Sunday, September 17, 2017

Holy Mother of God! aka Elektra

Christine Goerke as Elektra
Corey Weaver photo, courtesy of San Francisco Opera

Elektra number two this afternoon, and hoo boy. An overwhelming performance; I'm still feeling the effects now, hours after it ended.

Getting a seat in the balcony made all the difference: I could hear Christine Goerke perfectly, with little loss of presence for the other singers. The acoustics of the War Memorial Opera House being what they are, Adrianne Pieczonka made a little less impact than last Saturday, presumably because she sings some of her role from maybe 12 feet above the floor of the stage. (It was not a significant difference and she still sounded great.) I'm always amazed at the difference a few feet can make; with this particular set, there was also a noticeable difference in presence over about an eight or ten foot upstage/downstage difference.

One other advantage of being upstairs today is that the OperaVision direction for this production is phenomenally great. It truly illuminates the performance and enhances the drama; the camerawork is really stunning.

I think it's also possible that the drama and acting have come together more since the prima; I mentioned previously that I thought Goerke was underdirected in some scenes and wandered around the stage too much. I had no such sense this time; everything on stage had motivation behind it, for all of the performers.

Goerke gave a stunning performance all around. Her vocalism is tremendous: her beautiful sound, dynamic control, projection of the text. And beyond that, her acting, her physical grace, her amazing sensitivity to the text and the other singers. I told my girlfriend, bring your binoculars, you'll want to see her face. The nuance and detail, all of it completely organic - you just don't see this very often.

I loved everyone in the cast, really. Adrianne Pieczonka, Michaela Martens, Alfred Walker, Robert Brubaker (a preening Aegisthus): you were all wonderful.

This time around, I could also see the logic of the production better; for one thing, I kept an eye on the video that played during the opening pantomime. It really is relevant, and I saw little of it first time around. From the balcony, I could see that the big table the maidservants wheel out early in the show is the same table seen in the video, where it has a very specific function.

I remain a little puzzled by Henrik Nánási's pacing of the first third or so of the opera, but whatever. It all comes together eventually and the orchestra again sounds fabulous throughout.

So, if you haven't seen this yet, and you're in the SF Bay Area, get yourself a ticket, or maybe two or three. If you've already seen it, go again. It could be another 20 years before we see this great opera again, and we will be very lucky indeed if the cast can match this one.

Christine Goerke (Elektra) and Michaela Martens (Klytemnestra)
One of the many creepy moments in the opera. 
Cory Weaver photo, courtesy of San Francisco Opera


Joan Wendt said...

i completely agree with you about the performances of all the singers. wow.

Joan Wendt said...

i completely agree with you--all the singers were terrific and the acting, especially by the sisters, was compelling and beautiful.

Janos Gereben said...

My rave matches your rave, but my repeated experience (on Wednesday) eliminated any remaining question about the orchestra - it was tremendous.

Rather than Nánási, the responsible party for the crescendo of music may well be one R. Strauss. You cannot build to an almost unbearable climax if you start "big."

Lisa Hirsch said...

Yeah, could be Strauss!

Joan, when did you see it??