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Laden with tension

Strauss's 'Elektra' in Cleveland on 20 May 2004,
appreciated by KELLY FERJUTZ


Had Richard Strauss ever day-dreamed about productions of his startling opera Elektra he would surely have conjured up the one presented in Cleveland this weekend. The Cleveland Orchestra under it's Music Director, Franz Welser-Möst, is an opera orchestra supreme. Mr Welser-Möst revels in large-scale works and pulled out all the stops imaginable with this one.

Australian soprano Lisa Gasteen made her US début in the role of Elektra, although she has sung the part at Covent Garden. American soprano Christine Brewer portrayed Chrysothemis, and in a stunning tour-de-force, British mezzo Felicity Palmer came within a whisker of stealing the show as Klytemnestra. American bass-baritone Alan Held drew raves for his Orest, as did German tenor Volker Vogel for Aegisth.

The stage of Severance Hall is quite large, allowing for the huge forces asked for by the composer, some one hundred and ten or so instrumentalists. A platform is rigged toward the back of the stage rising over the winds and brass sections for the vocalists. (This concept, in a slightly different configuration, was first used by the orchestra in 1992 for Die Walküre as conducted by now Music Director Laureate Christoph von Dohnányi.) Still, the choral voices of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, as directed by Robert Porco, were ethereally heard from off-stage, positioned as they were in the various lobbies of Severance Hall. The libretto of Hugo von Hofmannsthal was sung in the original German with English surtitles provided by Virginia Scenic (Portsmouth VA).

During the recent renovation of the Hall and the stage areas, a new ceiling was installed over the stage, and colored lights positioned in the soffits, as well as various areas of the ceiling over the auditorium, itself. These lights are used to good advantage during special concerts of various types (not standard orchestra concerts) and are especially valuable during these semi-staged opera productions.

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Copyright © 21 May 2004 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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