Alan's Blog...It's all Gesamtkunstwerk to me!

Thoughts from nearly 40 years on the professional stage

Elektra in Chicago...Orest has been waiting

All opening nights are interesting experiences. As performers, we are always excited to get the show in front of an audience and to have the jitters and nerves diminished by just getting onto the stage. This new production of “Elektra” at Lyric Opera of Chicago, however, was so well rehearsed. This gave us a few degrees more of confidence and perhaps one or two less butterflies in the stomach before we had the curtain rise. And what happened after that curtain went up on Saturday night was a WONDERFUL experience. I think, perhaps to many of us, there were more nerves in place simply because the performance was being being “broadcast” live on the internet to people all over the world. More on that later…

“Elektra” is such a difficult opera in so many ways. It is powerful on many levels. I know I have some very long and difficult roles in my repertoire but I can’t imagine any role being harder to sing than the title role. What an incredible performance of this role of roles by our soprano, Christine Goerke! I don’t usually single out colleagues in my blog but I’m making a special exception this time. She amazed me. I have sung this opera so many times and with so many wonderful sopranos. Christine ranks right at the top. My role of Orest is certainly not anywhere near my most difficult of roles. It’s relatively short and not even the most demanding on a vocal level. However, it is a role that I greatly enjoy singing and every second of my role, onstage, is with the title character---listening, urging, reacting, ENJOYING!. Christine made it easy on opening night. She offers so much as a singer and actress. It was an honor to perform with her.

As I said, having the opera broadcast made the evening a bit more intimidating. The increase in the number of performances being “live-streamed” has really brought a huge change to this business over my tenure on the stage. When I began as a professional singer, it was only every now and then that one of your performances would be broadcast. Now, it seems like every run of performances has at least one if not multiple performances being sent over the airwaves. We are going to sing the same way whether the microphones are there or not. However, knowing the mics are there makes things a bit more edgy. In my scene in “Elektra”, much of it is very close to the edge of the stage and dead center. The microphones are literally only feet from your singing. You realize that there is less room for the ambiance of the hall to kick in. You know that every little inhalation of breath might be heard. You are more careful to not shuffle your feet, clear your throat, or make any of the other 1,846 noises a singer tends to make during a performance to just to help them relax. Having said all that, from what I’ve heard of the broadcast recording, I think the “live-stream” came off pretty well. For those of you who heard it, I hope you enjoyed your evening as much as we did.

The opening night of the season is a very special and festive occasion. A grand ball was held afterwards which meant for a late evening for the singers after a performance. Eating late is never a good idea for anyone--especially singers. It takes a few days to recover from such events. But, we’ll have it all together again by Wednesday night and I look forward to once again entering the house of Atreus to render revenge.