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An Energetic Elektra for Carnegie Hall

New York
Carnegie Hall
10/21/2015 -  & October 15, 17, 2015 (Boston)
Richard Strauss: Elektra, opus 58
Nadezhda Serdyuk (First Maid), Claudia Huckle (Second Maid), Mary Phillips (Third Maid), Sandra Lopez (Fourth Maid), Rebecca Nash (Fifth Maid), Nadine Secunde (Overseer), Christine Goerke (Elektra), Gun-Brit Barkmin (Chrysothemis), Jane Henschel (Klytämnestra), Elizabeth Byrne (Confidante), Meredith Hansen (Trainbearer), Mark Schowalter (Young Servant), Kevin Langan (Old Servant, Guardian), James Rutherford (Orest), Gerhard Siegel (Aegisth)
Tanglewood Festival Chorus, James Bagwell (conductor), Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons (conductor)

C. Goerke (© Arielle Doneson)

This season the Boston Symphony swept into Carnegie Hall with perhaps the season’s most anticipated role debut: that of the rising dramatic soprano Christine Goerke in the title part of Richard Strauss’s Elektra. There is no doubt that her performance was one for the ages. Round, blooming tones resounded over the orchestra without a second of failing. Piercing high notes delivered mercifully on pitch rose to the challenge of the character’s emotional wild ride. And the concert performance format was well served by the singer’s strident entrance in a blood-red dress. I will nevertheless allow myself the indulgence to depart from the universal fawning praise to observe that Goerke’s technique occasionally allowed the rising system of vocal support to emerge from under the ascents. Although it should take nothing away from the magnificence of her achievement, at moments the singing seemed a little too practiced, the effort a little too obvious.

A strong supporting cast contributed to this successful evening. For the most part, the remaining members of the House of Atreus held their own with Goerke’s stupendous Elektra. Gun-Brit Barkmin, familiar to New York audiences for her rather less impressive Salome in concert with the visiting Vienna State Opera in March 2014, won complete redemption in the more suitable role of Chrysothemis. The character’s inescapable sweetness paired well with a steely determination to produce the perfect dramatic foil to her unstable sister. James Rutherford’s Orest has less stage time and was not always in the fully macabre form that other singers have brought to the role, but served the role effectively. It was only Jane Henschel’s underpowered Klytämnestra who seemed a bit out of place in the otherwise driven ensemble. The role of Elektra’s mother demands more than a little grit, but too much can diminish its effect. Among the remaining cast, the excellent character tenor Gerhard Siegel delivered an ironically enthusiastic Aegisth – loud and buoyant on his way to inevitable death.

Andris Nelsons, the recently arrived but already renewed (until 2022) music director of the Boston Symphony, fully affirmed his place as one of the most exciting young conductors working today. With deft gestures he drew the vast orchestra necessary for this densely scored work into marvelous unison as it delivered perhaps the most coherent orchestral performance of Elektra I have ever heard.

Paul du Quenoy



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