Music ReviewsOperaREVIEWSREVIEWS BYTom Williams



An opera in German in one act

In a  new production

Music by Richard Strauss

Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal after Sophocles’ tragedy

Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis

Stage Director: Sir David McVicar

At the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Tremendous singing evokes the ranges of emotions in Strauss’ tragic opera, Elektra

In a new production of Richard Strauss’ 1909  Elektra, director Sir David McVicar, on John Macfarlane’s crumbling castle set with weird costumes, evokes the tone of gloom and violence appropriate to the Greek myth of Elektra.  Blood flows, murder, vengeance, and cruelty dominates in this dark opera.

lyric opera of chicago

The bleak and heart wrenching story centers on Elektra, the daughter of Agamemnon, who is consumed by her desire for vengeance. After the king’s return from the Trojan War, he was killed at the hands of her mother, Clytemnestra, and a paramour, Aegisthus. Elektra is deeply effected by the murder yet she has enough character to stand up to all the cruelty surrounding her. Over the 100 minute one act opera, we see and hear Elektra deal with the traumatic events.

Richard Strauss’ music is avant-garde, grandiose, and dissonant. The power and emotional range of the tragedy is heard in the strength of the moving musical tones. They work marvelously with the tour de force performance by Christine Goerke in the title role. The wide-ranging soprano, making her Lyric Opera debut, easily won the hearts of the opening night audience through her amazing, emotionally drenching performance. Not only was she on stage throughout, but she had to sing full-out for most of the opera. I wonder how she can get through the entire run due to the requirements she must do at each performance. But Miss Goerke’s skill and technique allows her to seem effortless as she reaches all the highs and lows of the scores requirements. Her acting added depth to her performance as she moved from despair to hurting to plotting revenge most nimbly. Her performance alone is worth the ticket price

In addition to Goerke’s fabulous work, Jill Grove, as Klytamnestra, the murderous mother and Emily Magee as the weakling sister together with tenor Alan Held, as Orest, surround Goerke with enough friends and foes to garner the emotional elements of a moving tragic opera.  The combination of rich, fully engaging singing with the interesting , often time harsh music with the deeply emotional singing was a moving operatic experience. While not for every taste, I found Elektra a worthy evening of opera. At 100 minutes, it was just enough tragedy to endure.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: October 6, 2012

At the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, Chicago, IL, call 312.332.2244 ,, tickets $20 – $259, Wed. Oct 10 at 7:30pm, Sat. Oct. 13 at 7:30pm, Fri., Oct 19 at 7:30,  Mon., Oct. 22 at 7:30pm, Fri., Oct 26 at2pm, Thurs. Oct 26 at 7:30, running time is 1 hour 40 minutes without intermission, through October 26, 2012







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