"Elektra, I am glad that today, for once, I don't find you disagreeable." - Clytemnestra
Indeed, I didn't find you disagreeable. In fact, I loved you! Bring up Richard Strauss' 1909 masterpiece Elektra in Sally's presence and she'll tell you, "It's the greatest opera ever written." Well, tonight it may not have been the greatest ever written, but it came close to the greatest ever performed. That is mostly thanks to Deborah Polaski as Elektra and Jane Henschel as Clytemnestra. The rest of the cast deserves it praise too, especially Anne Schwanewilms as Elektra's sister Chrysothemis. Her voice is clear and gorgeous although perhaps a bit too small for a concert version with the Phil. Speaking of the New York Phil, they were on fire tonight. Even Maestro Maazel seemed to have had his bowl of Wheaties for a change. Polaski and Henschel were beyond outstanding. Polaski's fortissimo was a regal trumpet. She would miraculously descrechendo into the most delicate molto pianissimo. I found myself shivering. Her voice was nothing less than exquisite. Henschel was exciting and fierce all at once. She's a tiny woman with a fireball of a voice.
Elektra is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes without an intermission. It is the most intense orchestral music intersperced with achingly beautiful melodies that I have ever heard. Last spring, Sally and I traveled to Washington, DC to see the WNO's production last year. While the music was thrilling the production was just strange and left a bad aftertaste. Tonight's concert version, off-book and semi-acted, washed away that flavor and left me wanting second helping. We learned yesterday from our darling Sieglinde that Elektra will play at the Met next season. The Met would do well to cast Polaski and Henschel and add Christine Goerke as Chrysothemis. Hopefully, Sarah Billinghurst or The Man Gelb himself catches one of the four performances that the New York Phil is doing between now and December 13th. The house was less than full but it was one of the longest and loudest ovations I've ever heard in any theatre. Even better, was the look on Sally's face of utter and complete satisfaction. I wish I had my camera so I could have recorded that look for the annals.
This video, originally uploaded by Onegin65, is Deborah Polaski singing "Allein, Weh ganz allein" in an actual production. As good as she is here, just imagine that she sang it beyond absolute perfection tonight at the Phil.