ELEKTRA • OPER FRANKFURT
REVIEW ELEKTRA: TOPS IN ALL DISCIPLINES OF OPERA ART
Brilliantly beautiful orchestral playing sets fire to Strauss’ challenging but also deeply fascinating Elektra score, which in the internationally sought-after Claus Guth’s staging at Oper Frankfurt draws threads to Italian giallo horror movies al a Argento. And convinces with its towering level of excellence in – well, in almost every discipline of the operatic art.
The orchestra plays with razor-sharp, rhythmic diction and an aggressive, insistent sound from horns and percussion, which, in combination with the soft, rounded acoustics of the opera house, treats you to a soundscape in a class of its own. Oper Frankfurt’s 15th and final year General Music Director Sebastian Wiegle conducts. What a treat.
When the opera ends after an intermissionless 130 minutes, I am blown back into my seat by the soloists’ exuberant, powerful execution of the main characters – despite the fact that the set design – a Paul Smith studio in purple stripes mounted on ever-wearing set pieces and semi-transparent curtains – heralds a quick fix of intentionless, action-neutral scenography.
As the visual impact fades to blood red towards the end, Elektra’s blood vengeance unfolds with clarity and things make sense.
Effective stage design, combined with the murdered father Agamemnon’s empty chair, which occasionally tears up the wall as if bewitched, when the untamed paternal love (Elektra syndrome) is most rampant and the drive for revenge is strongest.
Sure, it has to be subtle. Room for personal reflection and interpretation is part of good opera staging.
In the lead role, Latvian soprano Aile Asszonyi delivers a powerful performance in Elektra’s demanding part, almost overshadowing top name Susan Bullock in the role of the mother Klytämnestra, who, together with her lover, has killed Elektra’s father and sent her brother on the run.
His unexpected return in the company of several gloved henchmen is pure horror in half-length leather coats and black hoodies.
You can read a little more about the plot in my review of Dmitri Tcherniakov’s brilliant production at the Copenhagen Opera House here
Frankfurt has a slightly different take that is at least as effective, just different.
I’ve never seen an Elektra that leads to a big dance party at the news that the returned brother has been murdering left, right and center, and the bodies are scattered in the palace courtyard. No one can hear my screams, shouts one of the murderers as he exhales.
Yes, my father can, Elektra replies in her, shall we say, rather introverted psychological state, and the party continues with confetti glitter and grotesque party hats.
It’s crazy what opera can do.
Five shining stars from Det Sku’ Du Se.
QUICK FRANKFURT TIPS
Rent a Nextbike bike via mobile (they’re everywhere in the city center) and pedal along the banks of the Main River, where fat geese frolic in the pretty green spaces overlooking runners, kayakers and Frankfurt’s iconic skyline.
Museums and galleries are close by and I recommend the Städel with old masters (including a gorgeous Botticelli painting), as well as a fine collection of Weimar artists with their colorful motifs and brash style.
Just off Römer Square you’ll find both the Museum of Modern Art and the Schirn Kunsthalle, with well-stocked collections of installation works that are only partially understood, unless you’d much rather take a seat at the square’s numerous watering holes and enjoy ice-cold, frothy quality beer.
I like to stay at the excellent, affordable Motel One Römer 200 meters from the old, rebuilt city center – and even shorter to Oper Frankfurt at Willy Brandt Platz.
After a performance at the opera, you eat at Fundus, where I have several times seen the stars of the evening arrive for dinner to great applause from the guests.
Baja Bike has excellent, guided bike tours that give a good overview of the city, which is smaller than you think and in many ways worth a weekend trip.
The Alte Oper, by the way, has been beautifully rebuilt and plays high-quality classical concerts interspersed with various popular shows and rock concerts.
Local football heroes Eintracht Frankfurt beat Suttgart in the semi-final shortly after my visit, will play the German Cup final against Leipzig on June 3. Good luck to them.