Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Strauss - Elektra|
Actors: Eva Johansson, Marjana Lipovsek, Melanie Diener, Rudolf Schasching, Alfred Muff
Director: Martin Kusej
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Finally--an Elektra for newcomers!
Mr John Haueisen | WORTHINGTON, OHIO United States | 11/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the best Elektra on DVD; especially good as an introduction to this opera. Here's why:
Elektra is a psychological drama usually difficult for beginners to "get into." This is chiefly because, traditionally, our Elektras have been older, established singers, but this very middleaged look makes it very hard for viewers to identify with the young Elektra who has been imprisoned by her mother and stepfather.
In this production we see Eva Johansson who is a much more age-appropriate Elektra. She has a wonderful voice, strong enough to be heard above Strauss' dynamic orchestral statements, yet soft and expressive when the score calls for it. Additionally, Johansson has here a wild, piercing stage presence--exactly what is called for in a successful Elektra.
The other singers are similarly appropriate. Marjana Lipovsek has done the opera before and makes for an excellent evil, yet guilt-ridden Klytamnestra. Alfred Muff is a more convincing Orestes than many previous. He really seems ready to go "do the deed" to punish mom and stepdad.
At first, I was a little worried by the non-traditional staging. Usually Elektra has been staged in a dungeon or cave-like stage, but this one features many doors, presumably leading to other areas of the palace. The costuming, and occasional partial nudity are also a change from the usual drab, "one-size-fits-all" burlap bags usually associated with productions of this opera. It all works! Finally, we have a good first experience with Elektra!
Other things to look for:
the beautiful, yet electifying "recognition scene," where Elektra's head swims dizzily, as she sees that her prayers are answered: Orestes has returned. This scene is typical Strauss, as Orestes says, "the dogs in the yard recognize me but my own sister doesn't."
Strauss' musical magic is there when Elektra cries out to her dead father about the dogs that "licked your feet and went hunting with you." There is a less-than-three-second musical evocation of dogs whining. This is just typical of Strauss' ability to create musical imagery.
The only criticism I would have is of the subtitle which translates "Scham" as "shame." The proper (and usual) translation is "modesty," and this is critical to Elektra's situation. She is telling Orestes how, in order to survive, she has given up even her modesty, to the point that her own brother could not recognize her.
If you've never seen Elektra before, this is a good introduction. If you're already familiar with it, you'll approve of this production."
Provocative, unique staging, and committed portrayals
Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 03/10/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"TDK has released a new DVD of an Elektra captured in Zurich
from December 2005. It is a total success.
This opera is one in which a design team can revel. They
can go to the absolute max here in matching Strauss's
tortured music. To my mind, the opera can be made
contemporary to any degree, and ideas to convey its
darkness can be endless. Leonie Rysanek
once stated she did not care for a traditional Classical
Greek setting for the piece, and I agree.
The setting looks to be a combination brothel and insane
asylum, sinister, austere and menacingly closed-in. The
floor has no even footing; it is all precariously un-level,
bumpy and dangerous.
The theme of this production is sex, debauchery and
depravity in its most shockingly unleashed fashion, and
it's exhilarating; no holds barred here, all sacred taboos
are turned loose - to devastating effect. Definitely rated
NC-17. The director, Martin Kusej, does a smashing job of
utilizing the busy production and conversely, playing up
the interpersonal confrontations in a very intimate way. Unlike the other reviewers here, I enjoyed this fresh, original interpretation; it would be easy (but unfair) to label this as Eurotrash. The opera is about trashed values, and its controversial view suits this staging well.
Aiding him in this is the superb cast, and Christoph von
Dohnanyi, the conductor: he brings staggering texture,
drama and tension to the score. The audio is unprecedented
in its clarity, as is the picture. In DVD, opera has found
its perfect "synthetic" medium.
Eva Johannson, a Danish soprano new to me, pulls out all
the stops dramatically and vocally. Looking like a cross
between a young Eva Marton and Karita Mattila, she gives a
searing portrayal. Her energy is positively demonic, a
woman possessed. Dressed in bag-lady-rehab sweat-street
clothes, this Elektra is a visual and audio powerhouse. The
voice is lean, has edge, and is huge. I would not call it
classically beautiful, but Elektra simply cannot be sung by
Janowitz-type voices. This baby's gotta have balls.
Johansson does, in spades. There is at the outset a little
trouble with the mittelage, but grows in strength by
leagues as the evening goes on; the "was bluten muss" is
shattering, and it pleasantly stings the ear. The high C is
nailed like few others have done. The tone cuts, is steady,
and she sings with tireless, unstinting abandon. What a joy
it is to hear such an absence of strain, no wobble, no
screeching. Johansson is particularly good at the baleful
expression, whose looks can really zing those darts, but
the "Orest!" is shimmeringly lyrical and reposed. Johansson
carries on the illustrious Varnay-Nilsson-Jones lineage
magnificently. Anyone who can command this role without
self-combusting earns my highest respect; after Jones
retired, it seemed unlikely that this generation could
produce such a worthy successor, but Johansson may well be
the Elektra of this time.
Melanie Diener's shining Chrysothemis matches Johansson all
the way, singing with refulgent, unforced tone. Marjana
Lipovsek's Klytamnestra, a puffy, over-made-up near-drag
queen is worthy of the best of them.
The ending is a surprise, not the usual, and it works; I'll
leave it for you to find out, or I can spoil it for you
privately. Let's just say Elektra proves to be stronger
stuff than you might expect (and if she can stand what
she's had to face in the past...that which does not kill
you only makes you stronger).
The rest of the parts are up to the high level elsewhere.
No need to elaborate further, as this triumphant production
does Strauss-Hoffmansthal proud.
Best of all, this release renews for me the genius of this
evocative, colorful score - the language of music doing
what spoken word could not possibly match.
If you love Elektra, and need an extra dose of depravity to
match a mood you may be in, this will do the job
beautifully. You won't find a better depiction of
Look for the Abbado/Marton/Studer instead
Ben Brouwer | Minneapolis, MN USA | 01/25/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The options for seeing Elektra on DVD are very limited, so finding a third one now on the market was cause for celebration... until I saw it.
Starting with the positive: Dohnanyi and the Vienna Phil give an excellent reading of the score. What is lacking in the brutal emotional immediacy I prefer is made up for in clarity and emphasis on the lyrical qualities in the score. The orchestra seems a little farther back in the mix than it should be, but otherwise I have no complaints.
It is nearly impossible to cast the perfect Elektra, so usually I am merciful and first judge Chrysothemis. In this case, Melanie Diener is vocally a little sloppy and her acting is limited (I think she only makes one face the entire time). Johansson, as the title character, is disappointing. Her presence is appropriately fierce, but the quality of her singing is wildly inconsistent (cf the recognition scene, where in "Orest! Orest!" her pitches are all over the map and her tone is much more dry than elsewhere; it may have been intentional as a way to convey tenderness).
Everything else aside, the production is absurd. The Brazilian flamenco dancers who are brought out for a line dance (the Macarena?) which is completely unrelated to the underlying music is hardly what Strauss or Hoffmansthal had in mind, yet it's the least of my worries. Aegisth looks like a cross between Boy George and John Goodman in the 1980s. Better yet, he has a gun--which were surely easy to come by in ancient Mycenae--and I have no idea why Elektra would be concerned about digging up the axe when the gun ends up in her hands anyway (and why she doesn't just shoot her stepfather with it when she aims it at him and instead lets her poor brother do the deed with his bare hands is a little puzzling). And at the end, before the music stops, our dead Elektra stands up, face to the audience, apparently confusing herself with Lazarus.
What a difference fifteen years can make. In 1989, Harry Kupfer and his partners were raucously booed off the stage for their simple and psychologically appropriate set and slightly unusual costumes, yet there is nothing but applause for this nonsensical, bizarre staging. I would recommend that Kupfer-staged account w/Marton, Studer, Fassbaender, King, Gruendheber, et al. If you want to see a performane that will leave you utterly exhausted (in a good way), that would be a good place to start."
Michael Souza | San Francisco, CA | 07/18/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"There is no lack of ideas here. The problem is that none of the ideas have anything to do with making Elektra more accessible or with clarifying the libretto, which is not needed in any case. The stage is littered with what looks like mounds of old grey rugs strewn about. There are many doors, maybe about three feet apart, through which a lot of people come and go. During Elektra's monologue, someone opens one of the doors, wipes the handle, and exits. No idea why. There is a lot of movement; people cavorting naked or half-naked (I guess this shows depravity and decadence). Everyone is costumed unbecomingly. Eva Johansson wears some old gym clothes and her singing is nothing to write home about. She can sing loudly and she can sing softly, but she is no Elektra. Her face does not convey the emotions that the close-ups are clearly looking for. The rest of the cast sings well enough without being outstanding. Von Dohnanyi's conducting is the best thing here. Buy the Rysanek/Bohm version - this one doesn't cut it."