Behind the splendid excess of Strauss’s “Elektra”—the libretto’s legendary setting, the score’s unmatched horror—is something small: a perfectly crafted family portrait, even as one knocked over a wall and scratched by pieces of broken glass. done.
This has always been at the core of Patrice Chereau’s production, which returned to the Metropolitan Opera on Friday night. But in this revival, you can get even closer to the antipodal soprano roles sung by Nina Stemme and its two sisters. Lise Davidson With the flashes of floodlights and painfully human sensibility.
Chero’s Staged, Joe Premiered at the Aix-en-Provence Festival Earlier in 2013 Met. coming in Six years ago, it seems a day doesn’t age. And it’s hard to imagine that happening any time soon with a clumsy production that’s in line with the timeless classic tragedy of Sophocles—which Hugo von Hoffmannsthal adapted into a play for the age of Freud, then one for Strauss’s opera. in libretto.
The opulent and solemn courtyard of an obscure Mediterranean home of an obscure aristocratic family in fuzzy contemporary dress (designed by Caroline de Vivaise), set by Richard Peduzzi. Where the production becomes more conspicuous is in its departure from the libretto: the absence of caricatures and villains, the climactic dance of death instead a scene of stillness and the continuation of life in agony. Mostly bloodless where it might have been a genocide, it is the study of a family that has been irreparably fractured by trauma.
This concept demands singers who can actually act. And Stemme rises to meet her, if not always in voice then in dramatic intensity, which has only increased since she played the title role in Chereau Production’s first outing at the Met. She’s never too relaxed: Rocking as she looks straight ahead, her eyes wide open with a laser focus on avenging her father, Agamemnon.
When Stem sang about her death—a murder committed by Electra’s mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegist—her voice didn’t always cooperate, especially at the low end of her range. At times she apparently prepared herself for the role’s most puny outbursts. Yet he rescued them as if with dragon’s breath, matching only the path of painful humility.
Davidson, as Electra’s sister Chrysothemis, gave her best performance at the Met this season – capable of showing a fuller range than Wagner “Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg” more in control of his massive equipment last fall, and during Strauss’s recent run “Ariadne of Naxos” and a benefit concerts for ukraine, in which he sang the composer’s “four last songs”. Usually a better actor through his voice than his physicality, here he played as much character in his sad face as Stem put in his eyes.
Reiterating the news that his brother, Orest, had died, “thrown and trampled by his own horses,” Davidson let out a shuddering shriek—not for the last time in the evening. Originally trained as a mezzo-soprano, she has a full-bodied lower range that’s as thrilling to watch as her incandescent high notes, and a commanding softness in more conversational moments.
She and Stem were backed by the Met Orchestra in excellent form under the batons of Donald Runnickels, whose score aligns sensitively with that of Chero. The opera sounds spookier and more chaotic – its blood bath has been met with bombasticity in many interpretations – but Runnicles emphasizes the potential for dramatic tempo on a more restrained scale. And the evening was no less exciting for him; If anything, it was its revelatory transparency, expressionist color, sweetness and layers of Wagnerian abundance stacking in counterpoint or weaving in and out of each other with grace.
Elsewhere there were standouts – Hee-kyung Hong as an official and fifth maid – but also missed among principals. Michaela Schuster’s climax was one of clear gestures and a tense voice, which she sometimes sought to salvage with a near-sprachstim announcement. Chereau’s production rests on a sympathetic cletamnestra; He didn’t quite get it. And men were shadows of his past appearances. Greer Grimsley’s resonant bass-baritone was faint and effortful here, and it wasn’t always easy to follow. As Aegist, Stefan Vinke was barely audible—a disturbing turn for a tenor who has played Siegfried-like roles, perhaps barking but with at least penetrating power.
You can’t help but feel bad whenever they sing along to one of the starring sisters. Which always happens: Stem never leaves the stage. After all, it’s his show—and, for this run, Davidson’s too.
from April 20 at the Metropolitan Opera; metopera.org,
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