Elektra — a riveting COC production

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Susan Bullock as Elektra

(Canscene) — I may live to experience more production of Richard Strauss’ Elektra but I shall never see and hear one to better the current Canadian Opera Company production, conducted by the COC’s own Richard Bradshaw and directed by Britain’s Thomas de Mallet Burgess.

The blending of voice and music in the Strauss tradition demands that neither the orchestra nor the singers perform to the disadvantage of the other component. Bradshaw and the entire cast have given us the perfect blending that makes for a riveting production which proceeds seamlessly and implacably to its tragic finale. This is a production to put every part of the new theatre to the test, acoustically and it come effortlessly, giving cause to bless the COC’s choice of architect Jack Diamond and his team over more magniloquent proposals.

The ancient Greek horror story of crime and retribution which was set to music by Strauss is scheduled for further performances on May 6, 10, 13, 16 and 19 and any vacant seats should be grabbed by all those who aren’t afraid to experience “modern” opera.

Superb voices

As the curtain rises on this single act opera, a distraught Elektra, sung by British soprano Susan Bullock is mourning her murdered father Agamemnon and vowing revenge. On stage for the entire 100-minute, Bullock both in acting and voice conveys perfectly a gradual descent into self-destruction as she provokes. a blood bath. In the other two leading roles are Ewa Podles, the great Polish mezzo, as Klytamnestra, Elektra’s sinful mother and Alwyn Mellor from Britain as Chrysothemis, Elektra’s sister.

These three women carry the majority the opera on their shoulders, but with the appearances, late in the opera, of John Mac Master (alternating with John Woodrow) as Elektra’s murderous stepfather Aegisth and Daniel Sutin as her brother Orest the performances of these two mesh well with the remainder of the cast.

The 16 cast members (including household servants and a tutor) are deployed well by director Burgess, always allowing us to focus on the three principals.

Intense, brooding and violent, Strauss has created a perfect translation of Sophocles’ drama from theatre to opera, and here at COC full justice is done to the work in a superb production.

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