A Human Elektra

Strauss – Elektra

Elektra – Christine Goerke

Klytämnestra – Michaela Schuster

Chrysothemis – Adrianne Pieczonka

Orest – Iain Paterson

Ägisth – John Daszak

Der Pfleger des Orest – John Cunningham

Ein junger Diener – Doug Jones

Ein alter Diener – Jeremy White

Die Aufseherin – Elaine McKrill

Die Vertraute – Louise Armit

Die Schleppträgerin – Marianne Cotterill

Erste Magd – Anna Burford

Zweite Magd – Catherine Carby

Dritte Magd – Elizabeth Sikora

Vierte Magd – Elizabeth Woollett

Fünfte Magd – Jennifer Check

Royal Opera Chorus, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House / Andris Nelsons.

Stage Director – Charles Edwards

Royal Opera House, London.  Sunday, October 6th, 2013.

Getting to see two productions of Elektra within as many months is a real privilege but getting to see two where the exponent of the title role is outstanding is quite remarkable.  I was blown away by Evelyn Herlitzius as Elektra back in July and tonight Christine Goerke truly sang the role expressing the complete emotional range of the part.  It can seem almost clichéd to say that there was no weak link in the cast but tonight it felt so true, this Elektra was superbly cast with singers at the peak of their powers.

Christine Goerke’s Elektra was above all human.  Every note was well and truly sung and it was an exceptionally musical performance of an exceptionally cruel part.  Yet it was so much more than that. She knew how to draw so much out of the notes and the text – a little crescendo or pointing of the words made a real difference.  She had power where it mattered for the big moments and a fabulous lower register.  She was also incredibly believable.  It seems unkind to compare her with Herlitzius as they were both exceptional in their own way but there was something about Herlitzius’ elemental power and extraordinary top than somehow moved me a little bit more.  I cannot say this clearly enough though, Goerke’s Elektra is a major achievement.

When I heard Adrianne Pieczonka in Aix, I thought her the finest Chrysothemis I’ve heard.  So many of the same qualities were in evidence tonight – the fearless top, the impeccable diction and the expansive breath-control – yet I did get the impression that she was not quite on her very best form and perhaps somewhat tired.  She gave absolutely everything though and the effect was stunning.

Michaela Schuster’s Klytämnestra was deeply impressive.  Never overdone yet never also too understated (the main issue I had with Meier in Aix).  The part held no terrors for her and she was vocally free and easy.  The only thing that disappointed was that it was not quite fully sung, a bit too much sprechgesang on ‘ich habe keine guten Nächte’ for example for my taste but the whole thing was exceptionally secure.  Iain Paterson’s Orest started off as being slightly lightweight, the part sitting somewhat low for him, but he built on that to create a truly-sung and lyrical performance.  The chemistry with Goerke created a deeply moving recognition scene.  John Daszak’s Ägisth was decent enough and certainly entered into the spirit of the production.

Andris Nelsons’ conducting thrilled in most of the score and infuriated in a few other places.  He seemed alive to the soaring melodies and echoes of dance music inherent in the score but likewise really brought out those wonderfully expressionistic aspects such as Klytämnestra’s dream recollections.  What infuriated was the odd moment where the music seemed to grind to a halt in the recognition scene and the very end of the work where the final chords seemed to be distorted out of all recognition.  The orchestra had a number of slip-ups but they had been working all day so it was perhaps forgivable.

Charles Edwards’ production was entertaining enough as spectacle.  The positive was that it lacked the number of non sequiturs that Chéreau’s did and that the storytelling was clear.  I also liked the nod to Freud when Klytämnestra came to talk about her dreams to Elektra who was sitting behind a desk.

This was an outstanding evening with singers at the top of their game producing something very special.  Goerke is definitely a singer to watch – an exceptionally generous and human Elektra who succeeded in making her character as believable and as relevant as possible.  A major achievement.

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6 responses to “A Human Elektra

    • For me, I’d put Elektra & Rosenkavalier as my favourite Strauss operas followed by FrOSCh but that’s just personal taste as everything else is. Thanks for reading!

      • Hi,

        Ok thanks.

        But what about Capriccio?

        Strauss referred to it as……”a fine dish for connoisseurs”

        Do you agree?

      • I enjoy Capriccio but I have to be in a very particular mood for it whereas Elektra or Rosenkavalier or Ariadne I could listen to any time or any place. What’s your favourite?

      • Hi,

        My favorite?

        It comes down to Die Frau ohne Schatten and Capriccio.

        Impossible to pick just one!

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