Too late, I’m afraid, for a holiday gift, but what looks to be the must-have CD of the season has just become available. It’s a “new” Elektra, — actually a release of a live 1990 performance with the Valhalla-level pairing of Dame Gwyneth Jones and Leonie Rysanek as daughter and mother. (This is of course the same team that La Cieca has raved about incessantly for a decade now, whether in their 1995 Met or 1991 Orange performances.) This Claves release, in what appears to be superb sound, is from a staged performance of the opera at Grand Théâtre, Geneva, 10 March 1990, with Jeffrey Tate conducing the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Thus far La Cieca has had no luck in finding this release her on our shores, but several European websites offer it for mail order. Tantalizing sound snippets of Rysanek and Jones confirm that both divas are in 100% demented form, and the first published English-language review of the release is quite simply a rave:

“Sacred monsters, be praised! Some time ago I gave up hope of ever hearing an Elektra with these singers on disc, having chalked it up as yet another missed opportunity due to the short-sightedness of record companies. But Claves in publishing this Radio Suisse Romande recording of a live performance has arguably achieved better results than any studio recording with this cast might have produced. My reasoning is simple – both Dame Gwyneth and Leonie Rysanek gave of their best when live, feeding like voracious lionesses on the impulse of the moment …. [Dame Gwyneth] gets absolutely to the core of the character and becomes its total embodiment – and in a role such as this vocal beauty to the exclusion of all else would be to the ruin of the work …. I strongly urge you to put any preconceptions aside – this is singing of power (and not just in the decibel sense, that she also was capable of) drive, integrity, logicality and one of the most gripping interpretations I can recall from her. And the voice: I defy you tell me seriously that it’s not in superb shape and absolutely 100% up to the task. The Recognition scene blisters with white-hot intensity from first note to last, but so too does the whole role in this gloriously persuasive assumption. Leonie Rysanek, also heard here as another age-defying soprano – is one of the few who actually sings the fearsome role of Clytemnestra, as opposed to barking it like so many before her.” (Evan Dickerson, Musicweb International)

So, who can hook me up with this recording here in the US?