Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček#8217;s first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

Peter Grimes in Nice

Nice’s golden winter light is not that of England’s North Sea coast. Nonetheless the Opéra de Nice’s new production of Peter Grimes did much to take us there.

Guillaume Tell in Monaco

Peasants revolt in a sea of Maserati and Ferrari’s.

LA Opera Presents Figaro 90210

Figaro 90210 is Vid Guerrerio’s modern version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte’s 1786 opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Tristan und Isolde at the Wiener Staatsoper

David McVicar’s production of Wagner’s seminal music drama runs aground on the Cornish coast.

Songs of Night and Travel, Wigmore Hall

The coming of ‘Night’ brings darkness, shadows and mystery; sleep, dreams and nightmares; fancies, fantasies and passions.

Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera

Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, now at the Royal Opera House, is no more about history than Jesus Christ Superstar is about theology.

Yevgeny Onegin in Warsaw

Mariusz Treliński’s staging of Tchaikovsky’s operatic masterpiece is visually fascinating but psychologically confusing

Orfeo at the Roundhouse, Royal Opera

The regal trumpets and sackbuts sound their bold herald and, followed by admiring eyes, the powers of state and church begin their dignified procession along a sloping walkway to assume their lofty positions upon the central dais.

Idomeneo in Montpellier

Vestiges of a momentous era . . .

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

There were hints that L’elisir is one of the great bel canto masterpieces.

Das Liebesverbot opens the new season at Teatro Verdi in Trieste

Aron Stiehl’s production of this rare early Wagner opera cheerfully brings commedia dell’arte to La Cage aux Folles.

Amsterdam: Lohengrin Lite

Stage director Pierre Audi is not one to be strictly representational in his story telling.

Fidelio, Manitoba Opera

For the first time in its 42-year history, Manitoba Opera presented Beethoven’s mighty ode to freedom, Fidelio, with an extraordinary production that resonated as loudly as tolling bells of freedom.

The Hilliard Ensemble: Farewell Concert at Wigmore Hall

Forty-one years is a long time for any partnership to be sustained and to flourish — be it musical, commercial or marital! And, given The Hilliard Ensemble’s ongoing reputation as one of the world’s finest a cappella groups, noted for their performances of works dating from the 11 th century to the present day, it must have been a tough decision to call an end to more than four decades of superlative music-making.

Fidelio opens new season at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim makes a triumphant departure as direttore musicale del Teatro alla Scala with Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece.

Mahler Songs: Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House — a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Richard Strauss
18 Jan 2010

Elektra at the Barbican

Concert performances of operas are often problematic in that the work tends to be cut or otherwise played around with, or the venue is inappropriate - after all, these were meant to be staged pieces.

Richard Strauss: Elektra

Elektra: Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet; Chrysothemis: Angela Denoke; Clytemnestra: Felicity Palmer; Orestes: Matthias Goerne; Aegisthus: Ian Storey. London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Valery Gergiev. London Symphony Chorus.

 

The LSO’s Elektra under Gergiev really had only one problem, which was that the orchestra was frequently too loud, and when you have a team of singers amongst whom only the Clytemnestra, the Oreste and the Second Maid actually manage to ride consistently over it, you have a somewhat unbalanced evening. It was bound to be so - Strauss’ orchestral requirement is huge, and the band really must be in a pit or there must be some other way devised to protect the singers from it.

This is not to say that distinguished playing was absent - far from it, since the LSO under Gergiev gave a searing performance, often responding to their conductor as though their lives depended on it, and achieving the all too rare distinction of making one hear parts of the music anew. If this was at the cost of a less lyrical, less poetic interpretation in parts, then it was a worthwhile one.

Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet’s Elektra was new to me, and she certainly chewed up the carpet in histrionic terms, gyrating all over the place and generally giving her all, but her voice frequently had trouble in surmounting the vast sounds coming from behind. Her finest moments were in the address to the shade of Agamemnon, ‘die um sein hohes Grab / so königliche siegestänze tanzen!’ projected with bitter ecstasy, and her almost hypnotic incantation of ‘Der ist selig, der seine Tat zu tun kommt’ to her brother at the crucial moment of decision.

It surprised me that Matthias Goerne was singing Oreste, not because his voice isn’t right for the role, but because it’s such a small part for him - perhaps his Speaker in Die Zauberflöte has given him a taste for tiny yet significant roles. This was an Oreste of brooding presence and stentorian authority, and even if we did miss a little of the more moving qualities of the recognition scene, it was a nobly conceived interpretation.

Angela Denoke certainly has what most would term ‘a Strauss soprano voice,’ and she used it most movingly in ‘Eh ich sterbe, will ich auch leben!’ providing both a tonal and dramatic contrast to her sister - the final cries of ‘Orest! Orest!’ though, could have been more gripping. Felicity Palmer’s Clytemnestra is now a classic interpretation, her grim delivery and absolute mastery of the characterization in a world of their own - why, one almost felt a grudging sympathy for the frightful old bat as she sang of her terrible nightmares.

Ian Storey did what he could with Aegisthus, but it’s never really going to work if the character simply strolls off when he dies - another problem with this kind of staged opera. The Maids were a strong group, with Ekaterina Sergeeva the most expressive and forceful, and Vuyani Mlinde’s Servant / Companion further enhanced his status as one of our finest bass soloists - he first impressed me at the RCM in 2005, and he has not disappointed since.

The audience was as crammed in the hall as the orchestra on stage, so much so that the LSO chorus had to occupy one of the side aisles, with surprisingly little diminution of the intensity needed during that final cleansing of the House of Atreus.

Melanie Eskenazi

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):