Behind the fantastic extra of Strauss’s “Elektra” — the libretto’s mythic setting, the rating’s unsparing terror — is one thing smaller: a starkly framed household portrait, albeit one knocked off the wall and scratched up by shards of shattered glass.
That has all the time been on the core of Patrice Chéreau’s manufacturing, which returned to the Metropolitan Opera on Friday night time. However on this revival, you can dwelling in even nearer to simply its two sisters, antipodal soprano roles sung by Nina Stemme and Lise Davidsen with floodlight luminosity and painfully human sensitivity.
Chéreau’s staging, which premiered on the Aix-en-Provence Pageant in 2013 earlier than coming to the Met six years in the past, doesn’t appear to have aged a day. And it’s troublesome to think about that occuring quickly with a placeless manufacturing that fits the timelessness Sophocles’ basic tragedy — which Hugo von Hofmannsthal tailored right into a play for the age of Freud, then right into a libretto for Strauss’s opera.
The set, by Richard Peduzzi, is the grand and extreme courtyard of the vaguely Mediterranean dwelling of a vaguely elite household in vaguely up to date gown (designed by Caroline de Vivaise). The place the manufacturing will get extra particular is in its departures from the libretto: its absence of caricature and villainy, its climactic dance of dying as a substitute a scene of stillness and life persevering with in agony. Largely cold the place it may very well be a bloodbath, it’s a research of a household irreparably fractured by trauma.
This idea calls for singers who can actually act. And Stemme rises to satisfy it, if not all the time in voice then in dramatic depth, which has solely grown since she sang the title function within the Chéreau manufacturing’s first outing on the Met. She isn’t at relaxation: rocking as she stares straight forward, her eyes huge open with laser give attention to avenging her father, Agamemnon.
When Stemme sang of his dying — a homicide dedicated by Elektra’s mom, Klytämnestra, and her lover, Aegisth — her voice didn’t all the time cooperate, particularly on the low finish of her vary. At instances she visibly braced herself for the function’s most punishing outbursts. But she delivered them as if with dragon’s breath, matched solely by passages of aching delicacy.
Davidsen, as Elektra’s sister Chrysothemis, gave her greatest efficiency on the Met this season — capable of present a fuller vary than in Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” final fall, and extra in command of her immense instrument than throughout a latest run of Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos” and a profit live performance for Ukraine, by which she sang that composer’s “4 Final Songs.” Usually a greater actor via her voice than her physicality, right here she carried as a lot character on her sorrowful face as Stemme did in her eyes.
Relaying the information that her brother, Orest, had died, “thrown and trampled by his personal horses,” Davidsen let loose a chilling wail — not for the final time within the night. Initially educated as a mezzo-soprano, she has a full-bodied decrease vary that’s simply as thrilling to witness as her candescent excessive notes, and a commanding softness in additional conversational moments.
She and Stemme had been supported all through by a Met Orchestra in glorious type underneath the baton of Donald Runnicles, whose studying of the rating was sensitively aligned with that of Chéreau. The opera has sounded scarier and extra chaotic — its blood tub met with bombast in lots of interpretations — however Runnicles insisted on the potential of dramatic momentum at a extra restrained scale. And the night was no much less thrilling for it; if something, it was riveting in its revelatory transparency, the layers of expressionistic coloration, sweetness and Wagnerian abundance stacking in counterpoint or weaving out and in of each other with grace.
There have been standouts elsewhere — Hei-Kyung Hong as an authoritative and rending Fifth Maid — but additionally lapses among the many principals. Michaela Schuster’s Klytämnestra was considered one of apparent gestures and a strained voice, which she often sought to salvage with near-Sprechstimme declamation. Chéreau’s manufacturing hinges on a sympathetic Klytämnestra; she didn’t fairly obtain that. And males had been shadows of their previous appearances. Greer Grimsley’s resonant bass-baritone was right here pale and effortful, and never all the time straightforward to observe. As Aegisth, Stefan Vinke was barely audible — an upsetting flip for a tenor who has sung roles like Siegfried, maybe barking however no less than with penetrating energy.
You couldn’t assist however really feel dangerous at any time when they sang alongside one of many starring sisters. Which is all the time: Stemme by no means leaves the stage. It’s, in any case, her present — and, for this run, Davidsen’s, too.
By way of April 20 on the Metropolitan Opera; metopera.org.