Elektra, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2013

For this revival of Elektra, in Charles Edwards blood soaked production (previously seen in 2003 and 2008), the orchestra produced terrific emotional power under the direction of Andris Nelsons.

All images ROH/ Clive Barda

All images ROH/ Clive Barda

They played with huge conviction, and the cast sang superbly, none more so than Adrianne Pieczonka as Chrysothemis. From her first entrance to the final words in the opera, her hugely strong performance had a quality  befitting her name (chrysos means gold in Greek). As Elektra, Christine Goerke paced herself for this hugely demanding role, and sometimes sounded a bit thin in comparison with her sister, but her responses to Klytemnestra, Orestes, and Aegisthus came over powerfully. Michaela Schuster sang Klytemnestra with beautifully dark lyricism, showing wonderful body movements and facial expressions, and the scene with Elektra when she tries to get her daughter to reveal the correct rites to cure her torments was riveting.

Elektra with Klytemnestra centre

Elektra left, Klytemnestra centre

This production helps bring out the intensity of feeling between these three women before Orestes finally appears, down a ladder from a hole in the wall. In the role of this avenging son, Iain Paterson produced a welcome physicality and vocal depth, and in the relatively small role of Aegisthus, John Daszak sang with utter conviction, and excellent diction. Fine diction too from Paterson, Schuster and Pieczonka, and it is a huge pleasure to hear Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s excellent libretto well enunciated.

Indeed for this dark opera by Richard Strauss the words and music are everything, and the vocal precision was matched by glorious musical moments under the baton of City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s music director Andris Nelsons. In Elektra’s first appearance when she cries out to her dead father, Agamemnon, zeig dich deinem Kind (show yourself to your child) the orchestra produced a glorious lyrical intensity, when Chysothemis and Elektra are left alone believing Orestes to be dead, the timpani prepared us beautifully for their determination to do the assassination themselves, and the recognition scene with Orestes was superbly played.

Final words from Chysothemis

Final words from Chysothemis

These performances of Strauss’s great opera, based on Sophocles’s version of Elektra, are unmissable. Pity there were so many empty seats in the more expensive parts of the House.

Performances continue on Sept 26, Oct 1, 6, 9, 12 — for details click here.

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