Elektra, in concert with Valery Gergiev and the LSO, Barbican, January 2010

This powerful Richard Strauss opera, scored for an orchestra of over 110 instruments, has a huge dynamic range and needs singers who can rise above the orchestra. This is where Angela Denoke as Chrysothemis did wonderfully well, and I very much look forward to her singing Salome at the Royal Opera in July. Felicity Palmer as Klytemnestra showed just the right mix of uncertainty and determination in her portrayal, and the voices of the three main protagonists — Elektra, Chrysothemis, and Klytemnestra — were very well contrasted. Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet as Elektra showed herself fierce and anguished, but was clearly out-sung by Angela Denoke. For example, towards the end, after Klytemnestra has been murdered and her lover Aegisthus cries out for help, Elektra sings, “Agamemnon hört dich!” (Agamemnon hears you!), but it was weak, and as he is dragged away, Chrysothemis comes in with “Elektra! Schwester! .. .” The contrast could not have been greater — Ms. Charbonnet was no match for the orchestra, but Ms. Denoke rose effortlessly above it. Matthias Goerne sang Orestes, keeping up well with Ms. Charbonnet in their duet, and Ian Storey sang Aegisthus.

But what really made this a terrific evening was the conducting by Gergiev. He gave us wonderfully melodious quiet passages, yet turned on the power when it was needed. The London Symphony Orchestra respond well to his enigmatic hand gestures, and the orchestral playing was beautifully lyrical. The name Elektra means ‘shining’ — as in the alloy electrum — and Gergiev with the LSO gave us a shining performance.

Leave a Comment