"Shakespeare said it first and best in Macbeth: “It is a tale . . . full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Depending on your views about Elektra, you could think Shakespeare a pointed critic of Strauss’s composition, but that is not what I intended. Rather, it is how I feel about this recording. That others have different views was shown by my colleague Henry Fogel in issue 29:6. Reviewing Semyon Bychkov’s recording, he made much of Solti’s set by comparison, saying that, “it is the raw power and demonic energy of Solti, Nilsson, Resnik, and the Vienna Philharmonic that make this 1961 set a true classic.” So which is it to be?
Yes, I admit that Solti’s recording is replete with sound and fury—in this opera it’sRead more hard to end up with anything else, after all—but I do take issue with much of his conducting per se, even though he provides orchestral support sufficiently large-scaled to match Nilsson’s voice. Of the few singers to really have what the title role demands, Nilsson’s account still stands as a significant achievement. Her commitment is not in doubt, and her famously steely tone cleaves its way through even the thickest orchestration. But is it all too safely done? Where are the risks taken in the music-making?
Of course, this is far from a one-woman show. Regina Resnik provides a magnificent foil to Nilsson’s Elektra as Klytämnestra, coming across as deliciously mad and wild from the start. If only Marie Collier brought quite the same depth of expression to Chrysothemis, but she does not. The main male roles get a more reasonable aspect; Gerhard Stolze offers a brooding Aegisth, and Tom Krause might surprise some with the genuine beauty of his Orest."
FANFARE: Evan Dickerson [9/2007]
Salome and Elektra, of course, were two of the greatest vehicles for Birgit Nilsson, and her Elektra remains unsurpassed–never mind the mind-boggling playing of the Vienna Philharmonic.