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Helsinki. Finnish National Opera and Ballet. 6-IX-2016. Richard Strauss (1864-1949): Elektra, op. 58, opera in one act on libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Director: Patrice Chéreau. Sets: Richard Peduzzi. Costumes: Caroline de Vivaise. Lighting: Dominique Bruguière. With: Klytaemnestra, Waltraud Meier; Elektra, Evelyn Herlitzius; Chrysothemis, Elisabet Strid; Aegisth, Jürgen Müller; Orest, Tommi Hakala; Orest’s tutor, Esa Ruuttunen; Klytaemnestra’s confidante, Jenni Lättilä; a young servant, Dan Karlström; an old servant, Jyrki Korhonen; first maid, Bonita Hyman; second maid, Sari Nordqvist; third maid, Anu Ontronen; fourth maid, Pauliina Linnosaari; fifth maid, Kirsi Tiihonen; Orchestra of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Soprano Evelyn Herlitzius brought the necessary vocal agility and endurance to this impossibly demanding role.
Opera lovers in Finland have been eagerly waiting for Esa-Pekka Salonen to bring Patrice Chéreau’s now famous production of Strauss’ Elektra to the Helsinki. This current run of Elektra performances marks the first project for Salonen under his newly appointed position as Artist in Association of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet (FNOB).
A soprano of near super-human ability is required for the success of any Elektra performance. While lovers of this opera will have their personal favorites, soprano Evelyn Herlitzius brought the necessary vocal agility and endurance to this impossibly demanding role. Dramatically and vocally, Herlitzius’ Elektra came across as perhaps more fiercely determined than psychologically unhinged; however, this changed to hysterical delirium following the deaths of Klytaemnestra and Aegisth.
Equally important in the supporting roles were Elisabet Strid as Chrysothemis and Waltrud Meier as Klytaemnestra. Both Strid and Meier were thoroughly convincing and clearly possessed the requisite vocal firepower, although Meier could have perhaps brought out a greater sense of torment in her character.
Both Chéreau’s direction and Richard Peduzzi’s set were generally minimalist. Rather than diving straight in with the massive D minor chord that opens the work, Chéreau gave the audience time to observe and listen to the set itself, which in my opinion effectively established the backdrop against which the drama ensured. While some interpretive liberties were taken throughout (particularly in the work’s closing moments), they were not excessively intrusive.
Based on tonight’s performance of the FNOB orchestra, Salonen’s new appointment will certainly translate into a bright future for this particular pit band. While capable of providing the rich and opulent sound that Strauss is often known for, under Salonen the FNOB also brought a tautness and ferocity appropriately suited for this demanding score.