Edmonton Opera Blog

Entries from March 2017

Message from Elektra conductor Alex Prior

Thursday, March 9. 2017


Ready? There's no experience quite like Richard Strauss's Elektra! You will be pinned to your seat, overwhelmed, disgusted, delighted, feel like head banging, be blown away by the sheer power of the orchestra's sounds, taken aback by the lush melodies, and amazed at what the human voice can do... all in under two hours. 

Elektra represents both the absolute climax of the Romantic operatic tradition and the beginning of dark clouds smouldering in the horizon – clouds of a bleaker time for the world, and a time of music that is rougher and more visceral. Strauss wrote Elektra in the early 20th century, when Europe's gentlemanly heyday was giving way to forces of evil and society was falling apart all around him. This ancient Greek tragedy of decay and the danger of an obsession with revenge thus touched him very personally.

Elektra is in many ways the hardest opera in the repertoire to pull off for everyone involved, and tonight’s Alberta premiere is an epic testament to Edmonton Opera's ambition, vision, and strength.

The powerful score of Elektra is certainly a tough listen, but one with amazing rewards to be had. I invite you to let the music completely envelop you, to be entirely absorbed by the drama and become part of it.  Forget everything around you and let the opening orchestral scream of the "AGAMEMNON!" theme usher you straight into this brutal world. 

I believe you'll find that in spite of the extreme distortions this opera presents on various fronts, you will recognize and identify with many elements in a very personal way. Have we not all at times wanted family drama to be trumped by forgiveness and love? Have we not all yearned to go back to some non-existent good old day of childhood nostalgia? And, in addition to all of that, I know that this unique, extraordinary music that lies somewhere between German folk tunes and hardcore heavy metal, will leave an unforgettable impression on you and touch you to your very depths – perhaps in a way most music doesn't.


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Elektra plays March 11, 14 and 16. Get your tickets from $40!

Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs is Elektra

Monday, March 6. 2017


Internationally acclaimed dramatic soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs is an unstoppable force of nature. Widely known for her powerful portrayals of opera’s ‘madwomen’, Elizabeth previously took on the immensely demanding role of Elektra at Teatro Comunale di Bologna in 2015, earning rave reviews for her performance:

Elektra could be defined as a "one woman show", and Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs truly succeeds in drawing the spectator to her with a charisma that makes one want her monologues and scenes to never end. Her interpretation is breath-takingly fascinating, based on a declamation and use of text that would make a Shakespearian actor jealous. Her lirico-spinto voice, warm and convincing, fits the role perfectly, and the great professional knows how to keep her sound bright and smooth in the center of her voice, and in the beautiful high register, and then to obtain the maximum dramatic effect to darken the low, and medium low parts without taking away the musicality in this difficult role rich in quasi spoken, whispered, and loud passages, heading almost to screams. (Liricamente).

Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs is an Elektra who is well suited in every way to take on the difficulties of the part: the voice has the proper volume, the color shows a beautiful old style darkness appropriate for the role, the high notes are solid and brilliant, and the character is vividly and intricately drawn in its lucid madness cloaked by a fury that is more interior than exterior. (Teatro)

Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs was superb in the title role. Her Elektra was expressively strong, thanks also to her voice which leaned toward the dark, but was well projected; her performance was sublime, perfectly illustrating the character, knowing how to show her tragic and mad side, and also her passionate and romantic one. (Opera World)

Elizabeth has also had various stints with strong characters like Lady Macbeth and Tosca (both at the Metropolitan Opera), Turandot, and Strauss's other tormented heroine Salome. Edmonton audiences will be treated to this remarkable soprano's undeniable talent in the performance of a lifetime as Elektra. This complex role requires exceptional vocal agility because Elektra never leaves the stage and rarely does she stop singing. Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs is more than up to the challenge, bringing incredible vocals, strong acting instincts, and world stage experience for her Edmonton Opera debut. She will arrest you with her presence.



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See Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs as Elektra March 11, 14 & 16. Tickets start from $40 and are selling fast! Get yours today.  

Director Michael Cavanagh on Elektra

Monday, March 6. 2017

It's been said that every relationship and, especially, every family is dysfunctional; it's just the degree that differs. Even the healthiest inter-personal dynamics have tensions and issues that get in the way. When your father is butchered with an axe in the bathtub, by your mother and her new lover no less, the emotional challenges for your family relations become rather amplified. And what art form does amplified emotions better than opera?

This incredible score, which Richard Strauss has imbued with a darkness and intensity like almost no other, along with a libretto by one of the towering poetic talents of the Romantic period, Hugo Von Hofmannsthal, embraces the horror of this ancient myth of gods and mortals bent on revenge in a way that allows an audience a wonderful and rare experience: catharsis.

From the Greek for "purification", it denotes a release of emotions through any extreme change that results in renewal and restoration. The genius of Elektra is that the catharsis that's anticipated for the whole story, that of vengeance through bloodshed, is not that which is actually experienced. The revenge Elektra lusts for all night comes to pass, all right, yet she enjoys no release. Rather, she is brought down – as we must all surely be – by this darkest of desires. Instead, the catharsis comes through a dual epiphany: the only way to break the cycle of death is to embrace life; the only way to get past a wrong is to forgive. Elektra realizes this too late. The other witnesses, on stage and in the audience, realize it through her horrific ordeal and (we hope) learn to apply it to their own lives.

The big, loud lives of queens, princesses, gods, and heroes echo through the ages and resonate with our own, smaller, quieter lives. No art form makes this point more powerfully than opera. No opera makes a stronger statement of it than Elektra. This week, I invite you to embrace and enjoy the catharsis.

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Elektra storms the Jubilee stage March 11, 14 & 16. Tickets are selling fast, so get yours today from $40!