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THE MORNING AFTER | A Poem For Opéra de Montréal's Elektra

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Opéra de Montréal, Elektra. (Photo: Yves Renaud)
Opéra de Montréal, Elektra. (Photo: Yves Renaud)

 

 

Here, Yannick could conduct anything,[1]

For Montreal is so starved for zing;

Any opera, kind or cruel,

No matter, the seats would be full;

I’d go even if it was The Ring.

 

He returned just this week,

For an Elektra made meek;

Not hothead or loon,

She wails near the tomb

She’s welding in Socialist-Realist Greek.[2]

 

Lise Lindstrom sings manfully,

In welding goggles she blasphemies,

But can she dance?

Not in pants,

She just moves around randomly.[3]

 

Clytemenestra can’t sleep,

She moans and falls in a heap;

More menopause,

Than regicide’s claws,

You’re supposed to feel bad for the creep.[4]

 

Chrysothemis is an airhead,

Who really just wants to be wed;

But let’s remember the fact

That men like eye contact,

Onstage, as well as in bed.

 

When Orestes arrives it’s a landslide,

Finally! Someone with purpose (it’s matricide)

Alan Held sang in rich tones,

Even bolder than the trombones,

And left his sisters, confusing, outside.

 

Elektra likes to rotate her sculpture,

And perhaps that’s what gives her the ulcer,

Because as soon as mom’s dead,

The joy goes to her head,

She busts a move and dies from a rupture.[5]

 

Then one of many strange choices,

As Orestes comes out (he hears voices?)

The siblings are reunited,

Still confused, not delighted,

And nobody screams or rejoices.[6]

 

Well, what do you make of this bloodbath,

Made gentle, made sad, not so psychopath?

It’s better they tried

Than thinking denied,

Even if, on the whole, it lacks wrath.

 

[1] November 21-28, Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Strauss’s Elektra, his first Opera de Montreal production since 2011

[2] The stage element of the production is a colossal statue of Agammemnon hanging from the ceiling as Elektra welds it together. The original design called for a stone sculpture but the 3d-printed pieces had so many seams that the effect was lost. Elektra became a welder.

[3] Movement and staging issues plague the OdM. For example: Elektra is supposed to try and seduce Clytemenestra to help her kill their mother. Elektra flatters her sister’s “slim” body. There are lines like “I will not let you go.” They don’t touch in this production.

[4] Agnes Zwierko sings beautifully, poignantly, and not much like a murderess.

[5] Like Wilde in Salome, librettist Von Hofmannsthal invented a death for the immodest female lead. Many interpret this authorial vindictiveness as a fin de siècle expression of threatened masculinity. Sophocles has Elektra marry and have a family.

[6] Chrysothemis ends the opera calling out Orestes’s name. He’s inside the palace and covered in blood; when he does not open the gates for his sister you understand that the tragedy has only entered its next chapter (he is already pursued by the Furies.) Having him leave the palace and stand outside with his sister, near Elektra’s statuesque corpse, gives the ending a new and possibly pointless ambiguity.

Opéra de Montréal, Elektra, at Place des Arts, November 21. Runs through November 28. www.operademontreal.com

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Lev Bratishenko

Lev Bratishenko has written for Abitare, Canadian Architect, Cabinet, CBC Music, Gizmodo, Icon, Maclean’s, Mark, Triple Canopy, and Uncube. He reviews classical music for the Montreal Gazette and was a 2013 Online Editor-in-Residence at Abitare. Lev studied architecture and art history at Yale University. In 2013 he was the first Canadian to receive a USC/Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship. He lives in Montreal and at: www.yesyesyes.ca
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