aegisthus' bodyguard staves off the mob. Klytemnestra and Aegisthus re-enter the palace as the new rulers of Argos.
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