F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that there are no second acts for American lives. While that observation remains contestable, the resurrection this fall of Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra, in a new revised version, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago proves that there are definitely second acts in the lives of American operas.

Mourning Becomes Electra was adapted from Eugene O’Neill’s six-and-a-half hour dramatic trilogy, which transfers Aeschylus’ Oresteia to a New England seaport just after the Civil War. Levy’s depiction of the haunted Mannon family’s history of illegitimacy, insanity, murder, and incest had a highly publicized premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1967, with a cast starring Evelyn Lear, Marie Collier, John Reardon, and a young baritone named Sherrill Milnes. A performance in Germany followed two seasons later; yet, as with so many American...

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