Sunday, January 17, 2010


Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 17th of January 2010 at 3-5 pm
STRAUSS: Elektra, an opera in one act
Elektra, the eldest daughter of the late king Agamemnon, is obsessed with thoughts of her father’s murder at the hands of her mother, Klytemnestra, and her mother’s lover, Aegisth, and she longs for revenge
Elektra.......................... Susan Bullock
Chrysothemis................ Deborah Voigt
Klytemnestra................. Felicity Palmer
Orestes......................... Evgeny Nikitin
Aegisth.......................... Wolfgang Schmidt
Overseer....................... Susan Neves
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Fabio Luisi

LIBRETTO (English)

The great "live" "electric" recording of this work ("sonic stage", done in a studio with no audience!) is Solti's version with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and with soprano Birgit Nilsson continually overwhelming them. This opera is loud, and there are no pretty waltzes; only Elektra's frenetic dance at the end, after which she collapses into a rigid state. The only tune to whistle is the three strident notes at the very beginning, the third of them held for a a while.

The author of the original drama of Elektra was Sophocles. This new version was created by the dramatist Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929), and this libretto was set to music by Richard Strauss (1864-1949).

Strauss knew that Elektra (1909) was very similar to his Salome (1905); both a have an obsessed woman who does a dance at the end) and that worried him; but this was the time of Freud, and psychological analysis was sneaking into opera.

{The background notes, listed in links at the bottom of this page, are from the NY Metropera archives, now closed to us}. In GREEK TRAGEDY we read about the origin of Greek drama in the orgiastic alcoholic festivals of Dionysios/ Bacchus; we learn that a "protagonist" was not the main character but the actor who got all the best speeches, changing masks for each role; "tragedy" means "goat-song" (to go with a sacrifice); "satirical" means "connected with a satyr play".

Incidentally, this ill-fated fury-driven vengeance-seeking Elektra with the ax is the same Elektra who was unlucky in love in Mozart's Idomeneo.

Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 10th of June 2007 at 3pm

Gerda Lammers, Hedwig Müller-Bülow
Conductor : Rudolf Kempe (1910-1976, admired for his interpretations of Strauss and Wagner, and the beautiful sounds he produced from orchestras)

This is a recording from Covent Garden in 1958 (of course, it is so special because it is "live!!", possibly meaning we will hear the cries of the sellers from the fruit and vegetable markets, as well as the audience reactions with applause, but certainly no laughter, because this is a rocky horror show without the laughs). It is from the Royal Opera House Heritage Series, recordings made in the 1950s (the sound may be "dead" but the performance will be "live"). The excerpt they have been playing for us is "monophonic", not "stereophonic", but, nevertheless, notwithstanding, it has been "digitally remastered". Wow! Yet, if it was a satisfactory "analogue" recording, some of us would prefer that they kept their dirty digits off it.





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