One Saturday afternoon during my freshman year in college, Richard Strauss’s Elektra made me fall in love with Ursula Schröder-Feinen—or maybe vice versa. Today’s “Trove Thursday” celebrates both via a recording of a thrilling performance from a few years earlier conducted by Lorin Maazel.
Armed with a specially bought 2400’ tape from Radio Shack which provided me two uninterrupted hours of recording time, the reel-to-reel recorder in my dorm room was primed for the January 10, 1976 broadcast. Ariadne auf Naxos was already one of my favorite operas but I didn’t yet know Elektra.
I did know that Birgit Nilsson was AWOL the entire ‘75-‘76 season and a German soprano I had never heard nor barely heard of would that day be singing her first Met performance of this grueling opera. By its end, I would be an awestruck fan of both Strauss’s brutally beautiful work and the marvelous Schröder-Feinen.
Sadly, within a couple years, her career would be over and she would die in 2005 at age 68. She left no studio recordings of her demanding roles, but I eventually discovered live souvenirs of her Ortrud, Leonore, Salome, Isolde, Sieglinde, Siegfried Brünnhilde, and Färbarin, among others. But Elektra remains her signature part and this performance with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall is one of the earliest documents of that celebrated portrayal.
The Chrysothemis and Klytämnestra of that Met broadcast, Roberta Knie and Astrid Varnay, join her in this version, which also includes the deluxe Orest and Aegisth of José van Dam and Kenneth Riegel.
R. Strauss: Elektra
Severence Hall, 1973
Conductor: Lorin Maazel
Elektra: Ursula Schroeder-Feinen
Chrysothemis: Roberta Knie
Klytemnestra: Astrid Varnay
1st Maid: Elaine Bonazzi
2nd Maid/Confidante: Sofia Stefan
3rd Maid/Trainbearer: Ellen Davis
4th Maid: Pamela Hebert
5th Maid: Annette Parker
Overseer: Margaret Hauptmann
Orest: Jose van Dam
Aegisth: Kenneth Riegel
Young Servant: Gerard English
Old Servant: Simon Estes
Tonight Christine Goerke brings her acclaimed Elektra to Symphony Hall for the first of three concerts with the Boston Symphony and Andris Nelsons, the third of which will take place in Carnegie Hall on October 21.