Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Fortepiano Schubert : Wigmore Hall

The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Christine Goerke [Photo by Christian Steiner courtesy of IMG Artists]
27 Oct 2012

A New Production of Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

The opening images of Richard Strauss’s Elektra in its new production at Lyric Opera of Chicago establish a tension persisting until the final chords of the score indeed signal a resolution of this familial tragedy.

A New Production of Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Christine Goerke [Photo by Christian Steiner courtesy of IMG Artists]

 

Christine Goerke, in her debut with this company, delivered a relentless yet at the same time lyrical performance, one in which Elektra’s early delusions are transformed by the character’s determination to see her plan for revenge ultimately realized. Her sister Chrysothemis is sung by soprano Emily Magee, their mother Klytmämnestra by mezzo-soprano Jill Grove, Orest by bass-baritone Alan Held, and Aegisth by tenor Roger Honeywell. Sir Andrew Davis conducts these performances which open Lyric Opera’s fifty-eighth season.

At the sound of the distinctive opening chords the stage depicts a servants’ courtyard at center with, at left, a stairwell leading up to a stone edifice tilted menacingly. The doorway at the top of the stairwell emits a reddish glow. During the opening dialogue of the maids Elektra is visible from time to time caught up in gestures of emotional distress coupled with sounds akin to laughter. In her defense of Elektra’s nobility of spirit the fifth maid, sung and declaimed here with admirable attention to diction by Tracy Cantin, communicates further the tension that accompanies Elektra’s dilemma. Once the maids have retreated indoors Elektra occupies the stage alone and delivers her opening monologue. From the start Ms. Goerke uses her dramatic and vocal powers to portray a character obsessed with the dimensions of past injustice and future vengeance. Goerke’s calls to her father Agamemnon, coupled with a narration of his slaughter, are delivered with an impressive and secure range. In her erratic memory this Elektra intones the dramatic low pitches of “Sie schlugen dich im Bade tot” [“They murdered you in the bath”] in flashes with tender appeals phrased piano for Agamemnon in spirit again to reveal himself [“Zeig dich deinem Kind” (“Appear before your child”)]. As the orchestra swells gradually toward the close of Elektra’s extended monologue Goerke’s voice rises in believable excitement at the thought of a triumphal dance. In her plan for sibling cooperation she envisions the “Purpurgezelte” [“pavilions of purple”] that will be erected upon the successful revenge taken for Agamemnon’s death. Here Goerke’s forte notes matched the orchestral power and were integrated into a seamless portrayal of distress and vision. The final appeal to “Agamemnon,” just as at the start of the scene, suggests here through audible symmetry a barely contained simmer of emotional fury which is still to be unleashed.

Grove_2_(Credit_Dario_Acosta).pngJill Grove [Photo by Dario Acosta courtesy of IMG Artists]

At the entrance of Chrysothemis in the following scene Goerke injects a palpable scorn into her greeting, “Was willst du, Tochter meiner Mutter?” [“What do you seek, daughter of my mother?”]. In their interaction and frenzied discussion of Klytmämnestra’s plan to imprison Elektra, Ms. Magee creates an emotionally complex figure. Her Chrysothemis attempts to warn Elektra yet also unleashes lyrical pleas to be allowed to live as a woman and to ignore the past. Once her feelings become charged to the point of declaring, “Viel lieber tot als leben und nicht leben,” [“So much better to be dead rather than to live and not live”], Magee’s yearning vocal line rises exquisitely in contrast to Elektra’s present starkness.

In the following scene Chrysothemis runs off to allow the inevitable confrontation between Klytmämnestra and Elektra. Jill Grove shows herself to be an equal partner in this vocal and dramatic confrontation, as her Klytmämnestra derides the “paralysis” [“gelähmt sein”] of her own strength when confronted by her daughter. In her address to Elektra the rising notes on “Habt ihr gehört? Habt ihr verstanden?” [“Did you hear? Did you understand?”] flow into a solid and chilling contralto pitch on “Ich will nicht mehr hören” [“I do not wish to hear any more”], both establishing the dread that she herself feels and can likewise inspire in others. The revelation that a sacrifice must be made to halt Klytmämnestra’s nightmares leads to Elektra’s triumphant announcement that the Queen herself must die as this “Opfer.” Grove uses appropriately melodramatic gestures to register the Queen’s horror until a servant provides her with the information that her feared son Orest has died before returning to the court. As she regains her composure Grove’s Klytmämnestra retreats with her retinue while delivering exultant cries of relief.

When Chrysothemis announces this very information to Elektra in their following exchange Goerke’s repetition of “Es ist nicht wahr” [“It is not true”] communicates her frustration in acidic tones. Elektra reveals to Chrysothemis that she has hidden the axe used in Agamemnon’s murder and the sisters must now wield it in lieu of Orest. The accompanying duet between Goerke and Magee stands out as a lyrical showpiece of this production as their voices blend and move apart in rhythmic succession. At the ultimate refusal of Chrysothemis to participate in the vengeance and her flight into the house, Elektra is left in grim resolve to dig for the buried axe herself.

As Elektra continues to search for the hidden weapon, a shadow appears on the back and side walls of the stage. The stranger [“Was willst du, fremder Mensch?” (“What do you seek, stranger?”)] identifies himself as a former companion of Orest who has come to deliver personally the news of his death to the Queen. In the scene of recognition Orest is able first to appreciate the identity of his sister through conversation despite her degraded state. Mr. Held portrays the stranger convincingly with questioning tones of respect, until the moment of recognition when his resonant voice blooms into the role of the heroic brother with a determined mission. In like manner, Goerke’s dramatic cry of recognition at the identification of her brother is softened as she sings piano with distended notes of relief and love. Despite their ecstatic reunion they are reminded of the task as Orest enters the palace. Only Elektra’s despair at having forgotten to provide Orest with the axe breaks the awful tension sustained in the orchestral accompaniment. The screams of Klytmämnestra are followed soon by the arrival in the courtyard of a drunken Aegisth. Elektra assures him passage into the house and to the same fate as that met by her mother. At the appearance of Chrysothemis in the courtyard and her joyous declaration of “Gut sind die Götter” [“The gods are benevolent”], Elektra begins her dance of celebration predicted earlier in her dramatic monologue. The continued emotional strain has, however, snapped and Elektra falls down lifeless to the horror of her sister. The final cries by Chrysothemis of “Orest!” bring about the crashing chords of resolution. The production of Elektra by Lyric Opera of Chicago with its superb cast as well as musical leadership by Sir Andrew Davis will remain as a testament to the innovation and greatness of Strauss’s music.

Salvatore Calomino

Click here for cast and production information.

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):