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Strauss: Elektra [DVD] [2006]

Melanie Diener , Eva Johansson , Felix Breisach    Exempt   DVD
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: £24.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Melanie Diener, Eva Johansson, Marjana Lipovsek, Reinhard Mayr, Cassandra McConnell
  • Directors: Felix Breisach
  • Writers: Hugo von Hofmannsthal
  • Format: AC-3, Classical, Colour, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, DVD-Video, PAL, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: Italian, Spanish, English, French, German
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: TDK
  • DVD Release Date: 30 Oct 2006
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000IY06AW
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 195,525 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Christoph von Dohnanyi conducts the orchestra and choir of the Zurich Opera House in this 2005 performance of Richard Strauss's opera. The production features performances by Eva Johansson, Marjana Lipovsek, Melanie Diener and Rudolph Schasching.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good performance undermined by staging. 8 Oct 2009
By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Blu-ray
R.Strauss: Elektra (Live Recording From The Opernhaus Zurich 2005) [Blu-ray]

Elektra is portrayed as a rebellious teenager in a track suit and bright yellow jacket, Eva Johansson suites this concept of the role perfectly with fine singing and acting, even if a little unremittingly vengeful (still this opera is all about revenge). The other major singers are good but not outstanding.

STAGING IS THE PROBLEM - The stage set is an enormous rectangular space with doors all down each side.

The problem is that a parallel unrelated drama seems to be enacted as a background to what is being sung, Martin Kusej states his concept as "Mycenae is everywhere" whatever that means.

During the preludes the servants enter and change into waitress uniforms resembling ladies of the night, and from then on the chorus and dancers indulge in an intermittent orgy ("Sick but Superb" the booklet reports one reviewers opinion). Incongruously during Elektra's final dance a Brazilian cabaret dance takes place with the dancers in silver spangled and feathered costumes.

I am prepared to go a long way with modern interpretations, the rule being they must be either relevant or extend the scope of the opera. This staging does neither it is just gratuitous semi nudity and titillation.

CONCLUSION - Despite an outstanding performance by Eva Johansson I cannot recommend this production, however if the Elektra of Johansson over rides the staging for you the 1080i Blu ray is fine.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curate's egg 24 Mar 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Ok, brief and to the point.

This is a pretty averagely put together dvd, though the sound is not more than acceptable - and the first scene is not balanced very well as there are so many disparate voices in it. It is adequately edited and directed for the screen, no more.
And the subtitles are really annoying - they break off in mid sentence and leave the rest hanging in the air at very inappropriate moments.

The production itself is silly. Infantile and dated. It reminds me of David Alden at his worst. Give it up - cross dressing and gratuitious bare breasted nymphettes were tired in 1986, let alone now.
The feather-head-dressed showgirls appearing to herald Elektra's triumphal dance at the end made laugh in mockery at the screen. This is not what Strauss intended.

Von Dohnyani conducts well and the cast are adequate to good, except for Eva Johansson in the title role. She, despite being togged up in an extremely unflattering get up, appearing like a disaffected hoodie hanging about in an urban city centre, is astounding.
I bought this dvd for her performance - having seen a clip on youtube - and from that point of view I was not disappointed.
But there is not much else to really recommend it.
For Ms Johnasson it is a 5 star performance.
For the rest it is a 1-2 star outting. I am splitting the difference.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moaning becomes Electra 28 April 2012
By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Blu-ray
I don't know if Electra's age is recorded in Sophocles' account of ancient Greek mythology that forms the basis for the play and the libretto that Hugo von Hofmannsthal wrote for Richard Strauss' one-act opera, but in Martin Kusej's 2005 stage production of Elektra for the Zurich Opera, at the time when she is plotting the death of her mother on Mycenae, Electra is a surly rich-kid teenager in a hooded top, with a shock of punkish blonde hair, who is contemptuous of the world around her and everybody in it, not least of which her parents. So when her sister urges her to grow up and get real, make life easier for herself otherwise her parents are going to ground her, she regards Chrysothemis as nothing more than a sell-out who has forgotten her principles and has bought into the glamour of her rich family's decadent lifestyle.

This Electra evidently has a bit of an attitude problem, but in the circumstances, it's perhaps understandable even without the director's modern interpretative touches. It's this psychological element that is delved into deeply in Hofmannsthal's writing, and it's certainly there also in Strauss's expressionistic and clinical musical language which matches Elektra's traumatic experience in all its disturbing complexity. Despite the fact then that there is not a great deal of action that takes place on the stage, there is evidently then considerable complexity in the characterisation and psychology that represents a challenge for the stage director as much as putting it across in musical terms is a tremendous challenge for the musical director and the performers.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A New Twist on Elektra 9 May 2007
By DDD - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
My first exposure to Elektra was in 1953 with the San Francisco Opera Company; I was lucky enough to see it both in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The cast was truly legendary: Inge Borhk, Margarete Klose, Ludwig Suthaus and Paul Schoeffler. Also making his debut was Solti. I believe Ellen Faull (sp?) was Chrysothemis. I can't say that I knew the opera since it was hardly common currency. And although I was very young I certainly responded to the singing (notably Borkh and Klose) as well as the acting. Borkh had orginally trained as a stage actress and it showed; Klose simply poured out molten tones of liquid gold and was a commanding presence.

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.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally--an Elektra for newcomers! 23 Nov 2006
By Mr John Haueisen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is the best Elektra on DVD; especially good as an introduction to this opera. Here's why:

Elektra is a psychological drama usually difficult for beginners to "get into." This is chiefly because, traditionally, our Elektras have been older, established singers, but this very middleaged look makes it very hard for viewers to identify with the young Elektra who has been imprisoned by her mother and stepfather.

In this production we see Eva Johansson who is a much more age-appropriate Elektra. She has a wonderful voice, strong enough to be heard above Strauss' dynamic orchestral statements, yet soft and expressive when the score calls for it. Additionally, Johansson has here a wild, piercing stage presence--exactly what is called for in a successful Elektra.

The other singers are similarly appropriate. Marjana Lipovsek has done the opera before and makes for an excellent evil, yet guilt-ridden Klytamnestra. Alfred Muff is a more convincing Orestes than many previous. He really seems ready to go "do the deed" to punish mom and stepdad.

At first, I was a little worried by the non-traditional staging. Usually Elektra has been staged in a dungeon or cave-like stage, but this one features many doors, presumably leading to other areas of the palace. The costuming, and occasional partial nudity are also a change from the usual drab, "one-size-fits-all" burlap bags usually associated with productions of this opera. It all works! Finally, we have a good first experience with Elektra!

Other things to look for:

the beautiful, yet electifying "recognition scene," where Elektra's head swims dizzily, as she sees that her prayers are answered: Orestes has returned. This scene is typical Strauss, as Orestes says, "the dogs in the yard recognize me but my own sister doesn't."

Strauss' musical magic is there when Elektra cries out to her dead father about the dogs that "licked your feet and went hunting with you." There is a less-than-three-second musical evocation of dogs whining. This is just typical of Strauss' ability to create musical imagery.

The only criticism I would have is of the subtitle which translates "Scham" as "shame." The proper (and usual) translation is "modesty," and this is critical to Elektra's situation. She is telling Orestes how, in order to survive, she has given up even her modesty, to the point that her own brother could not recognize her.

If you've never seen Elektra before, this is a good introduction. If you're already familiar with it, you'll approve of this production.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eva Johansson is a force of nature 21 Nov 2006
By Richard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I was a little cautious about purchasing this Electra since I had not heard of any of the singers - only Dohnanyi the conductor. But any ambivalence was soon expelled by Eva's total performance as Electra. She is movie-star gorgeous - indeed this is one Electra who does not seem older than her mother. Again and again I was struck by her seeming youth and saying, yes, this is how old Electra is, she is not in her dotage but a vigorous young woman. She throws herself into the part with a vengence. I wouldn't want to meet her on a deserted street. Finally and most important she has a phenomenal voice - piercing the orchestra when needed, soft and beautiful also.I kept thinking here is the counterpart to Matila's Salome. She is aided by a cast that has no real shortcomings. And Dohnanyi in the pit lets the orchestral beast bellow with rage. The only problem is the production. Kusej dresses his actors to emphasize Electra's outcast status - Chysothenis and Klytamnestra wear luxurious dresses, Electra is dressed semi-punk. OK, but at the end during Electra's dance Kusej brings on a troop of Brazilian-like carnival dancers. It is meant to be jarring, but I'm not sure it is successful. My advice is get this DVD for Eva and shut your eyes during the dance if you have to. Anyway by that time you are just hoping poor Electra can die - she certainly can't go on like this and neither can we. I look forward to Johansson's future career. Here is a major singer with seemingly everything going for her.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative, unique staging, and committed portrayals 10 Mar 2007
By Niel Rishoi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
TDK has released a new DVD of an Elektra captured in Zurich

from December 2005. It is a total success.

This opera is one in which a design team can revel. They

can go to the absolute max here in matching Strauss's

tortured music. To my mind, the opera can be made

contemporary to any degree, and ideas to convey its

darkness can be endless. Leonie Rysanek

once stated she did not care for a traditional Classical

Greek setting for the piece, and I agree.

The setting looks to be a combination brothel and insane

asylum, sinister, austere and menacingly closed-in. The

floor has no even footing; it is all precariously un-level,

bumpy and dangerous.

The theme of this production is sex, debauchery and

depravity in its most shockingly unleashed fashion, and

it's exhilarating; no holds barred here, all sacred taboos

are turned loose - to devastating effect. Definitely rated

NC-17. The director, Martin Kusej, does a smashing job of

utilizing the busy production and conversely, playing up

the interpersonal confrontations in a very intimate way. Unlike the other reviewers here, I enjoyed this fresh, original interpretation; it would be easy (but unfair) to label this as Eurotrash. The opera is about trashed values, and its controversial view suits this staging well.

Aiding him in this is the superb cast, and Christoph von

Dohnanyi, the conductor: he brings staggering texture,

drama and tension to the score. The audio is unprecedented

in its clarity, as is the picture. In DVD, opera has found

its perfect "synthetic" medium.

Eva Johannson, a Danish soprano new to me, pulls out all

the stops dramatically and vocally. Looking like a cross

between a young Eva Marton and Karita Mattila, she gives a

searing portrayal. Her energy is positively demonic, a

woman possessed. Dressed in bag-lady-rehab sweat-street

clothes, this Elektra is a visual and audio powerhouse. The

voice is lean, has edge, and is huge. I would not call it

classically beautiful, but Elektra simply cannot be sung by

Janowitz-type voices. This baby's gotta have balls.

Johansson does, in spades. There is at the outset a little

trouble with the mittelage, but grows in strength by

leagues as the evening goes on; the "was bluten muss" is

shattering, and it pleasantly stings the ear. The high C is

nailed like few others have done. The tone cuts, is steady,

and she sings with tireless, unstinting abandon. What a joy

it is to hear such an absence of strain, no wobble, no

screeching. Johansson is particularly good at the baleful

expression, whose looks can really zing those darts, but

the "Orest!" is shimmeringly lyrical and reposed. Johansson

carries on the illustrious Varnay-Nilsson-Jones lineage

magnificently. Anyone who can command this role without

self-combusting earns my highest respect; after Jones

retired, it seemed unlikely that this generation could

produce such a worthy successor, but Johansson may well be

the Elektra of this time.

Melanie Diener's shining Chrysothemis matches Johansson all

the way, singing with refulgent, unforced tone. Marjana

Lipovsek's Klytamnestra, a puffy, over-made-up near-drag

queen is worthy of the best of them.

The ending is a surprise, not the usual, and it works; I'll

leave it for you to find out, or I can spoil it for you

privately. Let's just say Elektra proves to be stronger

stuff than you might expect (and if she can stand what

she's had to face in the past...that which does not kill

you only makes you stronger).

The rest of the parts are up to the high level elsewhere.

No need to elaborate further, as this triumphant production

does Strauss-Hoffmansthal proud.

Best of all, this release renews for me the genius of this

evocative, colorful score - the language of music doing

what spoken word could not possibly match.

If you love Elektra, and need an extra dose of depravity to

match a mood you may be in, this will do the job

beautifully. You won't find a better depiction of

"tormented souls."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moaning becomes Electra 28 April 2012
By Keris Nine - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
I don't know if Electra's age is recorded in Sophocles' account of ancient Greek mythology that forms the basis for the play and the libretto that Hugo von Hofmannsthal wrote for Richard Strauss' one-act opera, but in Martin Kusej's 2005 stage production of Elektra for the Zurich Opera, at the time when she is plotting the death of her mother on Mycenae, Electra is a surly rich-kid teenager in a hooded top, with a shock of punkish blonde hair, who is contemptuous of the world around her and everybody in it, not least of which her parents. So when her sister urges her to grow up and get real, make life easier for herself otherwise her parents are going to ground her, she regards Chrysothemis as nothing more than a sell-out who has forgotten her principles and has bought into the glamour of her rich family's decadent lifestyle.

This Electra evidently has a bit of an attitude problem, but in the circumstances, it's perhaps understandable even without the director's modern interpretative touches. It's this psychological element that is delved into deeply in Hofmannsthal's writing, and it's certainly there also in Strauss's expressionistic and clinical musical language which matches Elektra's traumatic experience in all its disturbing complexity. Despite the fact then that there is not a great deal of action that takes place on the stage, there is evidently then considerable complexity in the characterisation and psychology that represents a challenge for the stage director as much as putting it across in musical terms is a tremendous challenge for the musical director and the performers. There are certainly layers of sociological and psychological relevance that can be teased out of the work and should be explored without compromising the integrity of the piece as a mythological subject.

At the very least then, the staging of the dark cavern with mounds of dust, with doors connecting this dark underbelly to seemingly every part of the house, is visually striking but it also seems to capture the expressionistic tone of the music and the dark undercurrents that can be read in the libretto. The performances work well in conjunction with the production, hitting all the dramatic and confrontational high points with requisite force and intensity, building in pitch towards that powerful conclusion that releases the ecstasy and the disillusionment in a frenzied dance of joy and death. Whether the inclusion of Brazilian Mardi Gras dancers at that stage at that point is appropriate or not is another matter however, but it fits with the stage invasions that occur throughout, showing perhaps that the pathology is more widespread than the confines of Electra's mind and the cavern.

All the main roles are exceptionally well sung - Eva Johansson as Elektra, Marjana Lipovsek as Clytemnestra, Melanie Diener as Chrysothemis and Alfred Muff as Orestes. Rather than consider them in terms of individual qualities, it would be better to note that they constitute a relatively strong cast who work well with each other and match the tone of the production and the score. The sound recording or mixing doesn't always allow them to be fully audible over the orchestra playing, but certainly by the latter half and the conclusion, the full force of the work singing and the orchestration is evident. The new Arthaus release would seem to be a direct port of the previously released TDK edition (the disc itself retains the TDK labelling and artwork on my copy), with PCM Stereo and DTS HD-MA 7.1 audio options. On a BD25 disc, the 1080i full-HD image quality is excellent. The disc is All Region and subtitles are available in English, German, French, Spanish and Italian. There are no extra features other than a booklet with an essay and synopsis.
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