Thursday, 11 September 2008

Elektra on DVD: Superb Eva Johansson in Kusej staging from Zurich

Elektra. Zurich Opera House 2006. Director: Martin Kusej. Cast: Eva Johansson (Elektra), Melanie Diener (Chrysothemis), Marjana Lipovsek (Klytemnestra), Alfred Muff (Orestes). Conductor: Christoph van Dohnanyi. More details here.

Martin Kusej´s Zurich production of Elektra is surprisingly traditional - while the exterior may have changed from Ancient Greece to a proxy-swinger-orgy complete with the standard dose of nudity/seminudity, the core remains: Elektra, at the center of a society, rotten with depravity.

Everything all takes place in a room with a buckly floor lined by seven doors, polstered on the outside. Transvestites, Parisian Cabaret dancer look-a -ikes, nudes (and semi-nudes) constantly exit and enter the part-brothel, part-asýlum, part-swinger club room. The psychopathic mother, the dreamily unrealistic sister, the repugnant stepfather, the eerie brother all seem to belong in this place of sadism, incest and suicide. The recognition scene is beautiful - when the roof opens, a silvery shimmer descends on the blue room.

Elektra in semi-punk hooded sweater and baggy pants appear the sanest of them all. And Eva Johansson is simply a superb Elektra, probably her best part. Her tendency to neurotic and wild acting suits the part perfectly, as does the sometimes shrill ring to her occasionally sharp tone. With almost no vibrato, she is virtually on pitch throughout and nails the high C like few others. I cannot imagine a better interpreter of the part on stage today.
Marjana Lipovsek´s very strong Klytemnestra is not as decadent as often seen, and the former mightly Queen has now most of all become a Drag Queen.

Next to these hyperintense women, Melanie Diener is refreshingly human as Chrysothemis.
Christoph von Dohnányi has a no-nonsense approach to the score - stringent and with clear lines.

Compared to the other Elektra DVDs on the market, I personally prefer this one together with the Kupfer/Abbado production from Vienna. The alternatives are the Götz Friedrich film with Leonie Rysanek and the MET 1980 production with Birgit Nilsson/Leonie Rysanek.

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Eva Johansson: 5
Melanie Diener: 4
Marjana Lipovsek: 4-5
Alfred Muff: 3

Christoph von Dohnanyi: 4
Martin Kusej: 5

Overall impression: 4-5

1 comment:

NV said...

I am not so enthusiastic about Lipovsek I find raunchy in this DVD. I have had the opportunity to listen to Klytemnestras with beautiful singing-and not groaning-voices, and it works very well.

That aside, -and the real anti-climax provided by Alfred Muff but I think Kusej found it funny- I found this production thrilling (Kusej at his best as in Lady Macbeth of Mzensk) and Johanson and Diener-who is more than refreshingly human, she sings very well- among the best in their roles.

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