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Goerke stars in Lyric's blood-soaked 'Elektra'

Associated Press Published: October 7, 2012

As Elektra's well-meaning but weak-willed sister Chrysothemis, soprano Emily Magee sings with appealing luster. Her duet of rejoicing with her sister — one of the few times Strauss joins two voices in harmony in the opera — is a musical high point. Baritone Alan Held makes an unusually haunted figure as Orest, and tenor Roger Honeywell is an effective Aegisth, staggering drunkenly through his brief scene.

Much of the musical strength of the evening comes from the orchestra, which plays with tremendous precision and power. Andrew Davis, the Lyric's music director, shapes a finely nuanced reading of the fierce score that highlights its more introspective passages to an unusual extent.

As for McVicar's production, call it serviceable, faithful to Hugo von Hofmannsthal's libretto in most respects if not particularly imaginative. The set by John Macfarlane, who also designed the costumes, places the palace entrance at the far left, with steps running up to a sliding gate. The whole building leans forward perilously, as if about to topple over, and crumbled stones are scattered at the foot of the walls. In the middle is a large pit, where Elektra has hidden the ax used to murder her father. At far right stand two upright concrete walls, suggesting a gateway to an outside world less decadent than the one in front of us.

The costumes for Elektra and the other sympathetic characters are drab gray and yellow, in contrast to the garish outfits for Klytaemnestra and her retinue. McVicar has included among her followers a kind of court jester in a non-singing role who mocks Elektra and bounces around with maniacal glee.

Other than the river of blood, it makes for a visually subdued evening. But perhaps that's as it should be: The fireworks are in the music.