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Subject: Eva Marton in "Elektra" - Wow!
From: markloeb <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:markloeb <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 6 Mar 1997 01:05:57 -0500
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Dear List:

I have just returned with a hoarse throat (caused by shouting too many
"bravo"s) from the Kennedy Center where I heard a spectacular performance of
Strauss' "Elektra" featuring Eva Marton and an outstanding cast. In my
opinion, it was an evening to be treasured. The production by Elijah
Moshinsky with sets and costumes by Robert Israel and lighting by Mimi
Sherin was wonderful. Israel did the sets for the Met's new "Wozzeck" and
one can see the connection--walls held up by beams (suggesting instability,
fragility and leanness), a moving stage-high mirror door which enables the
characters to be seen eerily both in person and in multiple reflection. The
lighting featured beautiful pastel washes that operated like Wagnerian
leitmotifs, changing to set the dramatic tone in each scene. The costumes
were also intriguing, albeit "updated" from ancient Greece to fin-de-siecle
Vienna.

My first "Elektra" cast consisted 28 years ago of Birgit Nilsson, Leonie
Rysanek and Regina Resnik with Karl Boehm in the pit--not to be forgotten,
obviously! But what I recall most from the performance was that Boehm was
conducting from the "if-I-can-hear-the-singers-it's-not-loud-enough-school."
Unfortunately for him, Nilsson and Rysanek could have cared less and their
voices swept across the footlights. However, the music sounded jagged and
harsh, and I have ever since thought that "Eletra" is not innately all that
lyrical. Boy was I wrong. To my mind the true star of tonight's performance
in Washington was conductor Heinz Fricke and the Washington Opera Orchestra.
Fricke controlled the Orchestra beautifully and focused constantly on the
lyrical qualities of the score. It sounded Straussian in the best sense of
the word. He allowed bombast when called for, but he was similar in
conducting-style to Carlos Kleiber--i.e. the music was a pillow on top of
which the artists' voices could float. I have never heard this score played
better.

And did he have great artists! Karen Huffstadt was a spectacular
Chrysothemis, rich and powerful of voice, intense as an actress and totally
convincing, a likely Elektra herself some day. Ruthild Engert was a
first-class Klytemnestra, vocally sinuous and dramatically repelling as she
should be. Richard Paul Fink was a fine Orest and veteran tenor James King
did a nice turn as Aegisth.

Eva Marton was Elektra, and, listening to her glorious dramatic thrust, her
still-easy top and her rich tone, I began to mourn for the seasons we have
missed her (due to pettiness on the part of Met management). While I like
Hildegarde Behrens and Gwyneth Jones, it is Marton who should have been our
Brunnhilde, our Tosca and our Turandot in recent years. She is a true
dramatic soprano--what a pleasure to hear the real thing. What really
grabbed my heart, though, was her gorgeous and lyrical singing in the svene
when she recognizes Orest. She did start out a bit fluttery at the
beginning, but within ten minutes the voice found its focus and she was off
for an hour-and-a-half ride through Aeschylean chaos. Her dramatic
"presence" was first-class.

This is what opera is all about! I wish you could have been there.


Rabbi Mark Loeb, Baltimore

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