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Stars, Crossed and Aligned

HGO Resilience Theater
01/19/2018 -  & January 21*, 27, 31, February 2, 2018
Richard Strauss: Elektra, opus 58
Christine Goerke (Elektra), Tamara Wilson (Chrysothemis), Michaela Martens (Klytaemnestra), Greer Grimsley (Orest), Chad Shelton (Aegisth), Kathryn Day (First Maidservant), Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen (Second Maidservant), Zoie Reams (Third Maidservant), Jennifer Root (Fourth Maidservant), Julie Makerov (Overseer), Mané Galoyan (Confidante), Kaitlyn Stavinoha (Trainbearer), Richard Trey Smagur (Young Servant), Anthony Robin Schneider (Old Servant, Orest’s Tutor)
Houston Grand Opera Chorus, Richard Bado (chorus master), Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, Patrick Summers (conductor)
David McVicar (production), Nick Sandys (revival director), John MacFarlane (set and costume designer), Michael James Clark and Jennifer Tipton (lighting designers)

T. Wilson, C. Goerke (© Lynn Lane)

One set, one act, one family. We all know the story of Strauss’ Elektra, and some might even be familiar with David McVicar’s vivid, blood-soaked production. Nobody could have predicted, however, the impact presenting this thriller in Houston Grand Opera’s temporary home (dubbed “HGO Resilience Theater”) would have. In a cleverly converted convention hall, Christine Goerke’s Elektra could nearly reach out and touch those seated in the first row. The proximity made the piece even more urgent, more thrilling, and more memorable.

Goerke’s portrayal of Elektra is superlative. With prodigious stamina, she is the star around which the rest of the cast and orchestra revolve. Highs and lows, near shouts and floated phrases, scowls and laughter—all were placed perfectly and matched by an unhinged but still believable mania that grew more potent as the performance progressed.

Tamara Wilson crowned a fine group of current and former HGO Studio artists that filled out most of the rest of the cast. In excellent voice, Wilson’s Chrysothemis hovered deftly around Goerke almost like a guardian angel, powerfully conveying the struggle to understand or support Elektra’s murderous plan. In the moments where both sisters were singing in the stratosphere, goose bumps became palpable.

The recognition scene allowed Greer Grimsley’s Orest to similarly complement Goerke. Grimsley’s rich, deep voice provided an excellent foundation for the scene, during which Goerke’s gradual realization that her brother has arrived and will be her accomplice coaxed an incredible dramatic arc from both singers.

Michaela Martens and Chad Shelton were also solid as Klytaemnestra and Aegisth, their maidservants (Kathryn Day, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, and Zoie Reams) joining them to create a second ensemble opposite Goerke’s satellites.

If the acoustics of Resilience Theater aren’t ideal, the orchestral playing was. Patrick Summers led an urgent reading of the score, allowing the grisly paroxysms in Strauss’ score to jump out of the texture and sting the listener. The HGO chorus’ contributions to the final moments of the opera were perfectly sung and balanced. This is a unique opportunity to get a close-up of Elektra, one that should not be missed.

Marcus Karl Maroney



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