The Ventura County Master Chorale and Opera Assn. has not made it too difficult for itself to introduce opera to Ventura County. Since it began staging operas in 1983, only chestnuts have graced the Oxnard Civic Auditorium stage: "Die Fledermaus" and "Hansel and Gretel," for example.
With Friday's performance of Richard Strauss's thorny, angst -ridden "Elektra," however, the association has taken a rather larger step--and while all was not well, the group can certainly be proud of the luscious sounds the production offered.
The major fault was with direction: In what amounts to a five-character, one-set opera, the dangers of "Elektra" are dramatic monotony and inactivity. Director Edgar Weinstock apparently had no answers, though he did have Janice Yoes (as the title character) do enough kneeling, sprawling, clutching and staggering to qualify her as an operatic aerobics instructor. At least Giatheatrics, the consortium responsible for the sets and lighting, gave the audience a stark, neo-Expressionist palace gate to mull over.
The musical side of the production was fine. Yoes, while not the most engaging singing actress in the world, does have the stamina and the power to make her Elektra work, and a floating not-quite-pianissimo to boot. David Myrvold, as Orest, could do nothing with the character's lack of expression, but he sang with a polished-mahogany baritone.
Other members of the cast were strong vocally as well: veteran mezzo Geraldine Decker's fiery, besotted Klytemnestra, Ealynn Voss' steely Chrysothemis and John Guarnieri's tipsy, nimble Aegisth.
Burns Taft conducted with great vigor and a sure sense of propulsion, and the smallish orchestra--a mismatched affair, with more trumpets than second violins--simply sounded superb.