Wednesday 26 November 2008

London: A very nice Elektra

Elektra. Royal Opera, Covent Garden. November 24th 2008. Production: Charles Edwards. Cast: Susan Bullock (Elektra), Anne Schwanewilms (Chrysothemis), Jane Henschel (Klytemnestra), Johan Reuter (Orestes), Franz van Aken (Aegisth). Conductor: Mark Elder. Further information here.

This revival of Charles Edwards production of Elektra, for some strange reason, received rave reviews in the British press. Not that the production is not good and the singing is generally not fine. The problem is, that it is very polished and never takes off dramatically.

First of all, there is Mark Elder, who conducts a well-disposed and detailed performance from the well-sounding orchestra. Very nice and completely devoid of any attempts of dramatic expression.

Secondly, there are the singers, of whom only two were really good: Johan Reuter´s plainly superb Orestes and Jane Henschel´s dominating Klytemnestra infusing some much needed drama into the production, which only took off when one of these two were on stage. Which unfortunately, for long stretches, they are not.
Elektra is as much about going over the edge than any opera. And despite a not unattractive voice, nothing about Susan Bullock even approaches the edge in a part way too heavy for her. She seemed exhausted right from the beginning in a remarkably un-forceful performance. Being half-neurotic, delicate and bleak in expression fits Anne Schwanewilm´s Chrysothemis rather well, though it doesn´t really add up compared to contemporaries such as Eva-Maria Westbroek, just to mention one.

Thirdly, the production: One room, blood on the floor. Orestes climbing down a sort of chimney. A vast landshape of small fires are revealed towards the end. Undoubtedly a paraphrase on the psychological inner mind. Original? No. Effective? Not really. Dangerous? Not at all.

The performance began with Antonio Pappano appearing before the curtain to announce the death of Richard Hickox, and his dedication of this evenings performance to him.

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Susan Bullock: 3
Anne Schwanewilms: 3-4
Johan Reuter: 5
Jane Henschel: 4-5

Charles Edward´s production: 3-4

Mark Elder: 3-4

Overall impression: 3

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