Wednesday 19 December 2007

Disengaging Elektra in Berlin

Klytämnestra looking down on Elektra in her pit.

Elektra. Deutsche Oper Berlin, December 14th. Production: Kirsten Harms. Cast: Jeanne-Michelle Charbonnet (Elektra), Claudia Iten (Chrysthemis), Jane Henschel (Klytemnestra), Alfred Walker (Orest). Conductor: Leopold Hager.

Intendantand director Kirsten Harms´ concept for her new Deutsche Oper production of Elektra, which opened earlier this month was simple: A dark sand-covered deep pit, surrounded by concrete walls. Elektra lives here surrounded by skeletons. People communicate with her (including throwing her food bits) through small openings in the walls.

Basically it looked well and may well have worked, not at least since any staging of Elektra basically works, if the musical ingredients are there. Which, unfortunately they weren´t in this production:

Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet did not convince me as Elektra. I found her expression too mellow, her vibrato too large and her acting disengaging. Admittedly this part is hard to cast, but Eva Johansson´s electrifying Elektra in Copenhagen last season, as well as in Zurich comes vividly into mind.
Jane Henschel had some of the right temperament and voice for Klytemnestra but seemed well lulled into the mellow atmosphere on stage. More lively was Claudia Iten as Chrysothemis, a fine voice, though slightly shrill at times. Alfred Walker´s Orest was the vocal highlight with a firm and solid bass-barytone.

Most importantly, however, Leopold Hager´s conducting was decidedly "un"-electrifying and tedious, and for once this opera was almost boring to listen to.

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