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Martin Kusej's production at the Zurich opera house brings this bloody, ancient story into the present day: In the courtyard of her father who was murdered at the hands of her mother, Elektra's isolation is striking in that she is dressed as a punk in the better family. The director expertly realizes the tension between uninhibited and yet suppressed sexuality: ".a sinister, cold atmosphere of sex and degradation". We witness a society that only knows violence. The soloists and Christoph von Dohn nyi with the choir and orchestra of the Zurich Opera magnificently make their contribution to this truly unique Elektra.
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Since we don't have singers of this quality around today we can hardly duplicate that level of singing. This new DVD is worth investigating for variety of reasons although the level of singing wouldn't be one of them. My first exposure to Eva Johansson was as Eva in the Deutschoper production of Meistersinger. She was quite charming and vocally up to the rigors of this opera, but I didn't I could hear an Elektra in her. Well, she certainly delivers dramatically and, I suppose, could best be described as a "kunst" diva. Fortunately during the recognition scene she sings quite beautifully; would that her Orest (Alfred Muff) could match her. He is adequate, no more. The Clytemnestra is Marjana Lipovshek; dramatically she is exciting and her monologue is riveting, but the voice is threadbard and worn. Considering that she has spent the last twenty years singing very heavy roles it is hardly surprising. But there is no question that she is thoroughly inside the role. The Chrysotemis is Melanie Diener; quite the most meliflous voice in the cast, but a compelling actress as well.
The only truly outre touch that struck me a utterly bizarre was at the end when a group of what looks like Follies Bergere dancers make a brief appearance. I have no idea what the point being made is, and it certainly is not a deal breaker as regards making a decision whether to buy it or not but it is strange.
The DVD competition for this opera is small: Marton at Vienna State Opera in a Kupfer production that conservative Vienna boos. I like Kupfer's work at Bayreuth but this must is not on the level as his Ring. By the time that Nilsson recorded it (DVD, that is) she is not flattered by the camera and her laser-like voice is frequently off pitch. Viewed as a historical document it is worth having since it also includes Rysanek. The Rysanek is a film and I must confess I found little to enjoy. I understand the last Met outing with Beherns (1994) is in the pipeline. Although Behrens (like Johanssen is a voice or two too small she was very exciting; the DVD will also include Fassbender's Clytemnestra and Voigt's Chrysotemis (pre weight loss--a pity that we couldn't have had Mattila); the production is traditional but a good one. Do I have to make a choice? Well, I've made one, obviously, but I will get the Behrens when it becomes available. One can never have too much Strauss--Richard, that is.
Even though I was in doubt to buy it, because some reviewers didn't like Eva Johansson performance, now I can say that Eva was the best, electrifying and powerful voice, great dramatism. Melanie Diener also a beautiful performance. Sound was great, some minor flaws in the volume from Aegistus and Klytamnestra.
The production is quite interesting, some could say this is Eurotrash, but I find it very full of sense, modern and expressionist
When Agammemnon returned home victorious from Troy,he was murdered in his bath by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. Her daughter Electra had then spirited away her younger brother, Orestes, sending him into exile, where he might live in safety and be brought back to avenge their father. When he returns Orestes kills his mother, Clyemenestra and Aegisthus.Afterwords, she dances and dies.
In this rendition of this opera Elektra is a young punk. A social outcast in house where the mood is one of overriding sophistication, with leather upholstered doors in the long corridor, servants wearing short skirts, who are tarts in suspender belts. We see a supression of emotions where ultimately a meaningless orgy takes place. When Elektra uncovers her ax and buries the little girl, this is symbolic of burying her childhood trauma. We do see men and women appearing through doorways, failing to the ground and fighting with axes. Showing that what was a purely individual act of murder of Agammemnon, has become collective madness that takes over the society.All this takes place within a gray hall, with the white doors, which show off Elektra's light Khaki yellow open track suit top,over a deep purple and blue zipped top, which corresponds with Clytemestra's dressing gown and dress. The tonal values are the same. Every costume has been throught through so as not to clash tonally. The Grey court yard covered by a roof, is timeless. Notice how the singers stand out in this neutral grey background. Also, the figures of the singers are never directly in the middle of the TV screen, nor is the horizontal line. This makes it easier on the eye. For this is how a picture is composed,with perspective. The colours of the clothes all complement each other.
Eva Johansson is Elektra, the part is made for her. She is young and is a fine actress. She sang Brunnhilde in Battles version of the Bluray Wagners Die Walkure.A very strong voice. She does not look older then her Mother. Clytemnestra is Marjana Lipovsek ,Chrysothemis is Melanie Diener. In fact all the parts are well taken. The Zurich opera house orchestra is conducted by Von Dohnanyi. He builds up the tension gradually. At places the tempi are fast, then he slows down to bring out the glorious themes, but near the end tempi are extremely taut, tense and fast. How does it stand against the Bohm version of Elextra. The Von Dohnanyi version is live and modern.The Bohm is a film, in a traditional expressionistic rainy setting. Bohms tempi are fast. The singers are Rysanek, Varnay,(a great Brunnhilde). Ligendza, with the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. Bohm died a few months later in 1981. Both productions are good. I would suggest you buy both. Bohm knew Richard Strauss, and conducted some of his premieres. So it is a document of a great conductor, even though he was a fully paid up member of the Nazi party. Strauss did cooperate with the Party, but he thought being a artist he was above it all. He did help his Jewish daughter in law. Von Dohnanyi's uncle I think was involved in the Bomb plot against Hitler in 1944. Von Dohnanyi is a great Strauss conductor but of a different ilk. Two great performances.
Most recent customer reviews
from December 2005. It is a total success.
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