If all film could be this good!
WGS | Deep in Central Asia (but from Wisconsin) | 03/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this film over 20 years ago on PBS (on a small TV with tinny sound) and was blown away, so you can imagine my delight when I saw it again last week on my new large screen set up with surround stereo sound. I can't stop watching!
I have other recordings of Elektra, but this one is a sentimental and artistic favorite. It's especially touching to see Karl Boehm in the documentary on disc 2, in frail health and literally near death, give it his all and squeeze the very best sound out of the VPO. His body may have been failing, but his ear and mind were still sharp and this film is a testament to his true artistry.
Highly, highly recommended!"
Astrid Varnay is a wonder
rusalka | Boston, Ma | 12/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"She completly dominates this video. And her acting is never over the top considering the character or even her age where this is a new medium for opera and some of the stock opera poses look so out of place when viewed up close . I've read Varnay's biography and was surprised to learn she was an American and was a great Wagnerian soprano in the 40's and 50's singing the big roles, Isolde, Brunnehilde, etc. What an artist! And this video was recorded when she was no longer in her prime, whatever that is. I would have loved to have seen her then. Also, I'd like to add that an awful lot of nitpicking is done in these reviews and I think of the old adage: them that do sing, them that can't critique. We are so lucky to be able to enjoy watching and in our own homes operas which only 60 or so years ago was only for the elite."
One unbelievable performance
P. Baum | Tampa, FL | 05/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Elektra" is one of my favorite operas, and I finally got to see this
near legendary film of it yesterday. It lived up to its reputation.
Friedrich's ideas were quite good for the most part (although I found
Klytamnestra's departure after her great scene with Elektra a bit disappointing - why didn't she yell for "Lichter" after she gets the news about Orest?) I liked the intermingling of the rain and the blood,
the extreme close-ups as in the scene I just mentioned, and especially the
depiction of Orest as someone less than heroic (making the good vs. bad
characters of the opera even more ambiguous - there have been some solid arguments that Klytamnestra's murder of Agamemmnon may not have been unjustified.) If some of the video is controverial, I don't think there can be any doubting of the audio greatness here. Varnay's appearance and acting might be a tad over the top but she is quite strong vocally, especially considering her age. Ligendza makes a fine Chrysothemis - the vocal contrast with her sister is ideal. Fischer-Dieskau has a lighter voice than most Orests, but who can complain about having an artist of his stature and strengths in the role. Beirer is near perfect in the brief role of Aegisth and it's good to see him again after his very good
performance in Strauss' other "schocker," "Salome." But Leonie Rysanek
is absolutely spectacular in the title role. Like most, I love Birgit Nilsson, but I can see why Rysanek was chosen. Just as Teresa Stratas in "Salome," she had not sung the role onstage. (Although she had sung
both Chrysothemis and Klytamnestra - to have done a superb job on three
very difficult roles from the same opera is astonishing.) Her look onscreen is amazing - if I didn't know ahead of time, I would have had no idea the first time she appears that this is Leonie Rysanek. That she has sung both Elektra's mother and sister before must have given her
tremendous insight into the title character, as she captures both the maniacal and the touching sides of Elektra. Vocally, she is near perfect. She has both the power and the lyricism (she is wonderful in the Recognition Scene) that the part requires. As the second disc, which is a a documentary of the making of the film, shows, performing Friedrich's Elektra must have been extremely demanding physically, and
that a woman in her mid-fifties did it so well is amazing.) Rysanek's performance must surely rank as one of the greatest preserved on video or
DVD. Karl Bohm, just months before his death, is almost as amazing in leading the great Vienna Philharmonic in this very challenging piece.
To hear such glorious playing of some brutally difficult music under the direction of this frail man is inspirational. (A couple times, I did find Bohm's choice of tempi surprisingly slow. But then again, he was
a friend of Richard Strauss and I guess he would know a little better than me what the great composer had in mind.) Even if you don't particularly like "Elektra" or even find it distasteful, you need to see it if only for Rysanek and Bohm.