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Subject: Re: Elektra - second performance 3/5
From: "Volpe, Russell" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Volpe, Russell
Date:Thu, 8 Mar 2018 17:20:19 +0000

text/plain (65 lines)


Roberta Alexander returned as the Fifth Maid when this production premiered in 2016, not the First Maid as I stated.

Apologies for the error.

Russ Volpe

-----Original Message-----
From: Discussion of opera and related issues [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Volpe, Russell
Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2018 11:19 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Elektra - second performance 3/5

I attended the second performance of the "Elektra" revival at the Met on Monday evening.  Here is a report I wrote on my reactions to the performance.  This cast offers an alternate take on the opera than the premier cast (Stemme, Pieczonka, Meier and Owens under Esa-Pekka Salonen), but it is every bit as satisfying in a wholly different way.

Russ Volpe

Metropolitan Opera
March 5, 2018

The spare, haunting, elemental Patrice Chereau production of Richard Strauss' "Elektra" has returned to the Met in a revival starring Christine Goerke, acclaimed today as one of the premier exponents of the demanding title role.  Goerke sang the role in 2015 here in NY in a concert performance with the Boston Symphony under Andris Nelsons.   This revival offers her first staged performances of the role in NY.

Goerke, once primarily a Mozart and Handel singer, now has a voice that has grown into the dramatic soprano repertoire.  Her voice is not of the steely, granitic variety often associated with this role, but rather has a warm, rich quality that emphasizes the vulnerable, wounded and broken qualities of Strauss and Hofmannsthal's revenge-obsessed daughter.

She started slowly, taking time to warm up.  In her early scenes, while her middle and low voices were rich and robust, high notes sounded constricted and underpowered. In big orchestral moments she was sometimes hard to hear.  Later, after Chrysothemis enters with the false news that their brother Orest is dead, Goerke's voice opened up and the top notes emerged fuller, clearer and with more thrilling impact. From here, through a tender, heartfelt recognition scene with Mikhail Peternko's cool, grave Orest, and on to a riveting conclusion she sang with compelling, complete command.  Ultimately, Goerke delivered on her reputation as one of the great interpreters of this touchstone role.

Goerke creates a very human, believable Elektra easy to relate to. Hers is not the hysterical, revenge-obsessed daughter hurtling toward extinction. She offers a real daughter and sister, who recognizes the need for justice and stays focused on the crime and what needs to be done about it. The story emerges here as dysfunctional family drama with this grounded Elektra steering the plot to its cathartic conclusion.

Elza van den Heever's interpretation of Chrysothemis fits well in this framework. She emphasizes the desperate, tortured quality of this sister who shares Elektra's desire for revenge but who longs for a normal life of domestic tranquility.  Her voice, cool and penetrating, with soaring high notes, adds great urgency and poignancy to the crucial duets between the sisters.

Michaela Schuster, in her Met debut, was a Klytamnestra of inward doubt and confusion. She was clearly troubled and desperate to placate her obsessed daughter Elektra. Her acting was detailed and intense. She sang with a smoky, rich mezzo that delivered the text with unusual clarity and focus. Hers was not a big Klytamnestra, but it was a very powerful one.

Jay Hunter Morris brought the necessary simpering, slimy qualities to his brief, well sung scene in the character role of Aegisth.

The supporting cast was strong, notably Susan Neves as the Overseer and Tichina Vaughn as the First Maid, returning to the Met after many years, following Roberta Alexander who returned in the role when this production premiered at the Met in 2016.

Yannick Nezet-Seguin led the Met Orchestra in a fine, propulsive account of the score that brought out instrumental colors and individual voices within a driven and well-paced whole.

Chereau's landmark production, designed by Richard Peduzzi and overseen in revival by Peter McClintock, works brilliantly to frame the action in a spare, sprawling courtyard that feels claustrophobic yet at the same time expansive.  It's greatest strength is to present the opera with a minimum of distraction so that all the focus remains on the characters, the music and the compelling drama unfolding.

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