Christine Goerke leaves you breathless in Canadian Opera Company’s Elektra

Johannes Debus, Christine Goerke
Toronto Star

It’s loud. It’s scorchingly intense. It’s as psychologically skewed as it is visually. It goes on for an hour and three quarters without let-up. It’s totally over the top. And it’s bloody marvellous. Welcome back Elektra.
It’s common knowledge that Christine Goerke, having already enraptured Toronto audiences as Wagner’s Brunnhilde, has become the Elektra to see on stages around the world. She surpasses all expectations. It’s worth a ticket just to hear her “Allein! Weh, ganz allein” lament. But this is only the start of a performance so vocally powerful yet nuanced, so dramatically detailed yet unaffected that it leaves you breathless, unlike Goerke. She does not play Elektra. For almost two hours Goerke becomes her.
That leaves the rest of the cast with the challenge of matching an exalted standard that, certainly among the principals, they do. Susan Bullock, the title lead in 2007 and also a previous COC Brunnhilde, returns as a proud, vain but deeply paranoid Klytamnestra. Her scenes with Goerke are unforgettably riveting. Erin Wall hits all the right notes in every sense as the emotionally wavering Chrysothemis.
Elektra is a woman-dominated opera. The men have little to do or sing; yet German Wilhelm Schwinghammer was an impressive and emotionally affecting Orest and beloved Canadian tenor Michael Schade almost stole the show in his brief and fateful appearance as a top-hatted, cigar-chomping Aegisth, Klytamnestra’s lover and partner-in-crime.
COC music director Johannes Debus keeps his 100-plus orchestra on a tight leash, rarely, as so often occurs with Elektra, allowing their enthusiasm to drown out the singers. And, while Strauss’s score may have come as a shock in 1909, it is a wondrous marvel for today’s ears when so expertly elucidated by Debus. Read the full review here