LABELS: Bel Air Classiques
ALBUM TITLE: Strauss: Elektra
PERFORMER: Evelyn Herlitzius, Waltraud Meier, Adrianne Pieczonka, Mikhail Petrenko, Tom Randle; Orchestre de Paris/Esa-Pekka Salonen; dir. Patrice Chéreau (Aix-en-Provence, 2013)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: BAC110; Blu-ray: BAC410
Patrice Chéreau’s Bayreuth centenary Ring remains a monument of production history, and this Elektra, staged at the Aix-en-Provence Festival only months before his untimely but long-expected death, is another. What festival director Bernard Foccroulle calls Chéreau’s ‘mad energy’ courses through Strauss and Hofmannsthal’s masterpiece.
Has Elektra ever had a more committed or strong-voiced team? Evelyn Herlitzius as the vengeful daughter is vocally tireless, fuller in her top notes than the other Elektra of the moment, Christine Goerke, and possessed of a vital force. Chéreau exacts a similarly intense, realistic performance from Adrianne Pieczonka as Chrysothemis. Waltraud Meier is a glamorous Clytemnestra, a mother who shows complicated feelings for her confused offspring. Her top vocal form is shared by Roberta Alexander as the sympathetic Fifth Maid, an old retainer – possibly Elektra’s nurse – among servants who, as regular onlookers, heighten the tension. With Chéreau veterans Donald McIntyre and Franz Mazura in other smaller roles, the recognition scene is shatteringly moving. Other crucial elements in a total theatrical experience are Richard Peduzzi’s colossal set and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s conducting, which is visceral throughout. This is one of the truly indispensable opera DVDs.