I love opera, and I have always been very fond of Strauss' music. Elektra is not my absolute favourite of Strauss' operas, that's Der Rosenkavalier, but for me it is perhaps his most powerful. While I highly recommend the 1981 and 1994 productions and the 1980 Met performance is perhaps the best available, this production is brilliant. In fact I don't think I have yet seen an Elektra that I have been less than enthralled with.
The costumes and sets are nothing fancy, but they aren't meant to be. Actually considering the tone of the opera, I think they're very good. The lighting also helps to enhance the atmosphere. Musically, it's wonderful. Strauss' score has nothing to fault it, Klytemnestra's murder scene is so chilling, and the orchestra play this difficult yet riveting music superbly and Claudio Abbado's conducting is nothing short of rock solid.
Elektra's(1989) sound quality doesn't harm the dramatic impact of the opera at all, and the video directing and picture quality are first rate.
All the productions I have seen of Elektra have had great singing. This is no exception. While Eva Marton is past prime, having a wobble in her voice, the voice itself still has its power, and dramatically Marton is a revelation. It is every bit as good, if not better, than her Turandot and Tosca, and I think better than her La Gioconda, Leonora(Il Trovatore) and Elisabeth(Tannhauser) performances, though I liked her very much in all those roles and think her a great artist.
For me of all the Elektras, though Deborah Voight and Leonie Rysanek are amazing too, only Birgit Nilsson for me is more thrilling. Marton has a wonderful support cast, Franz Grundheber is a good Orest(his and Marton's duet is just exquisite here) and Cheryl Studer is a commanding Chrystothemis. Walking away with the acting and singing honours is Brigite Fassbaender as the demented mother Klyntemnestra.
I cannot think of enough superlatives to describe how phenomenal Fassbaender's performance is. Vocally, she is sly and powerful, and while I admire Astrid Varnay very much in the role, Fassbaender literally has evil and repulsiveness dripping off her, and it is so riveting to watch.
All in all, simply brilliant. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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