Cher Public

Elektral college

In preparation for the big night on Wednesday at Carnegie Hall, La Cieca thought the cher public might like to share some of their favorite Elektra videos and anecdotes. Your doyenne gets the ball rolling right after the jump.  

To begin with, here’s the cleanest dub I’ve ever seen of a the demented “Orange” Elektra featuring Gwyneth Jones and Leonie Rysanek.

And here, a fragment of what looks like a very interesting production indeed by Peter Konwitschny, featuring Renée Morloc as Klytämnestra.

Photos: Louis Melançon/Metropolitan Opera

  • I love Elektra as a visceral attack on the senses, much like Orange video which La Cieca has shared. But experiencing Meier’s revelation of a Klytämnestra under Chereau’s deeply thoughtful direction made me see different possibilities in the work.

    • Porgy Amor

      Her interview in Opera News this month (conducted by Braun) is great. She talks about her view of Klytämnestra, and she has very firm ideas about who this woman is. Whether you go along with her take on a role or not, she’s always done her homework.


      • PCally

        She’s such a brilliant woman. Her interviews are always a pleasure to read. It’s about time Opera News got around to her.

  • armerjacquino

    Because it’s rare to hear singing of the calibre Voigt produces here-

    -and because it amuses me that I’ve only ever seen Zschau in two roles and they are Elektra and Musetta (kruno, start your engine)

    • Patrick Mack

      Marilyn Zschau was my first Elektra here in LA with Ealynn Voss as the Crysanthemum and Helga Dernesch as Big Mama. Voss got applause after her opening aria and brought down the house. Ms. Dernesch was a grand showgirl in ruins. Ms. Zschau was titanic. I love every note of that opera.

      I saw Voss later as Turandot in Baltimore and she was extraordinarily convincing in the last act. Then here in LA again as Senta in the Julie Taymor ‘Hollander’. Taymor had her up in a chair at the end of a gangplank that lifted out over the pit and then went up at a 30 degree angle to sing the Ballad. I heard Voss cried during rehearsal. I know I would have.

      • mjmacmtenor

        I was in the chorus when Ealyn Voss made her Turandot debut at Opera Pacific. She had the perfect voice for the role -- strong but not overly heavy, the hi notes sailed out over the orchestra with ease. I later saw her in the Elektra (another perfect role for her) in LA as well as Amelia in Ballo. A great person whose career was cut short by health issues.

    • Krunoslav

      Pairing Elektra and Musetta:

      Anne Roselle
      Christine Goerke

      Don’t know that Anja Silja ever tackled Musetta, but maybe in the 50s? Moser sang the Monologue but don’t know that she did Elektra onstage.

      Did Shuard, Tinsley or Bullock ever do Musetta in earlier years? One would think so… and probably people like Barlow, Daner, Mastilovic as well.

      • armerjacquino

        I wondered about Goerke.

        Bullock struck me as a great call, but this is what the woman herself says: “I’ve always done it the wrong way round,’ she laughs. ‘The first Puccini I ever sang was Butterfly, the first Wagner I ever did was Isolde. I didn’t do Eva, I didn’t do Musetta or Liù: I went straight in at the deep-end.”

        • Goerke’s wikipedia page says yes:
          Opera roles

          Agrippina, Agrippina (Handel)
          Alcina, Alcina (Handel)
          Alice Ford, Falstaff (Verdi)
          Ariadne, Ariadne auf Naxos (Richard Strauss)
          Armida, Rinaldo (Handel)
          Brünnhilde, Die Walküre (Wagner)
          Cassandre, Les Troyens (Berlioz)
          Chrysothemis, Elektra (Richard Strauss)
          Countess Almaviva, Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
          Donna Anna, Don Giovanni (Mozart)
          Donna Elvira, Don Giovanni (Mozart)
          The Dyer’s Wife, Die Frau ohne Schatten (Richard Strauss)
          Elektra Elektra (Richard Strauss)
          Elettra, Idomeneo (Mozart)
          Ellen Orford, Peter Grimes (Benjamin Britten)
          Elisabeth, Tannhäuser (Wagner)
          Female Chorus, The Rape of Lucretia (Benjamin Britten)

          Fiordiligi, Così fan tutte (Mozart)
          Gutrune, Götterdämmerung (Wagner)
          Iphigénie, Iphigénie en Tauride (Gluck)
          Kundry, Parsifal (Wagner)
          Lady Macbeth, Macbeth (Verdi)
          Leonore, Fidelio (Beethoven)
          The Marschallin, Der Rosenkavalier (Richard Strauss)
          Musetta, La Bohème (Puccini)
          Norma, Norma (Bellini)
          Mme. Lidoine, Dialogues des Carmélites (Poulenc)
          Ortrud, Lohengrin (Wagner)
          Rosalinde, Die Fledermaus (Johann Strauss II)
          Sieglinde, Die Walküre (Wagner)
          Senta, Der fliegende Holländer (Wagner)
          Third Norn, Götterdämmerung (Wagner)
          Turandot, Turandot (Puccini)
          Vitellia, La Clemenza di Tito (Mozart)

          • and here’s the review from 2002:
            “Singing her first Musetta, Christine Goerke went far beyond the usual bombshell-with-a-good-heart interpretation. She certainly had all the requisite sexiness, but she was also spontaneous and innocent, qualities all too easily misunderstood by Marcello.”

            • armerjacquino

              Aha, but if we wanted to be super-pedantic we’d say ‘Do concerts count…?’

              (I think they probably count)

          • la vociaccia

            That list is bogus. Goerke never sang Lady Macbeth, Sieglinde, Senta, Marschallin or Cassandre.

            • Porgy Amor

              All but the Marschallin are listed on the diva’s own site under “repertoire.”

              However, so is Minnie, and she commented on her Facebook in response to an inquiry that she hasn’t sung that but it’s on her bucket list. So I don’t know.

            • Bluebeard

              Just because she hasn’t sung it live doesn’t mean she hasn’t learned them. She very well may have covered or planned to sing several of these roles in the past. I’ve heard she’s supposed to do Troyens in the near future in Chicago, so Cassandra may very well be a role in her repertoire. Luca Pisaroni has roles like the Hoffmann villains and Mephistopheles in his repertoire technically, despite having never sung either of those in public. Having a role in your repertoire is different from having it in your active repertoire.

            • la vociaccia

              But we’re not talking about roles she knows (or wants to know). The discussion was “wow she sang Musetta and Elektra” and the list was presented as further evidence. I’m pointing out that while she did indeed sing Musetta onstage, that list is a useless citation because doesn’t pertain strictly to roles she has actually sung.

              I’m aware that a singers’ listed repertoire in their management materias doesn’t have include roles they have performed in full, however in this case -a Wikipedia page that simply says “opera roles” with no qualifiers denoting roles that she has never sung or recorded in public is, again, bogus.

      • Buster

        Eva-Maria Bundschuh sang both roles. In 1983, Charlotte Margiono was her Mimi.

        I actually heard Bundschuh as Elektra. She was in the Willy Decker production when it opened in 1996. Loved her.

      • PCally

        I’m pretty sure behrens also sang mussetta in elektra.

  • Curtain Call Elektra. Met 1994. Gwyneth Jones

    • Thanks for this. Watching the curtain calls of Rysanek and Jones reminds me — the biggest difference between “old school” curtain calls and the modern curtain calls is that modern day singers like Netrebko or Hvorostovsky often wave and smile directly to the audience, and make eye contact with the conductor, someone in the stands, etc. Jones and Rysanek always seem to be looking at some abstract halo in the sky. They act as if they’re in a trance. Their eyes have this blurred, unfocused look, as if they’re simply hypnotized by the applause and the whole world has become “the audience.”

      • I miss the old school curtain calls in front of the gold brocade stage curtain. It was an art form in itself. The gold curtain parts and Scotto comes out slowly and goes directly to both knees with bowed head……They knew how to bow.

        • I never get tired of posting this but watch Fiorenza Cossotto and the way she carries on at L. Price’s farewell. The show starts at 2:25.

          • PCally

            That Cossotto curtain call is priceless!! In her defense, the audience does carry on like she’s the star of the show (which IMO she is).

            • gustave of montreal

              No one cared for McCracken and quite rightly so. Horrible singer.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              For once I agree with Gustav of Montreal regarding the egregiously overrated James McCracken. I always dreaded his name showing up on the weekly “snakes” (ya remember those, Met goers in the late 1960s/early 1970s?). I mean, he made Richard Cassilly the hero of the new (1977) “Tannhäuser,” so ponder that for a while! And going back to a bit of ancient history (like the Met’s opening night, 1972), think of what Marilyn Horne might have done with a Don José on the same wavelength with her and Bernstein!

      • Buster

        The most dramatic and remarkable curtain call I remember was by Maria Ewing, after La voix humaine. She just stood there, on a totally dark stage, then a spot light would go on, and she would bow like a Chinese empress, arms folded, very stiff, without changing the look on her face. She looked incredible, and all the teenagers in the hall went mad, so this was repeated five or six times, with more noise each time.

  • Satisfied

    Couldn’t find a video from her incredible performance at the Lyric (truly worth the trip to Chicago alone), but I was able to find this.

    • steveac10

      I guess I hadn’t noticed, probably because every Pic I’ve seen of her this fall until this week she’s been swaddled in Turandot’s glitter tents, but Goerke really slimmed down over the summer. She looks amazing in the stage shots from Boston.

  • With Christian Thielemann, 11.06.2014

  • PCally

    La Cieca, I saw that Konwitschny staging in Copenhagen and thought it was just incredible, hands down his best staging. I’m usually hot an cold with his productions, but this was the best Elektra I’ve ever seen. Eva Johansson was phenomenal as well, one of my all time favorites in the role.
    As to my favorite video, I adore the Chéreau with Herlitzius and the Kupfer Vienna dvd (Abbado does wonders with the score), but I want to shout out the Martin Kusej production from Zurich. Johansson is possibly the finest Elektra on dvd and the rest of the cast is solid.

  • laddie

    • Buster

      Erna Schlüter was a fabulous Dyer’s Wife too. On the excellent Zillig recording she is joined by her Chrysothemis, Annelies Kupper, as the Empress. Kupper is the only singer I know, with Anne Schwaneilms, to make something unforgettable out of that act three melodrama. I need to get this complete Elektra, thanks a lot for posting it, laddie!

      My clip -- look and listen to Inga Nielsen in great, burning form:

      • PCally

        I LOVE Nielsen here. I feel like nowadays it’s often the Chrysothemis that can steal the whole damn things. Before Rysanek came along it seemed like the part didn’t matter much.
        Did you ever see Nielsen live Buster? My only time was a Salome in Berlin that was just beyond incredible. Devastating actually and the most authentically childlike I’ve ever seen. Hers is one of my favorite recordings of the role. Would that I had seen her as Chrysothemis or the Empress (or in anything Else for that matter.).

        • Buster

          Nielsen was also in that fabulous Decker Elektra with Bundschuh -- never heard a better Chrysothemis. She was then announced as Fidelio, but had to cancel, unfortunately, so this was the only time I have heard her. Would have loved to have heard her Salome. Lucky you.

          • PCally

            Buster, find that recording of Salome. Sublime in every way.

  • gustave of montreal

    Orange Elektra, thank you for this on dull Sunday afternoon. Elektra is the greatest masterpiece of 20th Century opera, superior to everything else that was written since 1909. The confrontation scene between Elektra and Klytämnestra must have been inspired by the Gods.

  • Krunoslav


    • Timur de Morte

      And Gezeichneten! And Malvina di Scozia! And Charles VI!

      • gustave of montreal

        and those great triumphs THE ISLAND GOD and THE LAST SAVAGE ?

  • Troppo Primavera

    Amy Shuard was a great Musetta.She was wild and passionate..more Anna Magnani than the usual soubrette.In those years at Sadlers Wells she also sang with enormous success Eboli,Katya,Marguerite and Butterfly.It’s nice to remember her..a dedicated artist and an extraordinary character.

  • John L

    I got to see the second Elektra concert this past Saturday and everyone seeing the last concert in Carnegie Hall is in for a treat. Symphony Hall was jammed pack, even more so than opening night, and for opera nonetheless (Boston not being an opera town)!

    I don’t have enough good things to say about Christine Goerke. She was firing on all cylinders from the get-go in her opening. She was just as fresh in the end after nearly two hours of nearly continuous singing as she was in the beginning. And she sounded like she could sing another two hours! She has breath support and support that goes on and on and on. In some parts I was laughing, such as the confrontation scene with Klytemnestra, thinking “is this real?”

    She was totally in her element on Saturday. She had no lingering hangover from the Met Turandot I saw a few weeks ago. Though I didn’t think she was bad as Turandot, the high tessitura was not in her comfort zone. I got the sense a number of times she wanted to go full throttle, but had to hold back. Like being afraid to move in an ill-fitting dress. But Strauss and Elektra were clearly in her comfort zone.

    She was also a stage animal, bringing the character to life and bringing quite a degree of physicality and motion to a concert version opera. Maybe if there was one weakness, in the recognition scene with Oreste, she wasn’t as lyrical as I hoped, but that is really picking bones.

    Gun-Brit Barkmin was Chrysothemis, and is probably a singer that you either love or hate. I’m actually sort of in the middle with her because I do appreciate the excitement she brings to roles. She’s one of those singers who doesn’t have much support and can sometimes sound squally. She is quite loud in the middle and upper register, but there is a disconnect with her weak lower register. Even at 44-years of age, with her style of singing, I can’t imagine her singing for many more years.

    Jane Henschel was Klytemnestra. You can tell that she really knows the role inside and out, however there was no rehearsed quality. She played up the character role aspect of Klytemnestra and was quite expressive with the text and diction. But I’ve never thought of Klytemnestra as being just a character role since there is plenty of singing involved. The voice has slightly aged since I last saw her as Herodias in the concert version Salome at Carnegie Hall in 2012. But at 63 years of age she is still going strong.

    Just how Strauss always intends it to be, the men played only a supporting role. James Rutherford, whom I haven’t heard of before, was Oreste and coaxed some beautiful lines Strauss occasionally gives to baritones. Gerhard Siegel was Aegisth who played the small character role well.

    The Boston Symphony Orchestra was in full flight throughout the night. There was no sense of jitters like I got from opening night a few weeks ago. Andris Nelsons really seems to know how to get the most of every player and every section. He is quite demonstrative in his conducting style which might turn off a more traditional audience. But he seems to really communicate and live vicariously with the orchestra and the singers. Christine Goerke seems to really appreciate this aspect of their collaboration on her Twitter page.

    In summary, I have to say it was a real treat having an opera, let alone Elektra, figure so prominently in the BSO season. The other icing is that we got to have Christine Goerke as Elektra first before New York (though I guess it was actually Detroit that beat out Chicago, Boston, and New York)!

    • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

      James Rutherford is a British bass-baritone currently a member of the ensemble at Graz. He was, at age 38, Hans Sachs at Bayreuth in the last two years of Katharina Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger” (and he was spectacular!).

      • everest

        Rutherford sang Kurwenal in Washington two years ago, with Theorin and Storey.

      • Buster

        Rutherford is the Mandryka on the new Arabella recording with Jacquelyn Wagner.

        • PCally

          Buster, is that recording worth a listen? I’ve heard nothing about it.

          • Buster

            It is a live recording from Amsterdam, the very impressive Christof Loy production. I loved it, and Wagner most of all, very close in timbre and weight to her sister, which worked extremly well on stage. Marc Albrecht was great too, all the bits I always thought of as boring really came to life. The duet between Rutherford and Papa, for example, sounded as new to me, such gorgeous music. Margiono is the Adelaide, and Ursula Hesse von den Steinen the fortune-teller.


            Ursula HVDS is in Marta, by the way, the new Wolfgang Mitterer opera. I am planning to see that in Reims -- fabulous singer!


            • PCally

              Eichenholz is Zdenka right? I’ll have to give it a listen. I have to admit that I don’t really find any of the current Arabella recordings really satisfying (I don’t care for the opera all that much) since I find Della Casa a bit overrated and te Kanawa the dullest of the dull.

            • Buster

              Yes, Eichenholz, who was excellent. My best Arabella thus far was Dagmar Schellenberger. I did like Te Kanawa very much too, she never looked stupid on stage, and, in 1994 for Thielemann, could make just that right Arabella sound.

            • PCally

              Buster, I never saw her onstage in that role so I can’t comment as the what she was like. Her singing on the tate recording does nothing for me. My favorite Arabella is Mattila. Her voice was at it’s peak when she added it to her repertoire and dramatically her blend of sensuality and girlish shyness was fascinating. I would very much be interested in seeing Harteros of Schwanewilms in the role as well (I believe Schwanewilms has sung the role in the Loy production).

            • PCally

              Eichenholz is my all time favorite Lulu alongside Christine Schafer but I haven’t seen or heard from her since those performances, which makes me more eager to listen to this recording.

      • Chanterelle

        Rutherford sang Lysiart in EURYANTHE in Frankfurt last spring, very good if not the star of the show.

  • javier

    Elektra is an opera I have not seen live yet. I learned the opera through the Birgit Nilsson studio recording that I think it perfect in every way, but I have come across people who complain about it. It’s really not that odd that someone would Pair Elektra and Musetta.

    An American soprano named Brenda Harris added Elektra to her repertory in the past 3 years and Brenda Harris has sung roles that one doesn’t usually associate with the large voice required for Elektra. For example, Harris has sung Rossini’s Armida, Handel’s Agrippina (like Goerke), Mozart’s Elettra (like Birgit Nilsson…shockingly), Capriccio Countess (like Renee Fleming, who could never hope to sing Elektra), and even Semiramide.

    So it’s actually not strange at all.

  • La Valkyrietta

    I was watching that Orange Elektra and all of a sudden it stopped and the monitor came back to Parterre Box. Awful. It must be my computer. Anyway, I loved Nilsson live, chilling “Agamemnon!!!!!”, but have no anecdotes. Certainly hope to be in New York to see Waltraud, sometime in the spring, I think. Well, will try to get back to the Orange one, I have some Glenlivet Nadurra left.

  • I don’t feel I’ve had much luck with Elektras in the past few years. The last serious thrill I remember was from Polaski, but that was not in her more recent appearances; and she was not as thrilling as Dame Gwyneth, who was unforgettable. But also unforgettable, as Chrysothemis, was Voigt at her best -- in 1991 or 1992 that was, I guess.

    • Which reminds me, I recently recalled on my blog, talking about concert or semi-staged operas, “a white-hot Elektra, in the same theatre [Théâtre des Champs ELysées] in 1984, when Leonie Rysanek, Maureen Forrester and Ute Vinzing went at it hammer and tongs, bawling each other out in evening gowns, big hair and big jewels. That one is (or was) available on CD, by the way – and can be found online”.

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

        I plan to post the Paris “Elektra” at Mixcloud at some point. I am running the risk of turning it into an all-Rysanek-all-the-time site!

        I went out to Zentralfriedhof to visit her today (as I do a few times a year). It was nice to see other autumn wreathes there(I got her a nice, slightly flamboyant one), but also a dozen fresh red roses and some from a few days ago. She did love her red roses!

        • Christian

          So lovely of you, Jungfer Marianne. I once visited Birgit Nilsson’s grave in Västra Karups kyrka and it was such a fantastic moment.

    • armerjacquino

      ‘Not much luck’ would describe my recent ELEKTRA experince too: I spent more than I could afford on a ticket to the 2013 ROH production with Goerke, Pieczonka and Henschel. Then on the night I left the flat without my wallet so I had to turn round and go home.

      • I saw Elektra once at the ROH with Marton under Solti, I think, but found myself sitting next to the trombone section, which was seated on the balcony. Only a curtain separated my right ear from a lot of brassy noise (and Marton was, I should make clear, to my left).

  • I was at this performance. One of the great thrills of my life. I stood. Memory is foggy but I believe we “checked in” to the standing room line at 11 pm the night before. A woman ran the line. It was cold. We had to check back in every so often to keep our place in line. Our check in spot was in the park across the street in front of the Hotel Empire as the Met would not let us line up overnight.

  • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

    I have nothing to post here except a recollection of my first “Elektra.” Just a few facts: the Met, Orchestra Row A to the right of center, Böhm on the podium, and Nilsson, Jean Madeira, and (unfortunately) Hildegard Hillebrecht onstage (Leonie had sung “FroSch” the night before and “Fidelio” two nights before that, although she did jump into the “Elektra” broadcast performance in that series).

    • mjmacmtenor

      I think I heard that broadcast on Sirius a while ago. Jean Madiera is one of my favorite unsung mezzo/contraltos.

  • Batty Masetto

    I am deeply, deeply spoiled when it comes to Elektras. My first live one was Varnay – in magnificent vocal form and doing high kicks during the dance at the end – with none other than Mödl as Klytie and an outclassed Hillebrecht as Chryssie. It was a shock to see Varnay having difficulty walking not that many years later as Begbick in Mahagonny at the Met.

    My second live one, the very same season, was Birgit herself, with Berit Lindholm as Chryssie. I remember a local critic raving something about “two Mycenaean lionesses” and he was pretty well right. I remember Birgit taking a flying tackle after Berit as she ran off, and landing WHAM flat on the ground just in time to pull herself up on one elbow and yell “Sei verflucht!”

    This time it was Klytie who was outclassed, poor Lillian Bengtsen in deep over her head, and she got booed.

  • Christian

    My only live Elektra was Larissa Gogolevskaya. Not a pretty voice but she was totally commited. Chrysothemis was Manuela Uhl, very lyrical & beautiful. But the one who stole the show was Ewa Podles Klytemnestra, very regal and OMG, that voice! Amazing!