NEW YORK — And the love affair continues….
Objectively speaking, Thursday's opening of Strauss' Elektra was a knockout that assured he need not fear comparisons with the great conductors who have come before him. Strauss' dense, high-velocity dramatization of the Sophocles-based tale of murder begetting murder was evidence of his burgeoning rapport with the great Met orchestra, his keen attention to the needs of singers (in what can be a voice-killing opera), and a mutual infatuation with the ticket-buying public.
In fact, his longtime followers might've been a bit puzzled over the New York Times photo spread on Thursday documenting his 14-hour day on that Friday that started with him conducting an Elektra rehearsal and continued with the Parsifal performance in the evening. Philadelphians know that he periodically conducts a matinee with the Philadelphia Orchestra and an evening show at the Met. Or vice versa.
One could've predicted that Elektra would've been a success, partly because the crucial casting of the stentorian title role was filled by Christine Goerke — first heard in Philadelphia singing lighter baroque repertoire with Tempesta di Mare but now the kind of Wagnerian diva who can hold notes even longer than necessary while navigating the stage with great theatricality.
Add to that a depth of characterization that she has found over her three years-plus singing Elektra. In a role obsessed by avenging the death of her father Agamemnon, Goerke projected a greater sense of the melancholy isolation that has come with the quest. This is a complete Elektra, the likes of which I haven't seen in years.
Opera doesn't get any scarier than the violent, hyper-dramatic Elektra, though my guess is that those performing it on Friday could enjoy the freedom that comes with the security of a devoted colleague.
Also: Longtime Opera Philadelphia watchers may be interested to know that the production was the Met debut of Lisa Daltirus (aka Lisa Gwyn Daltirus), who sang an unforgettable Aida in years past and lives in the Philadelphia area. Here, she's the Fifth Maid — a role that's not as minor as it sounds, and she was excellent. Might we be hearing more of her now?