Staged for the first time by L’Opéra de Montréal, Strauss’ Elektra is quite the unique operatic experience. Though central to any great musical production are the players, both onstage and the orchestra alike, I would be remiss if I didn’t start by addressing the elephant in the room. The elephant in question is a 25 foot high statue of Elektra’s father Agamemnon, a piece which essentially constitutes the entire set. Composed of 2,250 pieces and weighing in at close to 5,000 pounds, Agamemnon may have been murdered before the opening act but his presence still reigned supreme.
Driven by despair, Elektra (Lise Lindstrom, Soprano) seeks retribution against her mother Klytemnästra (Agnes Zwierko, Mezzo-Soprano), and her mother’s lover Aegisth (John MacMaster,Tenor) for her father’s murder. Her brother Orest (Alan Held, Bass-Baritone) has been exiled and her sister Chrysothemis (Nicola Beller Carbone, Soprano) seems more preoccupied with the dream of wedded bliss than their father’s death. This leaves Elektra isolated and enraged, with axe in hand and revenge in her heart.
One of the many unique components of this production is the storyline itself. Seldomn does a female protaganist display such strength and determination, and even more rarely is she flanked by a supporting cast comprised mostly of other female characters. Though I must give the massive sculpture of Agememnon all due credit for it’s brilliance, I was conflicted by feelings that the incredibly powerful symbolism of the father figure casts an enormous shadow upon the performers, who must work their utmost to outshine the set.
Lise Lindstrom must be given full recognition for the fact that she does not leave the stage for the entire hour and forty minutes of the show, and that with no intermissions. I highlight this as another unique element, as I can not say that, in my four seasons of L’OdM, I have witnessed such a thing.
The excitement for the return of conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin is not unwarranted. Though it may seem daunting to know there will be no intermission during Elektra, the perfectly flowing musicality, and dedication of all involved, kept audience members enrapt in their seats.
Photos by Yves Renaud