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Strauss: Elektra / Gatti, Pape, Theorin, Meier, Westbroek, Gambill

Release Date: 03/29/2011 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 101559  
Composer:  Richard Strauss
Performer:  René PapeEva-Maria WestbroekIréne TheorinWaltraud Meier,   ... 
Conductor:  Daniele Gatti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic OrchestraVienna State Opera Chorus Konzertvereinigung
Number of Discs: 1 
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Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles:German (Original language), English, French, Italian, Spanish
Running time: 109 mins

R E V I E W:

This exciting performance from the 2010 Salzburg Festival is effectively directed by Nikolaus Lehnhoff and leaves the ghastly story to tell itself. Almost all productions of this opera look and "feel" the same; the music and story are so overwhelming that no re-interpretation is attempted, although some emphases have been validly
Read more altered here. The characters are in 20th-century dress (costumes by Andrea Schmidt-Futterer), mostly quite bleak and rigid, save for Klytemnestra, in purple gown with feather boa, and Aegisth, in three-piece business suit. The set by Raimund Bauer is a skewed, leaning courtyard of some institutional building, with rectangular windows and doors at odd levels. And, of course, it is slate, depressing gray.

Irene Theorin's Elektra is more human and warmer than any I've encountered. Her craziness is clear, but so is her vulnerability, and the voice is in marvelous shape. She doesn't have the steely edge of Nilsson or Varnay at their hottest, but she still cuts through the orchestration with no trouble. She is spared a dance, happily; she merely wanders insanely about the stage until she collapses at her brother's feet. Eva-Maria Westbroek's Chrysothemis, in a nice dress, is lovely and puzzled; she wants the world to be a normal place and can't believe where she is or how she got there--again, a very human interpretation. And vocally, the role holds no terrors for this fine spinto.

In a change from the usual grotesque harridan, Lehnhoff gives us a glamorous Klytemnestra, perhaps not as wretched as her daughter: when she hears that her son is dead, she does not emit the usual maniacal cackle--it is left to her attendants to do so. The opera's final tableau--as a huge door opens and we see the body of Klytemnestra hanging upside down--is as shocking as it is nasty and effective.

René Pape is the thuggish Orestes, singing with dark, focused tone, and Robert Gambill makes the most of his playboy Aegisth. Daniele Gatti leads the Vienna Philharmonic with strength but not ferocity--as Strauss said, the notes on the page are loud enough. If I've given the impression that this Elektra is soft-edged in any way, I didn't mean to: it packs quite a wallop.

DG's film from 1981 with Rysanek in the title role is a fabulous shocker, but it's lip-synched and that is a bother; also on DG is a 1980 performance from the Met with Nilsson just slightly past her prime but still overwhelming. Eva Marton, under Abbado (on Arthaus) is remarkable as well. This one is on a par with any of them.

--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Elektra, Op. 58 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  René Pape (Bass), Eva-Maria Westbroek (Soprano), Iréne Theorin (Soprano),
Waltraud Meier (Mezzo Soprano), Robert Gambill (Tenor)
Conductor:  Daniele Gatti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Chorus Konzertvereinigung
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906-1908; Germany 

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