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4.7 out of 5 stars
Strauss, Richard: Elektra (DECCA The Originals)
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 12 February 2015
Inge Borkh (Elektra) has an attractive, sumptuous yet fiery, voice with a slightly 'fluttery' quality, and she colours and inflects her fulsome, powerful soprano to convey Elektra's shifting moods in this riveting Carnegie Hall performance. Unfortunately Frances Yeend doesn't fully get chance to convey Chrysothemis, because part of her first scene, and all her second scene, with Elektra are cut, the second scene being where Elektra asks her sister to help her execute revenge for their father Agamemnon being murdered. Blanche Thebom is a properly addled, neurotic Klytaemnestra. Georgio Tozzi is a warm, sympathetic Orest, the Recognition Scene is quite moving. Dimitri Mitropoulos whips up an electrifying, high-octane orchestral performance, with tremendous power and dramatic thrust. As well as the intensity and violence, the many lyrical beauties of the score are conveyed very well.

Sound quality is basically good for a mono live recording of this era, well balanced with plenty of orchestral detail and punch. There is very slight distortion at times. Presentation is spartan with just a track list and a cast list, in which Frances Yeend is mis-spelt 'France Yeend'. Overall an exciting performance with power and impact. Comparing with the Decca studio recording with Birgit Nilsson as Elektra and Sir Georg Solti conducting, Borkh's exciting Elektra though convincing is a close second to Nilsson's, but Nilsson's account is hard to beat. Mitropoulos gets an even more blazing orchestral performance than Solti, but this performance is abridged. Despite its artistic value, this Living Stage release on two CDs is poor value for money because the performance runs about 85 minutes and there are no bonus tracks as a filler. This and a super 1958 Metropolitan Opera Salome also with Borkh and Mitropoulos (please see my other reviews) were issued by Arkadia on three CDs together with about half another Salome.

Disclaimer: Please note this review is for Elektra with Inge Borkh, Carnegie Hall 1958, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Living Stage 2CDs. If it appears with another recording, Amazon's systems have incorrectly linked it.
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on 16 December 2013
A great cast all in fine voice and an orchestra that really brings Strauss to life. Although the evident star is the astonishing Birgit Nilsson, Regina Resnik's portrayal of Klytemnestra is filled with the same passion and begs to be listened to again and again. Srauss may not be for everyone and the subject matter isn't exactly pleasant but, if you do want this musical tale of bloodthirst and revenge brought to life, this must surely be the best recording
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on 8 September 2014
This famous recording of Elektra has held its place in the catalogue, since it was first issued on LP in 1967. The recording in its latest 24 bit re-mastering is sensational. There have been some great singers of the part of Electra recorded, notably Inge Borkh and Astrid Varnay, but none seem to have ever had the sheer ease and power that was possessed by Birgit Nilsson in this taxing role. It is not however just her gleaming top notes and untiring singing that make her such a great interpreter of the part. Often it is her soft singing, her heart breaking opening monologue in which she yearns for her dead father is one of the most moving accounts of this monologue. The anxiety in her scene with Orest in which she asks him not to look at her, as she is now a shadow of her former self, shows how Nilsson could scale down her voice to a delicate whisper for what must be one of the most tender and touching scenes in all opera. I also feel that this recording captures the Nilsson voice as it was in the theatre. She is supported by a brilliant cast. Regina Resnik one of the greatest Klytamnestra's is superb. Marie Collier is a very feminine Chrysothemis. She does however have a fast vibrato that may irritate some, but her voice is so different from Nilsson's that you are never in any doubt who is singing. Tom Krause is a young sounding forthright Orest. Sir Georg Solti and The Vienna Philharmonic play as if their lives depended on it. Solti's interpretation is a far more violent and dynamic reading than say Karl Bohm, but with Decca's sonicstage recording you are drawn into the intense drama that this opera is. I have a number of recordings of Elektra but if I was cast away on that mythical desert island this is the recording I would want to take with me,(but with hopefully the wonderful Inge Borkh recording smuggled in as well) though it may cause some sleepless nights !!!
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on 31 December 2005
I was quite thrilled when I found out about this release. For a personal reason: I studied privately with the second Elektra on this disc, the Dutch Marijke van der Lugt.

I remember her story about this perfomance. She studied Elektra in Germany and her teacher recommended her to go and see the production with Astrid Varnay in Düsseldorf. She went there and was utterly impressed : I'll never ever be able to give a performance like that! Shortly after Varnay fell ill and van der Lugt replaced her with tremendous succes.

The first result of this succes was that she sang about 20 performances of Turandot at the Düsseldorf Opera House in 1964, and then in december started this new production of Elektra. And she was a very interesting Elektra indeed. Strauss and Wager were very much her 'Fach', she sang Brünhilde and Isolde and performed in Londen, Berlin and Vienna. Her voice was exceptionally huge. The booklet says: "Contemporary witnesses still speak enthusiastically of the fullness and carrying power of her voice". The recordings are acceptable. They were made by the conductor Quennet himself who recorded a number of performances as a kind of check.

Quennet is an interesting conductor, not very subtle maybe, but he really knows how to give these performances emotional power. Van der Lugt told me that in her production the scene was almost completely grey, with sudden outburst of coloured light.

Astrid Varnay is of course much better known and most people will buy this disc because of her. And they will not be disappointed...

I was very impressed too by Jean Madeira as Klytamnestra. She has a wonderfull dark and expressive voice.

Recommended for Elektra lovers!
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on 22 November 2014
As one would expect, Birgit Nilsson is well up to the vocal challenges in the role of Elektra, she sings beautifully, with focussed silvery tone, power and stamina. Hers is a well-characterised interpretation too, for example, there's an appropriate 'gloomy' coloration at the start of Elektra's Allein monologue which turns to relentless steely determination, as the damaged Elektra once more obsessively relives the horrendous butchering of her father Agamemnon, her thoughts then turning to revenge. Marie Collier (Chrysothemis) is excellent as the sister longing for a woman's normal life, in despair at her lot. As their mother, Regina Resnik gets into the haunted, addled character of Klytaemnestra. Tom Krause is a noble Orest, Gerhard Stolze a typically distinctive Aegisthus.

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra are excellent. Georg Solti's reading is for the most part outstanding, the score's many lyrical qualities come over in addition to the tremendous doom and violence inherent in the music. Solti conjures up the tormented mental states of the characters living in the poisoned fall-out of Agamemnon's slaying, and gets plenty of orchestral detail and colour. Solti whips up some tremendous swells, surges and climaxes in the orchestra, there is passion and blazing intensity in this performance. However, at times Solti falls a bit short compared to the colour and attack Dimitri Mitropoulos whips up in a live 1958 Carnegie Hall concert (Living Stage - please see my review if interested). Also in Elektra's Allein monologue, where Elektra imagines her father walking in wearing a royal crown of purple fed by the gaping wound in his head, those huge chords could be louder. They are loud, but not loud enough. In my opinion.

Sound quality on this late 1960s Decca stereo studio recording is excellent. Recorded balance favours the orchestra slightly, the singers are perfectly clear. The booklet includes two essays, synopsis, libretto and translation. I briefly quote Alan Blyth's book Opera on CD - 'Solti... conducts a high-voltage performance sustaining tension and excitement throughout... Nilsson gives a truly inspired, unflinching performance of the title role, for which her tireless and incisive tone are ideally suited. At the same time she brings variety of tone and timbre to express Elektra's changing moods.'

I have no hesitation giving this recording a top recommendation for a studio recording. One should also consider blazing live performances, for example the 1958 Carnegie Hall concert mentioned, to give additional perspective on the work.

Disclaimer: Please note this review is for Elektra with Birgit Nilsson, VPO studio recording, Sir Georg Solti, Decca The Originals 2CDs. If it appears with another recording, Amazon's systems have incorrectly linked it.
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on 8 September 2010
This is a landmark recording of one of Richard Strauss's greatest operas with the best artists and orchestra of the day. Birgit Nilsson was the finest singer of Strauss and Wagner of the time; Gerhard Stolze a wonderful actor-singer and the Vienna Philharmonic under Georg Solti was recognised as at the forefront of German Romantic music.
I would recommend to new recruits to Richard Strauss to start with his tone poems before moving onto the operas of Salome, Elektra and Der Rosenkavelier and by then they will be ready for anything he wrote!
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VINE VOICEon 12 May 2009
This classic recording of Strauss' most harmonically-adventurous opera has become the benchmark agaianst which later versions can be measured. Decca assembled an ideal cast: for the two sisters, Nilsson, in her vocal prime as Elektra, obsessed in her quest to avenge the murder of her father Agamemnon, and the Australian soprano Marie Collier (whose career was tragically cut short) as the more vulnerable younger sister who does not share her sister's obsession and merely wishes for a normal life. But both must give way to Regina Resnik's chilling portrayal of the tormented Queen Klytemnestra, assailed by nightmares and dread images. John Culshaw's production of the scene between Elektra and her mother - which has so impressed Amazon reviewers of another issue of this Solti set - is one of the great moments in recorded opera. Once heard, never forgotten. Strauss' men play small parts as compared with their dominant womenfolk, but Tom Krause's Orest has his moment at the emotional high point of the opera, the recognition scene with Elektra, where Nilsson demonstrates her ability to sing softly. Aegith's role is even slighter, as befits his insignificance: the talented character tenor Stoltze has literally seconds to convey this insignificance.

Strauss was fortunate in his librettist Hugo von Hoffmansthal who produced a text that summons up the murky world of Sophocles' ancient Greece, and makes skilful use of irony to develop the characters and move the drama forward to the ultimate act of vengeance. The result is an engrossing experience, enriched by fine soloists and a good supporting cast with many leading singers from the 1960s and 70s, and Georg Solti and the VPO in top form.

A 'must' for any followers of modern opera, which stands next to that other dark jewel in the Decca/Solti/Culshaw crown, 'Salome'.
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on 8 September 2011
To my meaning, this recording cannot be bettered. It captured all main singers at the absolute hight of their powers. Nilsson in unapproachable in the title role, Resnik does not fall into the trap of overacting and Marie Collier is a very sympathetic Chrysotemis. By the way she jumped in for Berit Lindholm who should have sung Elektra's sister, but cancelled as she thought she still had too little experience, having sung the role only a couple of times. The men are imposing too. Solti has every single note and bar in his hand and the playing of the Vienna Philharmonic is overwhelming. So is the sound. First choice!
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on 8 October 2013
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on 2 August 2012
With artists like these it's as good as you would wish and expect. Certainly a satisfying recording, well worth buying.
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