Review: ‘Elektra’

Continuing its opening-weekend tribute to the power of the tonsil, the Music Center Opera revived its successful 1991 "Elektra" with its set still a glorious clutter, two of its stars returning in even more spectacular voice than before, and a couple of splendid cast additions. Randall Behr, who seems to be the company's resident Straussian by default, conducted his usual efficient but faceless performance.

Continuing its opening-weekend tribute to the power of the tonsil, the Music Center Opera revived its successful 1991 “Elektra” with its set still a glorious clutter, two of its stars returning in even more spectacular voice than before, and a couple of splendid cast additions. Randall Behr, who seems to be the company’s resident Straussian by default, conducted his usual efficient but faceless performance.

Comparing “Elektra” to the opening-night “Faust” is like comparing blood sausage to cotton candy: both are tasty, but hardly nutritious.Marilyn Zschau, the reigning hysteric among current divas, gave a phenomenal performance, stalking the stage like some mangy but determined feline, claws at the ready to destroy the composure of anyone crossing her path.

Soprano Ealynn Voss, who came out of nowhere to debut in the company’s 1991 production (and whose career has taken off spectacularly since) created a perfect foil, mouthing with cloying earnestness the wimpy lines of Hofmannsthal’s none-too-rewarding text. Richard Bernstein, one of the young singers nicely nurtured by the local company, was a sonorous Orestes, impressive despite an odd, shoulder-length pre-Raphaelite wig.

One other star, however, walked off with the show — soprano Leonie Rysanek, in what she says is her farewell Los Angeles engagement, in the role of murderous mom, Klytemnaestra. A beloved star in practically the entire breadth of romantic opera since her San Francisco Opera debut in Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman” in 1956, Rysanek has intelligently shepherded her aging vocal resources, moving from ingenue to mom to grandmom in operas by Janacek, Tchaikovsky and Strauss.

Rysanek’s only problem in “Elektra” was that she looked too good to play anyone’s mother, let alone the bedraggled, tortured creature created by Zschau. In a role where other singers get by with hoot and cackle, Rysanek sang the notes as beautifully as any she has ennobled. A standing, cheering crowd showed its obvious gratitude at the end, for what she had done that night and on many nights before.

Elektra

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; 3,098 seats; $105 top

Production

Los Angeles Music Center Opera presents Richard Strauss' one-act opera, libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal based on Sophocles' play; production, David Pountney, staged by Clare West; conductor, Randall Behr; designers, John Bury, F. Mitchell Dana; with the Los Angeles Music Center Opera Orchestra.

Creative

Opened and reviewed Sept. 10, 1994; runs through Sept. 23. Running time: 1 hour, 39 min.

Cast

Cast: Marilyn Zschau, Ealynn Voss, Leonie Rysanek, Richard Bernstein, Jonathan Mack.
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