Please, expect on 12 and 14 March and on 16 April!
The conductor Evan Alexis Christ, the repetiteur Richard Whilds and the performers, impersonating the characters in the opera spectacle, whose premiere spectacles were on 26 and 29 November, share how they have worked on “Elektra”
Biography – Evan Alexis Christ (conductor)
Born in Los Angeles into a family of musicians with Greek roots, Evan-Alexis Christ spent his childhood in Las Vegas. Since an early age, he was playing the oboe and piano, he studied mathematics and composition at Harvard University and conducting at the Leipzig Music Conservatory.
From 2008 to 2018 ha was General Music Director of the Cottbus State Theatre. According to the critique, “he is doing a fabulous job” and brings with him “cosmopolitan culture, charisma and enthusiasm” in his work.
The concert programs in the series “8 world premieres in 8 concerts” were celebrated in the German press for several years and in 2011 the orchestra won the German Music Publishers' Association Award for the best concert program of all German orchestras. In addition, special praise received his interpretations of Mahler and Beethoven symphonies and Wagner's Ring cycle.
The high quality of the orchestra's artistic work was recognized and supported by high-value grants from the Ernst-von-Siemens Foundation, the Berlin Academy of the Arts, from Impuls Neue Musik and the federal government's “Excellent orchestral landscape in Germany” program.
After his time in Cottbus, concert engagements took him to various orchestras in Germany. This season, Evan-Alexis Christ conducted the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra in the opening concert of the 150th season, which was the orchestra's first concert since the lockdown of the concert season in the spring. In October 2020 he conducted the Georgian Chamber Orchestra Ingolstadt in a concert series including CD recording for the Capriccio label with music by Jenö Takács, followed by an invitation from the NDR Radiophilharmonie for a film music production and again made a guest appearance at the Orquestra Classica da Madeira.
In addition to his rich classical repertoire, he has already conducted over 60 world premieres and has received many high accolades for his innovative concert programs. His extensive operatic repertoire includes great operas by Mozart, Wagner, Strauss, Verdi and Puccini, as well as contemporary opera.
Evan Alexis Christ – about his work on “Elektra” at the Sofia Opera
I have never been in Bulgaria, so that this is an incredibly exciting possibility to work here. Of course, I have heard about the wonderful National Opera in Sofia, but I didn’t have any possibility to hear live performances. In Germany we made a production of “Elektra” several years ago and for me this is one of the most amazing operas in music literature. so that, of course, it is exciting to be a part of the wonderful team here, in Sofia!
I have heard about Maestro Kartaloff’s fantastic production in the last years. He has such great ideas about opera staging. “The Ring”, “Tristan”, “Parsifal” are for sure some of the greatest operas of all times. And the ensemble and the orchestra here have the qualities to present them. So that I think that one could consider Sofia for the Bulgarian Bayreuth on the Balkans!
For me “Elektra” is technically the most difficult for the orchestra and the ensemble. Of course, conducting Wagner’s big operas like “Götterdämmerung” is a great challenge in different ways too. They are very long; this is like a sport for the conductor. You have to shape the phrases, accompany the singers, give the necessary energy, support the story. And always to listen!
“Elektra” is a counterpoint: everyone performs incredibly difficult notes in all different directions. Of course, it isn’t so long, just ca. one hour and 45 minutes, but I think that for the orchestra it is the most difficult of all from the opera repertoire. The singers have roles, which are an incredible test in rhythmic and harmonic aspect. But somehow by Richard Strauss everything sounds just stopping the breath at the end. Simply rough energy from the beginning to the end – and a story about murder, intrigues, revenge, love!
Finally, the orchestra and the artists talk a musical language. The conductor’s work is always to somehow encourage and inspire the musicians to be able to give their best. The singers here are at a very high level, beautiful, musical and strong voices with excellent skills in German. The orchestra has a wonderful technical virtuosity and musicality, and the instrumentalists are very fast in the gathering together of the difficult scores. So that it is again a matter of careful listening and uniting of all talents.
I am happy to be a part of this!
Richard Whilds – repetiteur of “Elektra”
Richard Whilds was born in Nottingham in 1966. His father was a jazz trumpeter and arranger. As a thirteen-year-old, he sent some compositions to Malcolm Williamson, which led to lessons, while still at school, with Robin Walker and Geoffrey Poole at Manchester University. Later he studied with Denis Smalley at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. He has worked as a conductor and repetiteur in Germany, Austria and Brazil. Since 1997 he has been active in this capacity at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, working under the musical leadership of Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano and Kirill Petrenko. In addition to his regular work there, he has recently conducted new productions of The Bear by Walton and Mare Nostrum by Kagel, as well as providing the music for several special events – “Wagnerinnen” and “Geliebt, gehasst und trotzdem treu” – and creating chamber-orchestral versions of Ullmann’s “Der zerbrochene Krug” and Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta”.
As well as many chamber-music pieces, he has written extensively for voices, including three operas, the chamber operas “Islands” and “Donna Gallina” receiving their premieres in Aachen und Innsbruck. His latest project is a large work for soprano and orchestra called “Endsongs”, the piano version of which has received its premieres in London and Tokyo.
As an arranger of light music, he has achieved considerable success, including one gold record and three Number One positions in the German Classic charts.
The performers of Elektra about their work on the character
The degree of Elektra’s suffering comes from the contrast between what she is inside of herself and what she was forced to experience. The question is where from comes the character and whereto it goes. The drama of Elektra consists in the fact that all the good, she was in her life till Agamemnon’s death is dead. For her there is no way ahead. She is such, because she has the strength to deny all reality, which surrounds her. She demonstrates character, and character is the conflict of the soul with reality. If this problem has a conclusion, it is that the strong person can be good, or bad – on his or her choice, and the weak one can be only bad.
Since a lot of time Elektra is a part of my life. My personal interpretation is in the first place in the excellent knowledge of the literature and the note text, which reveals to me more and more dimensions and depth of the character. The pathos of the personage is calling in me a deep empathy for her drama. Elektra’s powerful figure tolerates only the one, who completely gives oneself to her.
The work with Maestro Kartaloff makes Elektra three-dimensional. His directions require from me to take a peep deep in myself – it is not rare for him to challenge me to be “like a wild cat”, “like a man”, “like obsessed”. Even with a strong temperament, for me these are unknown territories in my personality and this way the work is turning into revealing of my own being. The rehearsals pass in deep study of the character and in full consent regarding the direction of its development. This, together with the good artistic atmosphere, is the best the artist can hope in the staging of one so difficult title. I am thankful for the confidence, which Maestro Kartaloff placed in me.
God willing, let Elektra’s fate and problems remain only on the stage! Maybe the conclusion for all of us is that human spirit cannot and should not be broken, and that sometimes even at the price of his own being, one must stand up for justice
I don’t perceive the world in black and white, especially when it concerns my characters. Elektra’s actions are justified in her head and heart. Her moto is: “The blood gets washed away only with blood”. My moto is: “Darkness can disappear only when there is still more light”. Regarding revenge, I agree with Confucius, who said: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves”. In the case of Elektra, the graves are more.
Initially, I spent a lot of time with the lyrics of the opera, in order to reach such a state, in which to be able to understand Elektra to the marrow of her bones. To justify her. To sympathize with her. Then, when I started studying the music, I felt I had to become its medium. I don’t have a feeling of building up Elektra’s character, I am rather giving her my body and voice, so that she could manifest herself.
For me it’s a great honour to work with Maestro Kartaloff and for the next time in succession I made sure that he is a wonderful stage director, of a very high class. His brilliant assistant stage director Vera Petrova is working excellently with me. She herself is a unique personality and she managed to wake up in me things, which I personally didn’t know that they existed. She created for me a very positive and secure atmosphere, in which I was able to give my best. I am waiting with impatience to show our work before Maestro Kartaloff in the next days and to have still many inspiring hours of work till the premiere.
When I stand before a stage director, I insist my musical, vocal, physical and psychic preparation to be of iron so that I could be like a plasticine in the hands of the stage director and the conductor. Then the artistic process gives me pleasure, because the final purpose is to serve the composer and the librettist. Maestro Kartaloff’s concept is unique! We are preparing a wonderful spectacle for you and we are expecting you.
Gergana Rusekova and Yordanka Milkova about their reading of the character of Klyteamnestra in “Elektra”
To speak about Klyteamnestra on one plane is impossible. This is a very ambivalent character of the woman, the mother, woven of weaknesses, cruelty, egoism, desire, and in the same time vulnerable and victim of the circumstances. She is the main character in a family drama, marked by the karma of revenge.
Klyteamnestra is a character of the expression, by her everything is extremely expressive and to find the key to her one must dig deep into the emotional memory. This is very interesting, sometimes painful, because to provoke this sort of emotions costs a lot. To be real, vulnerable, obsessed with the fears of guilty conscience, which are haunting her, she crosses the borders of normality.
I am passing through different stages. Initially, the music texture is complicated. Even after Wagner and the training, which I have accumulated, it was difficult for me to learn it. The rhythm, subject to her ceaseless extreme states, is also changing literally in each beat, but everything is genially subject to the lyrics and the psychology of the character.
I passed through a catharsis of mine to connect myself with Klyteamnestra and she and I are one. The way is long, full of hardships, interesting. With Maestro Kartaloff we are working since a long time, still since my student years, and I think that this is the eight production, in which I am taking part. I am always expecting with impatience the work with him, he always succeeds to provoke me, to “light me up”! The Maestro is searching the aspects of the characters very deep down, from different angles, his stagings are very recognizable, impressive and they move on many levels. He developed me as an actress and now he is walking next to me on the way to this monstrous role, which requires the maximum of the abilities. I am an admirer of the long and hard, exhausting rehearsals. The Maestro works like that. We are working intensively! There were tears, there were skinned knees, there was laughter, but this is the way and I am happy that we are walking it together. Don’t be afraid to be provoked, our dear audience! “Elektra” is an intransient mirror of the family drama, of the karmic markedness, which exists today too. Come and see “Elektra”, the way you would go to a psycho-triller at the cinema!
Klyteamnestra is a very complicated character. For me she is developed as a personage with bipolar mental disorder. I think that if this woman was living in our time, she would be patient in a clinic for mental illnesses. I am building up my character step by step. Most-important for me is the basic, i.e. the geography of my movements on the stage, the interactions with my partners. The next step is Klyteamnestra’s every word and thought to be expressed in the most convincing way possible.
Till now, I had the possibility to work on the mise-en-scene with Mrs. Vera Petrova, who transferred to me Mr. Kartaloff’s concepts – they are very convincing and interesting. What impressed me very much in his work is the combination of the German director’s theatre and the Stanislavski method – this enriches me very much as a singer-actor.
The geniality of Strauss makes me richer. Klyteamnestra’s disunion, madness and fears are something extraordinary. A character, for which the audience will show empathy.
Radostina Nikolaeva and Tsvetana Bandalovska interpret the character of Chrysothemis in the opera “Elektra” by Richard Strauss
Chrysothemis is the last role, on which I am working and which is upcoming for me to present before the audience. For the first time I come across the style of this genial composer, who provokes me. In vocal aspect the character is emotionally saturated and quite complicated for interpretation. Chrysothemis is Elektra’s younger sister, who is trying to survive in this complicated world, despite of the darkness and brutality of the events, which she comes across ...
She maintains that she hates her mother, as well as Aegisth for the murder of Agamemnon, but she finds no sense to “represent a threat, to do harm without power”. Like the wide Greek society, Chrysothemis considers that women are weak, especially on the background of the power as the one of Aegisth. She becomes hesitant through the entire piece and she never agrees with the Elektra’s plan. She has her short moment of riot.
With Maestro Kartaloff and my colleagues we were working very intensively. We had the luck to draw as mise-en-scene the whole opera also on the big stage ... I expect with impatience the full realization of this extreme and dramatic title and in the same time conquering and stopping the breath.
The name of Chrysothemis is translated as “golden law”. For me the golden law is Love. I consider the character of Chrysothemis to be the hidden suppressed part of the suffering for her father and thirsting for revenge Elektra. My character has the wish to live, despite the suffering and the experienced pain. She is trying to “wake Elektra up” from the nightmare, in which she is finding herself, to show her the way towards liberation, which is different from that of revenge. At first sight, Chrysothemis seems faint-hearted and weak, but actually she bears the wisest point of view.
It is interesting that Richard Strauss’ and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s final hides some kind of a riddle. Elektra dies physically in a large part of the stage interpretations, but after the composer’s remark, however, she “falls down with a staring look”. Then I am asking myself the question why the final chord is major? My opinion is that there comes a resolution of the conflict, set in the beginning of the opera. In our case, we could interpret that Elektra dies physically, exhausted by the anger and the evil, which has consumed her life forces, but there is another point of view – it is the dark side of Elektra, which dies, it is her disease, which dies, born out of revenge and anger. I am inclined to accept the second variant, because with the appearance of Orest, Elektra gains new power and sense of life. She is cured of her destructive passions. The integrity is restored in the kingdom of Mycenae, as well as in Elektra’s personality.
Richard Strauss’s music facilitates to a great extent my task, because the atmosphere, the rhythm of the action, the intonation of my vocal line are already created by the composer. My duty is to get to know the author’s concept.
From now on, every day I am in communication with my character and I am cultivating it like a flower. I see it through my inner look and it grows through my artistic imagination. Of course, the rehearsals are an important part of the process for its overall physical and psychic incarnation. The rest, of course, is the secret of the alchemical process in the art of each creator and it seems to me impossible to tell.
I am thankful to Maestro Kartaloff for making one of my dreams come true by staging this title. His councils are often connected with the aesthetical and the true to life on the stage. He captures with his senses every falseness in the acting. For me his remarks are creative, because he is like a mirror, in which I can look at myself. This is a very important moment of our work, and it doesn’t happen with every stage director.
I am relying completely on his opinion, experience and his great talent, because I know his ability to see penetratingly the things in details and in their entirety. Of course, sometimes we have arguments of artistic nature, but they are a part of the process and I would feel uneasy, if there were no such arguments.
I would like to use two quotes. The first one is from the comedy “Life of Bryan” by Monty Python. In the final tragical scene, the crucified are singing “Always watch from the light side of life”. The second quote is from my character Chrysothemis, she tells Elektra: “Love is everything, who can live without love? („Liebe ist alles, wer kann leben ohne Liebe“).
Uniting both quotes, I would like my message to sound to the audience like this: Even in the darkest moments in life, don’t lose the hope and the light in your soul. If our credo is light and love for each other, then the world would become really better!