Monday 18 May 2015

Richard Strauss, Elektra - Bayerische Staatsoper München

Performance 17th May

What a night! After the new Elektra of Vienna I decided to see the one in Munich. Different cast, different production, different impression, and I have to say that Munich definitely showed some superiority.
The production, though quite old (from 1997), is enormously minimalistic and manages to deliver the story with only few resources. The whole production was made by Herbert Wernicke who sadly already passed away nearly 13 years ago. His staging, his costumes the whole scenery is really impressive and enters into a perfect symbiosis with the work. I wish there were more productions like this instead of the trash you sometimes get to see nowadays.
Also the singers were very good as well throughout the whole cast. The only weak point was the conductor's interpretation. Asher Fisch conducted the piece without great thrill or the usual tension. His interpretation was smooth, lacking contrasts and simply boring. Nevertheless the orchestra (Bayerisches Staatsorchester) played fine and still managed to make the evening exciting.
I would say something about the choir but their part is so tiny that there is not much to say, unfortunately.
In the smaller roles (Orest's guardian, confidante, trainbearer, young servant, old servant) we heard Christoph Stephinger, Marzia Marzo, Anna Rajah, Matthew Grills, Peter Lobert. All of them did a good job in their short appearances.
Very impressive as well: the maids quintet and their matron. Okka von der Damerau, Angela Brower, Heike Grötzinger, Eri Nakamura, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller and Katja Pieweck were a luxurious cast for the opening scene of the maids. Every syllable was understandable and the dramatic drive of the scene was exemplary.
Ulrich Reß also just had a short appearance as Aegisth, but managed to state that he is a fine singer. The demands of his short part are quite challenging and he did a great job to fulfill them.
In the role of Orest Günther Groissböck convinced with a powerful profound bass voice and great acting. His noble heroic timbre was perfect for this role for he seemed to be rough and aristocratic at the same time.
As Elektra's sister Chrysothemis we heard Ricarda Merbeth, who did not fail to satisfy my high expectations. I have to admit that I am not her biggest fan, but in this role she was simply magnificent. A ravishing upper register and enough power in the lower ones make her the perfect candidate for this also really demanding role. She did a great job and earned a lot of applause in the end.
One of my personal highlights was Waltraud Meier as Klytämnestra. I do remember her first Klytämnestra in Salzburg 2010 which was really impressive, but last night was even more impressive. The intensity and voltage of her interpretation is marvelous and never fails to make you shiver. It is incredible how this woman manages to sing on such high level for such a long time now. How many singers sing Klytämnestra and Isolde in one season and are able to be convincing in both roles?
But finally to another Isolde-singer: Iréne Theorin as Elektra. I do also remember her Elektra in Salzburg together with Meier and I can say, she also still has everything this role calls for. Her stamina is exemplary and still her voice is agile and has a upper register that can cut air. And not just vocally, also her acting was so intense that you really believed that she is Elektra! During the curtain calls she was covered with "Bravos" and enormous applause.
I would have loved to give this performance the full 10 stars but after thinking about it I have to admit that the orchestral Interpretation was not enough for it. So Munich's Elektra earns 9 points (and in secret 10 for production and the singers).

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