Sunday, 16 November 2008

Elektra, Royal Opera, 15 November 2008

This should be read as an appendix to my principal review. I was fortunate enough to attend Elektra again and found that a very good performance had become a great one. Each of the singers was at least as good and most were even better, especially Johan Reuter, who sounded almost Wanderer-like upon his mysterious arrival. (We truly heard things through Elektra's ears here.) Susan Bullock was outstanding in the title role. Where, on the first night, her dance - and her accompanying words - did not quite come off, here they did, in a shocking yet inevitable ecstasy. Anne Schwanewilms's excellent performance - her diction was better this time around - reminds me that I did not mention Chrysothemis's weird, twisted, Frau-ohne-Schatten-ish obsession with marriage and children, played upon by Elektra in extremely nasty yet credible fashion. For this, Schwanewilms and director, Charles Edwards should be credited. Rarely can 'normality' have seemed so abnormal; Chrysothemis's transformation by the final scene thereby seems all the more credible.

Most transformed was Sir Mark Elder's conducting. Never having conducted Elektra before, it is now clear that he still had a little way to go on the first night. The Wagnerian inheritance was now clearer than ever. Everything now sounded 'right'; the Recognition Scene no longer dragged and balances appeared to have been reconsidered. (I wonder whether sitting in the amphitheatre rather than in the stalls made a difference too. The sound may be more distanced but the blend may be enhanced.) Indeed, there was a far stronger modernistic bent to the sounds and blends being produced - almost Boulezian at times. (What we lost when Wieland Wagner died prematurely, not least since he and Boulez had plans to perform Salome, Elektra, and Ariadne auf Naxos!) Yet there was also a lightness of touch that no longer seemed underplayed, but part of a long-term strategic, symphonic plan. The oft-quoted line from Strauss as to how one should hear Mendelssohnian fairy-music made as much sense as I can recall. This was a truly marvellous performance!