Elektra

 

Special note: there are 4 images above of the same title. The 1st two images show the regular price disc. The 2nd two images are for the bargain disc that also has trailers for 50 other Arthaus titles.

Richard Strauss Elektra opera to a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Directed 2010 by Nikolaus Lehnhoff at the Salzburg Festival. Stars Iréne Theorin (Elektra), Waltraud Meier (Klytämnestra), Eva-Maria Westbroek (Chrysothemis), Robert Gambill (Orest), René Pape (Aegisth), Oliver Zwarg (Orest's tutor), Benjamin Hulett (A young servant), Josef Stangl (An old servant), Orla Boylan (An overseer), Maria Radner (First maidservant), Martina Mikelić (Second maidservant), Stephanie Atanasov (Third maidservant), Eva Leitner (Fourth maidservant), Anita Watson (Fifth maidservant), Arina Holecek (Confidante), and Bardara Reiter (Trainbearer). Daniele Gatti conducts the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor (Chorus Master Thomas Lang). Sets by Raimund Bauer; scenic cooperation by Daniel Dooner; costumes by Andrea Schmidt-Futterer, lighting by Duane Schuler; video by Martin Kern; choreography by Denni Sayers; directed for TV by Thomas Grimm. Released 2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade B+

This is a worthy production with an impressive cast and set, good direction, fine acting, and an interesting endgame. Still, we think the Baden-Baden production is the one to  beat.

The minor characters at Salzburg were cast with better singers than at Baden-Baden. But Linda Watson at Baden-Baden beats Iréne Theorin at Salzburg in both singing ability and especially in German diction. As time passes, Theorin's German falls apart like that dress mentioned in the libretto that is "consumed by moths." That makes a big difference in this opera, which has a powerful and distinguished libretto.

The next most important role after Electra is the sister Chrysothemis. We love Manuela Uhl singing Chrysothemis at Baden-Baden; at the end we desperately want her to survive and thrive. But although Eva-Maria Westbroek is a great singer, we don't feel sympathy for her Chrysothemis in this Salzburg production.  Westbroek has strong stage presence that prevents her from seeming vulnerable. And she was also directed to register hysteria, which makes her seem more like a nuisance than a victim. In her defense, Lehndorf may have directed Westbroek this way because of the bitter ending Lehnhoff has in store for Chrysothemis.

Klytämnestra is the other important female role in this opera. Waltraud Meier does a workman-like job in all departments as Klytämnestra. But we still Jane Herschel in the Baden-Baden recording is the most distinguished Klytämnestra that we now have in HDVD.

Lehnhoff has an especially pessimistic take on the end of the Strauss Elektra. As soon as Electra dies and Orest claims the throne, the furies appear threatening both Orest and Chrysothemis. True, in the myth Orest had serious legal problems following his matricide, but he was eventually acquitted after a harrowing trial. And we question whether the myth states that Chrysothemis will also be a victim of the curse on the house of Agamemnon.

Finally, we think the orchestra and the chorus was slightly better recorded and reproduced at Baden-Baden than at Salzburg.  So we wind up with the grade of B+ for subject title. If you can only afford one Elektra, get the one with Linda Watson. If you're especially interested in Strauss, there should be room on you shelf for this Salzburg version as well.

Sorry, there are a number of poor quality clips on YouTube about this, but nothing we would deem really helpful to show you here.

Special Note: There are two ordering buttons below. The 1st is to order at regular price.  The 2nd lets you take advantage of the bargain disc.  Shop around and you might pick this up really cheap.

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