Monday, 25 June 2007

Marvellous Elektra at The Royal Danish Opera

Elektra. Royal Danish Opera 2006. Director: Peter Konwitschny. Cast: Eva Johansson (Elektra), Tina Kiberg (Chrysothemis), Susanne Resmark (Klytemnestra). Conductor: Michael Schønwandt.

After more than 20 years as a regular at the Royal Danish Opera, this Elektra is probably the best production I have ever seen here. A genuine artistic triumph, dramatically as well as musically staged at the new water-front Copenhagen Opera House.

Peter Konwitschny´s concept is simply brilliant: A giant electric timer dominates the stage continually counting down to time=zero with Oreste´s slaying of Aegisth. The murder of Agamemnon is played out in front of the curtain immediately before the music sets in with Agamemnon´s body in the bathtub present on stage throughout the opera, being pushed around by Elektra (psychologically explanatory notes redundant).

The sets are neutral with a strict geometrical aesthetism, rather unusual for Konwitschny, at least compared to his previous productions of Lohengrin, Parsifal and The Flying Dutchman. A sofa and a table in the otherwise naked living-room of Aegisth and Klytemnestra. Bodyguards thoroughly searching all visitors before granting them entrance to these futuristic rulers of society. With the death of Aegisth a new world begins, necessitating the eradication of any traces of the old. Thus, it is only logical that the men of Orest kill both Elektra and Chrysothemis as well as everybody else in an impressive inferno of machine gun salves marking the new beginning.
On the musical side, the Royal Danish Orchestra with Michael Schønwandt has never been better – with excellent attention to detail as well as to the overall dramatic drive. Especially the woodwind section seem very strong at the moment.

Eva Johansson is simply the strongest Elektra imaginable on stage today, vocally as well as dramatically as documented on the recently released Zurich Elektra DVD. Her steely soprano with minimal vibrato, easy top-notes as well as slightly neurotic acting are simply perfect for the part. Furthermore as Chrysothemis, Tina Kiberg delivers her best performance in several seasons. Susanne Resmark´s dramatic mezzo and commanding presence is ideal for Klytemnestra. Admittedly a great Klytemnestra does not need a great voice to convince, but it doesn´t hurt either.

In summary, a major success for the Royal Danish Opera.

6 comments:

Bo said...

Which is the best recording of "Elektra"?

mostly opera... said...

I personally prefer Solti´s recording for Decca with Birgit Nilsson as Elektra: Solti´s conducting is highly dramatical, including massive turbo on the brass effects and Birgit Nilsson´s voice cuts like steal. This is a stereo recording of very good quality. Excellent supporting cast such as Gerhard Stolze, Regina Resnik and Marie Collier.

Some prefer Böhm´s recording with Inge Borkh, who is also a strong Elektra. Personally I prefer the Solti set due to the higher intensity of the conducting.

A good modern recording is Sinopoli´s with Alessandra Marc as Elektra, although I personally don´t think she reaches the level of Birgit Nilsson. But for those who dislike Soli´s heavy brass, this may not be a bad option.

On DVD:

The Zurich production directed by Kusej with Eva Johansson as Elektra is very good indeed and recommended.

The Kupfer production from Vienna with Eva Marton and Brigitte Fassbaender is also very good indeed. It takes place by the foot of a large statue of Agamemnon and is excellently conducted by Claudio Abbado.

Also Götz Friedrich´s film (not an operatic performance), conducted by Böhm and with Leonie Rysanek as Eletra is worth watching. And Astrid Varnay is formidable as Klytemnestra

On the other hand, I find the Metropolitan production with Birgit Nilsson and Leonie Rysanek relatively uninteresting to watch...

Bo said...

Thank you. I will probably go order the Solti/Nilsson CD -- and see if my local library can come up with the other two.

And I have to ask: How did you get to know so much about opera and classical music? Your knowledge is truly amazing.

mostly opera... said...

Thank you very much. Compared to "real" experts, however, I´m afraid my knowledge is rather limited. However, I have played classical music from I was 5 years old and listened to opera since I was 10. Furthermore I tend to listen to a relatively small operatic repertoire centered around Richard Wagner/Strauss + Mussorgsky and more recent composers. If you asked me about baroque opera for example, I would know absolutely nothing...

Bo said...

I'm pretty fortunate, then, that I'm primarily interested in Wagner and Strauss :-)

Martin Berg said...

Thanks a lot for a great review.
I am so much looking forward seeing the play again tomorrow.

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