Photo: Лилия Кехайова в ролята на Електра (Снимка Светослав Николов)
10 Feb 2021ORPHEUS / Klaus Billand


Kaleidoscope of dramatism and total retribution

Klaus Billand

Sofia / Sofia Opera (November 2020)

Impressive presentation at the Bulgarian premiere

From Sofia in these gloomy days is to be reported a little sensation:

“Elektra” by Richard Strauss at the Sofia Opera on 26 November experienced its Bulgarian premiere. This way the stage director Plamen Kartaloff, also Director of the opera house, is travelling further on impressively well into the deep waters of opera literature, after having already staged here Richard Wagner’s “Ring”, “Tristan” and “Parsifal”.

From the very beginning this “Elektra” carries the spectators away. It is at once clear that the action in the palace of the Atreides is directed towards a culmination, to which it also reaches in unusually dynamic and dramatic way. The set designer Sven Jonke created one geometrical, sloping in the height black-grey palace of the Atreides with half-transparent walls. With a rotating stage Kartaloff materializes his vision for “Elektra” as a succession of episodes in the sense of a kaleidoscope. In connection with the “vоlcanic power and theatrical impact” of the music are generated constantly changing scenes like in a film. Kartaloff speaks even of a “galloping development”. This requires а sophisticated directing of the characters in many single scenes, which have to be experienced too. For the designed in general in the best way costumes is responsible Leo Kulash.

At that we see also a series of new and quite interesting ideas. Elektra begins the piece at the tomb of her beloved father, who during the monolog is to be seen suggested with the royal crown in the background, and at the end he collapses dead over his grave. Her circle has closed. Before that, in association with Agamemnon’s murder, she had thrown a net over the coming out of the bad Aegisth. His assassination by Orest and his tutor can still be seen to some extent in the rotation of the stage. In the finals, the walls crumble spectacularly to their constituent parts. At least this tyranny has found an end!

In one completely Bulgarian ensemble of singers Lilia Kehayova impresses with a magnificent performance of the title role and a bright, as well as certain in the heights soprano with good diction. Tsvetana Bandalovska impersonates Chrysothemis intensively and displays high musicality as a singer, however, by the highest tones she gets audibly under pressure. Gergana Rusekova fulfils with her full and beautifully coloured mezzo-soprano all vocal expectations with stark acting. The greatly talented Atanas Mladenov sings one calm Orest with expressive baritone and excellent diction. The choreography by Fredy Franzutti assigns to the five maids and the overseer during the whole opera the role of the explaining chorus from the Greek theatre. In the secondary roles there was light and shadows. In the first reprise three days later, one expected a good second cast by the protagonists with Diana Guglina, Radostina Nikolaeva and Jordanka Milkova.

Performed was the composer’s reduced orchestral version, the American conductor Evan-Alexis Christ could be won for the rehearsals and the conducting of this “Elektra”. He motivated with great engagement the orchestra of the Sofia Opera for an exceptional achievement at really fast tempos. So motivated the reviewer has not yet heard playing the musicians here. “Elektra” by Strauss and Hofmannsthal celebrated on Bulgarian territory a thrilling debut!

“Elektra” (1909) // Richard Strauss