Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

She electrified the audience for Patrice
Chéreau’s production, debuting in Berlin. In 2013, she starred in the
world premiere of Chéreau’s staging in Aix-en-Provence. His In an
exhilarating experience, Daniel Barenboim and his Staatskapelle Berlin
illuminated with thunderous brilliance the psychological tempest in Richard
Strauss’ Elektra. The high quality ingredients of this evening
led to an experience that was more than the sum of its monumental parts.

In front of the entrance to Theater Unter den Linden, an unusual amount of
people searched for tickets. In the last minute queue, folks bickered about
their place in line. Just picking up a ticket required enduring an intense
stare from determined fanatics. With Herlitzius singing and Barenboim at the
helm, Strauss’s late-Romantic blockbuster turned into the hottest ticket
in town.

Chéreau’s unadorned staging displays the psychological drama in
Strauss’s music.

Surrounded by columns and arches in grey blue hues, the actors filled the
stage with tension. The set was not meant to impress the eye; instead, the
staging allows the psychological drama to fill in the void. As a force of
nature, Herlitzius vocally and dramatically demanded attention.
Barenboim’s Strauss saturated Chéreau’s space with a silvery

Herlitzius enthralled the audience with her flexible voice. Her sound fueled
Elektra’s grand desire for revenge. She conveyed Elektra’s
vulnerability in nostalgia, wreaked vocal havoc with scorching distrust, and
let, above all, her maddening lust for revenge prevail. In her expressive
mannerisms, Herlitzius added a visual component to her character’s
mythological agita. She scratched her skin feverishly, like a heroine addict.
And yet she was never ridiculous in her frenziness. Chéreau directs this
lust into Elektra’s behavior: in each familial interaction, Herlitzius
charged her character with a suggestively incestuous sexuality…. truly out of

Herlitzius served up a dramatic climax at the end: when hearing
Klytaemnestra scream as Orestes kills her, a fiery flicker of gratification
flashes in Elektra’s eyes. After all her anger and despair, that brief
moment of satisfaction on Herlitzius’s face demonstrated how sharp an
actress she is.

When Chrysothemis’s argued with Elektra, Adrianne Pieczonka formed a
precious contrast to Herlitzius’ darker voice. Her character’s
naivety and relentless optimism flourished in Pieczonka’s intonation.
Very light and very bright. Her voice offered the audience a brief respite from
Elektra’s hellbent revenge. As well as in her own shrieking, she became a
vital element in all the Straussian hysteria.

Singing persuasively, Waltraud Meier cloaked Klytaemnestra in an air of
indifference. Supported by brass and percussion, Elektra’s stepmother had
a showstopper with her spectacular entrance. Her sins were hidden in a shroud
of mystery. Did she really kill Agamemnon? I was baffled to hear boos amongst
the cheers for her. Stephan Rügamer fleshed out Aegisth’s eerie and
foolish qualities. With his chilling, determined diction foreshadowing his
kill, Michael Volle’s Orest proved formidable in his duet with

Dense, thick, loud, but never overbearing. Barenboim balanced the powerful
music in extraordinary detail. At the false news of Orest’s death, the
strings mourned with somber brilliance. Without interruption, Barenboim’s
thrilling momentum captured all the frenzy and suspense in Strauss’s
music. He created interesting psychological atmospheres out of Strauss’s
wicked tonality. It was wonderful to be swept away in the madness of this
horror opera.

David Pinedo

image_description=Elektra (Evelyn Herlitzius) and Orest (Michael Volle) [Photo by Monika Rittershaus]
product_title=Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin
product_by=A review by David Pinedo
product_id=Above: Elektra (Evelyn Herlitzius) and Orest (Michael Volle) [Photo by Monika Rittershaus]