The Metropolitan Opera (The Met) completed its 2015-2016 Live in HD broadcasts on April 30th, 2016 with a performance of Richard Strauss’ Elektra. The production premiered in Europe and was directed by the late Patrice Chéreau.
The production stars Nina Stemme in the title role, Adrianne Pieczonka as Chrysothemis, Eric Owens as Orest, and Waltraud Meier as Klytaemnestra. The conductor was Esa-Pekka Salonen. The set was designed by Richard Peduzzi with costumes by Caroline de Vivaise.
This production is updated from Ancient Greece to a more recent time with the cast in more modern clothing. This was acceptable – although the set itself, the courtyard of a castle, is very bleak and grey. However, the acting abilities of the cast, especially the four principle members of the cast, more than made up for what was essentially a dull looking set. When we add in their singing ability, the set simply vanished into the background.
Ms. Stemme portrayed a very interesting Elektra. In this production Elektra is literally going mad trying to get her revenge. And we are moved by it.
Ms. Pieczonka excelled as Elektra’s sister, Chrysothemis. She really seems to want a normal life and seems to want Elektra to understand, despite Elektra’s inability to do so. At the same time, one seems to be aware that Chrysothemis realizes that her fate could also be sealed by her mother and that it is a huge risk to disagree with Klytaemnestra.
What can I say about Mr. Owens? He is simply a wonderful singer, and seems to get better every time I see him in a performance. His Orest knows what is expected of him, and just how to achieve it.
Ms. Meier provides for an almost sympathetic Klytaemnestra. Ms. Meier’s portrayal almost makes you believe that Klytaemnestra has only wanted to do the right thing. Was she being used by her lover and new husband? It could almost be imagined. You could tell that this Klytaemnestra was troubled by the death of her late husband, and perhaps does seriously regret his murder. And Ms. Meier’s voice is in fine voice.
Maestro Salonen keeps the large orchestra in check – it never overpowered the singers, and yet was not overwhelmed – or underwhelmed – at any point during the performance.
While I enjoyed the overall performance, I did find the ending a let down. Elektra does a very short dance towards the end of the performance, but it looked very stiff, forced, and robotic. It contradicted the rest of the opera, and did nothing to impress me. Also, instead of collapsing at the end of the opera, Elektra simply sits down and just stares out at the audience. Again, this goes against what was originally written and begs the question of Why?
The only other point, which was minor, was that some members of the cast wore shoes, while others did not. This was not a major issue with me, but it was noticeable and I was not sure what the point was supposed to be. If there was a point, it would have been nice to know.
All in all, this was a good performance.