Washington Nationwide Opera supplied simply such a possibility with the second outing of their Elektra revival seen this previous Monday. Following on the heels of an uneven Il Trovatore to open the season, this was a reminder of the excessive caliber musical forces the corporate can deliver collectively, albeit in an underwhelming manufacturing.
Christine Goerke’s Elektra has been with us for over a decade now, gracing the phases of a major variety of North American opera homes in that point (one exception being the Kennedy Middle, the place Elektra was final given within the 2007-2008 season with Susan Bullock and Goerke’s Chrysothemis).
Maybe its most celebrated incarnation got here not on the opera stage, however in her rapturously acquired 2015 concert events with the Boston Symphony, which set the tone for the regular string of appearances which have adopted. Certainly, her dominance within the half on this aspect of the Atlantic has been so full in recent times (save for Nina Stemme’s very notable visits in New York) that I concern audiences could have grown nearly a bit complacent with so many possibilities to listen to Elektra sung so effectively. However that will be a mistake.
As heard final Monday, the qualities which have made Goerke’s achievement on this position distinctive have been in splendid proof. Over the opera’s 100-odd minutes she unfurled Elektra’s punishing music in plush waves of sound, accessing a degree of magnificence and safety in a job that has not often been related to both.
The place many singers should ration Elektra’s music, Goerke generously overwhelms you with it, slicing by way of the orchestral climaxes with thrilling quantity whereas additionally delivering ravishing sweetness within the prolonged scenes with Orest and Chrysothemis.
Whereas Goerke’s expansive center register drove a few of the most beautiful singing right here, she presents constant energy throughout completely different aspects of the position, from scrumptious low notes to a barely extra reserved however undeniably thrilling prime.
Solely in a choose few of essentially the most stratospheric passages did she grow to be noticeably extra cautious, drawing again a bit to organize and counting on a quicker vibrato that waded into lower than stunning territory, as in just a few peaks of the opening “Allein” monologue. However these transitions have been skillfully dealt with and finally solely momentary diversions.
Goerke’s tackle Elektra leans extra to the sympathetic and naturalistic, which early on could come on the expense of a few of the coldness and terror one expects out of the hoarier bits of “Allein” or the sparring with Klytamnestra.
However these decisions are made in service of later payoffs, particularly in essentially the most private materials within the recognition scene, the place she powerfully brings Elektra’s vulnerability to the fore, and within the sudden emotional richness of Elektra’s pleasure within the last scene.
Sara Jakubiak introduced a gleaming soprano to Chrysothemis, simply filling the opera home with the youthful sister’s pealing traces and meshing fantastically with Goerke’s sound of their scenes collectively. Jakubiak introduced an urgency to the portrayal, eschewing dreamy odes to fertility and marriage for agency declarations of her desires. Maybe the one factor missing was a bit extra private or distinctive edge within the vocal efficiency, which can hopefully deepen over time and make this a extremely unforgettable assumption.
Klytamnestra is a much less traveled position up to now in Katarina Dalayman’s second profession as a mezzo. Although a bit underpowered to start out she locked in rapidly and introduced a strong sound and musicality to the half. Her portrayal was extra the dotty growing old dowager than demented witch, per the strategy to the scene with Elektra right here, which was regularly performed for comedy.
I won’t thoughts this within the context of a broader strategy to the work, and Dalayman hit her beats successfully, however finally it felt like this probably highly effective scene had been under-played for unclear ends.
Bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Inexperienced is spending numerous his time on the Kennedy Middle this fall, showing each right here and as an unusually compelling Ferrando in Il trovatore on alternate nights. Inexperienced delivered a pushed and terrifying Orest with a gripping pitch-black sound, evoking shades of Jochanaan in his divine objective to avenge Agamemnon.
Elsewhere within the forged, Janacek veteran Stefan Margita introduced an unusually nice tone to Aegisth’s brief scene, whereas Alexandria Shiner made a lot of twin roles because the Fourth Maid and Trainbearer and Cecelia McKinley’s vibrant contralto stood out as Second Maid.
Since his appointment in 2018 as WNO’s principal conductor, Evan Rogister has had comparatively few alternatives to make an impression because of the shutdown, and none in full size outings of the heavier German repertoire which makes up a good portion of his conducting actions elsewhere.
His first foray into this territory for WNO fortunately delivered a propulsive and colourful studying of Strauss’ rating, that includes each spine-tingling, percussion-forward climaxes in addition to elastic pacing in quieter moments. A couple of rougher edges in a few of the solos apart, the WNO Orchestra met Rogister’s calls for with thrilling abandon.
Sadly, the excessive musical values weren’t mirrored within the merely serviceable manufacturing, maybe an indication of the post-pandemic occasions. WNO Inventive Listing Francesca Zambello dealt with the path personally, however this was largely journeyman work. Earlier scenes just like the confrontation with Klytmänestra tended to generic blocking that may have labored in any lounge drama.
The popularity scene and last sequence have been more practical, and Zambello organized a believable last dance sequence for Elektra, however little of the shock and strangeness of the rating got here throughout within the staging. A notable although most likely pointless little bit of intervention got here within the closing moments with some pantomime of Elektra determining what to do with the family employees, together with some well-deserved vindication for that ride-or-die Fifth Maid.
The bodily manufacturing, with a set designed by Erhard Rohm, is decidedly not the set designed for David McVicker’s early 2010s Elektra, which is featured on the posters and the entrance of this system. Rohm’s primary construction, a grey modernist house that may be reshaped by way of using completely different flies is identical seen on different nights in Il trovatore and beforehand did double obligation for WNO a number of years again in rotating productions of Don Giovanni and Samson et Dalila(!) simply earlier than shutdown.
Whereas a stretch for Trovatore’s parade of medieval locales, it was successfully redressed right here because the palace courtyard by way of using further set items and projections. Nonetheless, indeterminate lighting by Mark McCullough and a puzzling mixture of not-very-expensive trying costumes designed by Biphu Mohapatra made it troublesome to shake the sense that this was typically a manufacturing of comfort.
Pictures by Scott Suchman