Richard, Frank, Barbara, Katherine, and I saw *Elektra* at the Met on 5/4. It's a new production, directed by the late Patrice Chereau - - he did it in Aix a few years ago, and the plan was always to bring the show to the Met and have him do it here. Who would guess that he'd die? His associate Vincent Huguet did the staging, but Chereau is credited as the director.
The show started with a longish scene before the music started. The maids were milling around the stage, doing work, one of them sweeping the steps. That sweeping got on my nerves after a while, and isn't there supposed to be music in this show? This directorial touch felt a little coy and pointless. The rest of the show was very well directed, with the exception of the character of Klytaemnestra. More about her in a bit.
Elektra was played by Nina Stemme, and she was astounding. Glorious, tireless singing, exciting, and she really gave a performance. She's a treasure, and I'm even more excited for her Met Isolde in September. Elektra is a big sing, she never leaves the stage from her entrance. No intermission, no chance to relax, no potty break! She soared, and sounded splendid from start to finish. Her tender scene with her brother near the end was a highlight, some lovely, lyrical singing.
Elektra's sister Chrysothemis was played by Adrianne Pieczonka. She has a classic Strauss voice, firm and ripe, and most importantly, her voice gains strength as it goes above the staff. That's a phrase I stole from the Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia, in their entry on Leonie Rysanek, the ultimate Strauss soprano.
Eric Owens played Elektra's brother Orest. Gorgeous voice and a noble manner.
The weak link in the cast was Waltraud Meier as Klytaemnestra, Elektra's mother. Her singing is peculiar - - she has some strange phonation issue going on, it sounds like she's singing through Saran Wrap. But that wouldn't be such a problem if she gave a great acting performance, and she did not. My friend John Kolody put it perfectly: he said that she played the character like Glenn Close in *A Delicate Balance*, a well-behaved lady of means. Well, there is nothing delicate about Klytaemnestra, and the lady is definitely unbalanced! I'm not saying she should be a five-headed hydra, but she's got to be a vital presence, she has to be an equal sparring partner in the central scene with Elektra. Meier was way too understated. Klytaemnestra says, "Wherefore, ye gods, do you oppress me thus?" but in Meier's performance, it's more like she's saying, "Maybe I'll have the gnocchi..."
I want to give a quick shout-out to the lighting designer, Dominique Brugiere - - fantastic use of the light. We saw the sunlight move from one side of the stage to the other, perfectly expressing the passage of time. I don't know how she did it, it was effortless and stunning.
The real star of the show was the orchestra, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen (the same guy I heard conduct the NY Phil doing the *Turangalila Symphony* in March). The orchestra had a full, warm, heroic sound, it was delicious. To me, *Elektra* has always sounded a lot like *Salome*, the opera Strauss wrote before it. Somehow Salonen made it sound like a pissed-off *Rosenkavalier*, Strauss's next opera. A pretty cool party trick.