Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.

A Sparkling Merry Widow at ENO

A small, formerly great, kingdom, is on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate to prevent its ‘assets’ from slipping into foreign hands. Sexual and political intrigues are bluntly exposed. The princes and patriarchs are under threat from both the ‘paupers’ and the ‘princesses’, and the two dangers merge in the glamorous figure of the irresistibly wealthy Pontevedrin beauty, Hanna Glawari, a working-class girl who’s married up and made good.

Mozart: Così fan tutte - Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is, primarily, an ensemble opera and it sinks or swims on the strength of its sextet of singers - and this performance very much swam. In a sense, this is just as well because Jan Phillip Gloger’s staging (revived here by Julia Burbach) is in turns messy, chaotic and often confusing. The tragedy of this Così is that it’s high art clashing with Broadway; a theatre within an opera and a deceit wrapped in a conundrum.

Gavin Higgins' The Monstrous Child: an ROH world premiere

The Royal Opera House’s choice of work for the first new production in the splendidly redesigned Linbury Theatre - not unreasonably, it seems to have lost ‘Studio’ from its name - is, perhaps, a declaration of intent; it may certainly be received as such. Not only is it a new work; it is billed specifically as ‘our first opera for teenage audiences’.

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the first moments of the recent revival of Sir David McVicar’s production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at Lyric Opera of Chicago the audience is caught in the grip of a rich music-drama, the intensity of which is not resolved, appropriately, until the final, symmetrical chords.

Expressive Monteverdi from Les Talens Lyriques at Wigmore Hall

This was an engaging concert of madrigals and dramatic pieces from (largely) Claudio Monteverdi’s Venetian years, a time during which his quest to find the ‘natural way of imitation’ - musical embodiment of textual form, meaning and affect - took the form not primarily of solo declamation but of varied vocal ensembles of two or more voices with rich instrumental accompaniments.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Nina Stemme as Elektra [Photo © Cory Weaver]
26 Feb 2019

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the first moments of the recent revival of Sir David McVicar’s production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at Lyric Opera of Chicago the audience is caught in the grip of a rich music-drama, the intensity of which is not resolved, appropriately, until the final, symmetrical chords.

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Nina Stemme as Elektra [Photo © Cory Weaver]

 

In the title role of Elektra Nina Stemme’s multi-faceted portrayal commands attention, even during moments of silence or merely by an implied presence. Elektra’s sister Chrysothemis is sung with wrenching urgency by Elza Van Den Heever. Their brother Orest, as portrayed by Iain Patterson, is an emotionally committed figure whose heroic stature emerges in response to requisite action. Klytämnestra and Aegisth are performed by Michaela Martens and Robert Brubaker. Donald Runnicles conducts with masterful control the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Mme. Stemme and Messrs. Patterson, Brubaker, and Runnicles make their Lyric Opera of Chicago debuts in these performances.

 

Despite the protagonist’s absence in the initial scene, her essence pervades the steps of the palace. In answer to the question, “Wo bleibt Elektra?” (“Where is Elektra?”), the orchestra supplies a response: Runnicles elicits a palette of darting colors and fractured chords from the Lyric Opera Orchestra as if to suggest the patterns that have altered any sense of Elektra’s equilibrium. Once she appears and commences her monologue, Stemme’s Elektra wavers between controlled reflection, expressed piano, and flights of hysterical determination delivered with piercing top notes. The horror of her father’s murder and the subsequent transformation of the royal linger here in cries of anger yet also in shudders of repulsion. This trajectory of identification with Elektra’s persona grows only deeper throughout the evolution of Stemme’s performance.

Vital to this production, and in the spirit of Strauss’s conception, is Elektra’s interactions with others – both in and beyond her immediate family. The hesitant notes expressed by Van Den Heever’s entrance prompt Elektra to dwell on the potential malleability of her sister in securing an ally. The voices of both sopranos mingle, at rimes, in lyrical union until the failure of any cooperation becomes clear to the initiator of vengeful plans. Stemme’s subsequent confrontation with Klytämnestra enhances the tensions between two figures neither of whom will yield her ground. Martens does not rely on caricature to define the self-contained cause of Elektra’s anguish. Instead, she faces her daughter with the attempt at composure while inadvertently succumbing to glances of apprehension. Martens’s departure reflects a forced attitude of dignity since he has stared into the eyes of gleaming justice. Elektra’s encounter with Orest and the ultimate realization of her plan shows the complexity of Stemme’s approach reminiscent of the earlier monologue. She is at first cautious, then peals of controlled emotional relief sweep over the Grecian princess. After the moving scene of recognition, there is still work to be done. Patterson is especially effective as Orest: a growing resonance pulses in his voice as he nears the moment of revealing his identity. Once Elektra sends him into the palace, Stemme’s portrayal begins a final transformation. Her frantic search for the forgotten axe sways into the triumphant cry of “Triff noch einmal!” (“Strike once more!”) as Klytämnestra ‘s shrieks resound from within the palace. In a final semblance of control the daughter of Agamemnon leads Aegisth to his punishment when he comes tripping along in a daze of confusion. Stemme’s play of gentility here costs her final shred of stability. When she initiates her dance in this production Stemme appears in an apotheosis of light, so different from the grey and dull tones of the struggles highlighted earlier in this production. As she falls lifeless, the light is extinguished, her task is done, the surviving siblings must persevere in her spirit.

Salvatore Calomino

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):