Walking into the lobby of Vienna’s StaatsOper is a dramatic experience in itself. The grand marble staircase and exorbitant artistic decoration are pleasantly opulent. Details adorn every surface from ceiling frescoes to a bust of Mahler in the lobby.
So on to Elektra. This one-act opera was first performed in 1909. The overall production seemed to lack a coherent arc of intensity. The performance was somewhat fragmented and this seems to be down to the performers. As Elektra’s (Baird) performance at times felt forced and rather egocentric. One wished for greater interaction with the other protagonists and a performance less strained. The lacklustre staging, set designs, and costumes did mean that there was nothing to take away from the singing. There was a certain spark missing from this production, one felt the audience losing interest and indeed a significant number began to trickle out of the auditorium long before the curtain fell.
The State Opera orchestra was superb, exhibiting great precision and intimacy with this complicated score. Strauss’s phrases, which call for a larger than usual orchestra, were well-shaped and each note carefully place.