Strauss: Elektra

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Strauss
LABELS: Arthaus
WORKS: Elektra
PERFORMER: Iréne Theorin, Waltraud Meier, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Robert Gambill, René Pape, Oliver Zwarg; Vienna Philharmonic; Vienna State Opera Chorus/Daniele Gatti; dir. Nikolaus Lehnhoff (Salzburg, 2010)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 101 559 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16: 9 picture format); Blu-ray: 101560 (1080i HD; dts-HD 5:1; 16:9 picture format)

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Elektra’s Freudian creepiness constantly attracts sensationalist productions, so it’s a pleasure to report just how fine this 2010 Salzburg staging is. Daniele Gatti’s conducting is powerful enough, but never loses sight of the score’s eerie lyricism and sombre glow, which Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s staging embodies so atmospherically.

Agamemnon’s palace is bleak, rough-windowed concrete walls canted back at a drunken angle. The costumes are vaguely fascist 1930s, with Klytaemnestra brash in evening dress and furs, her attendants uniformed Amazons; Elektra’s filthy greatcoat was evidently her father’s. Even in close-up Iréne Theorin’s features are made chilling, dust-pale, straggle-haired, browless and panda-eyed with stress. Her clean-cut, intense soprano has to work hard against heavier passages like her soliloquy. She not only copes, but copes exceptionally beautifully, evoking both Elektra’s tender, feminine side and her coolly cruel demolition of Klytaemnestra.

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Waltraud Meier, as Klytaemnestra, is no less electrifying – a desperate, ageing beauty, beneath her glitter as haunted and obsessed as Elektra. René Pape makes him a towering, stone-faced avenger, moved deeply by Elektra. Robert Gambill’s tweedy, oafish Aegisth goes almost pitiably to his end, and Eva-Maria Westbroek’s giddy Chrysothemis sings her final paean gloriously – undercut by Lehnhoff’s brilliantly sinister closing coup. Among Elektras on DVD this, along with Karl Böhm’s historic performance, must rank among the best; and on Blu-ray, it is superb. Michael Scott Rohan