Strauss's Elektra is a tough listen but this excellent production repays the listener amply. It comes from Salzburg, which often means silly productions but here director Nikolaus Lehnhoff gives us an ungimmicky production on a fascinating expressionist set.
Irene Theorin gives a riveting performance in the title role. She is grey-faced, black-eyed with bloodshot eyeballs and matted hair, think Ozzie Osbourne. She exudes hatred throughout her two hours on stage as she rails against her mother Clytemnestra and her lover Aegistheus who have murdered her father Agamemnon It is a role that calls for incredible stamina and concentration.
Eva-Maria Westbroek is also impressive as her ditzy sister Chrysothemis whose main ambition is to make babies and just wants to let bygones be bygones. For me, the best music comes at towards the end as the two sisters together soar above the orchestra in typically Straussian fashion. Waltrauud Meier is the nervous mother Clytemnestra, fearful of her daughter revenge. Rene Pape is luxury casting for the small role of Orestes, Elektra's brother, who finally appears to exact the revenge that she has been calling for.
Mercifully, the slaughter is carried out offstage but we do get a brief glimpse of, presumably, Waltraud Meier's body double hanging upside down on a meat hook. I don't know whether this was performed before a live audience. There is certainly no sight or sound of an audience nor of the orchestra or conductor. Film director Thomas Gunn wants us to concentrate solely on the drama.
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