Christine Goerke is now known for her performances of roles like the one she’s singing at San Francisco Opera, Richard Strauss’s Elektra… but earlier in her career, her specialty was the music of Haydn and Mozart. She went through a period of redefining and finding her instrument, after it had grown more powerful than she realized or expected.

There’s more information at the San Francisco Opera website.

Goerke says the freedom she found when she entered the bigger world of Richard Strauss was transformational. “I remembered walking out on stage and hearing this huge orchestra, and opening my mouth, and I didn’t have to hold back, and I didn’t have to try to be something I wasn’t, and I suddenly felt, after all of this time, this is home.” She first sang the role of Chrysothemis, Elektra’s sister, who is naive, and not bent of vengeance for their father’s death. But it’s a less challenging part, and she soon found herself being asked by companies to sing Elektra. “I said, ‘I don’t sing that.’ And they said, ‘You have to.’ I said, ‘I don’t have to, I sing Chrysothemis.’ And they said, ‘You can’t. If you’re singing Chrysothemis, who are we supposed to hire for Elektra?’ And I said, “Well, that’s not my problem.” They said, “Actually it is, because either you sit down now and wait, or you take a step up.” She did, and is now one of the most sought for the challenging role. As she goes through all of the stages of grief at once, Elektra vows to have revenge for the murder of her father, Agamemnon. “She’s willing to sacrifice her whole life to make this right, because she knows that it’s right. And she has such devotion and love for her father that she’s willing to sacrifice herself for it. That doesn’t sound so crazy, does it?”