Friday, April 08, 2016

Elektra at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin

Conductor: Donald Runnicles
Production: Kirsten Harms

Klytämnestra, Elektra's mother: Doris Soffel (mezzo-soprano)
Elektra: Evelyn Herlitzius (soprano)
Chrysothemis, Elektra's sister: Manuela Uhl (soprano)
Aegisth, Klytämnestra's new husband: Clemens Bieber (tenor)
Orest, Elektra's brother: Tobias Kehrer (baritone)

It was a wonderful privilege to experience this production of Strauss's Elektra at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.  I am very familiar with Donald Runnicles, of course, from his years at the San Francisco Opera.  He still comes to us on occasion to bring us wonderful things like the recent Les Troyens. Elektra is just his stuff.  It was beautiful and intensely dramatic throughout.  Runnicles is a great Wagnerian, and this is the most Wagnerian of Strauss's scores.

Elektra comes every day to a sacred place to mourn the death of her father Agamemnon.  In our production this is something like a dirt filled trash heap.  New trash falls from above during the opera.  The other women of the palace ridicule her.

Klytämnestra cannot sleep and comes to ask Elektra for advice.  She has been executing people and enters carrying an ax.  She imagines that if she kills the right person, her nightmares will stop.  Elektra explains that it is she who must die.  In the above picture Elektra holds the ax and Klytämnestra lies on the ground.

The cast was all excellent, but it was Evelyn Herlitzius with the guidance of Runnicles who brought the opera to a state of overwhelming intensity.  It would be difficult to imagine something more difficult.  Bravi.  It was very moving.

I have to add:  you will notice from the pictures that this is my second opera with an ax since arriving in Berlin.  In Der Vampyr the heroine wields her ax in an attempt to hit a vampire, but misses and hits her father instead.  In Elektra Klytämnestra wanders around the house using an ax rather like a cane.  In case there is a problem she has a weapon ready.  She leaves it behind when she leaves in a hurry.

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