COMPOSERS: R Strauss
WORKS: Scenes from Elektra, Capriccio, Die Frau ohne Schatten & Salome
PERFORMER: Christine Brewer (soprano), Eric Owens (bass-baritone); Atlanta SO/Donald Runnicles
CATALOGUE NO: 31755-02
No one has ever doubted the power of Christine Brewer’s voice or her innate musicality. She is now one of the most assured Wagnerian and Straussian dramatic sopranos on the international circuit with neither the length of the roles nor vocal reach holding any terror for her – or us. What is emerging, too, is how thoughtful she is at inhabiting her heroines.
If she’s a big singer in every sense of the phrase, she is also an intelligent and a sensitive artist. We already know that she gets right to the beating heart of the dyer’s wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten, but Richard Strauss’s first two successful operas, Salome and Elektra, are a sharper test for any soprano with dramatic aspirations. How do you become the teenage Prinzessin von Judaea or the deranged daughter of the House of Atreus? – and, let it be said, hold the orchestra at bay!
Brewer sails through the test. Her Elektra is a young woman shocked into life by the arrival of Orestes in The Recognition Scene, the voice lightened to give her youth as she waits; and then comes a seemingly unstoppable stream of luscious exultant tone when her brother has declared himself (Eric Owens is a vocally handsome Orestes here).
This is a woman who has an emotional centre to her life again. As for Salome, her mind has completely slipped its tether when those massive chords fire up the closing scene of the opera. But there’s an unbearable beauty about Brewer’s singing when she kisses the mouth of the dead Jokanaan.
Donald Runnicles is a noble partner throughout even if there are some clotted orchestral textures from the Atlanta band. And it has to be said that his ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ is positively ponderous. Christopher Cook