Richard Strauss's operatic adaptation of the Greek tragedy Oresteia is preserved in this video recording of a February 16, 1980 performance as staged by New York's Metropolitan Opera Company. Birgit Nilsson stars as Elektra, who after the death of her father sets out to kill the wife and mistress whom she believes caused his death. Elektra also features Leonie Rysanek, Robert Nagy, and Mignon Dunn; James Levine conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Elektra, Op. 58, is a one-act opera by Richard Strauss, to a German-language libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, which he adapted from his 1903 drama Elektra. The opera was the first of many collaborations between Strauss and Hofmannsthal. It was first performed at the Dresden State Opera on January 25, 1909. Elektra is a difficult work and is musically complex. A performance requires musicians with great stamina. The role of Elektra in particular is one of the most demanding in the dramatic soprano repertoire. The result is a very modern, expressionistic retelling of the ancient Greek myth. Compared to Sophocles's Electra, the opera presents raw, brutal, violent, and bloodthirsty horror.
October 21, 2012 marks Sir Georg Soltis centenary and Decca is celebrating this with several important reissues.
Sir Georg was an exclusive Decca artist for 50 years. In 1947 he signed his first contract with Decca - as a pianist and that same year he made his first record as a conductor (with the Zurich Tonhalle in Beethovens Egmont Overture). His last public concerts took place just a few weeks before his death in 1997 and were with the Zurich Tonhalle.
Götz Friedrich’s 1981 Elektra film sets Richard Strauss’ opera in a dark and dingy abandoned 20th-century factory populated by grungy denizens in psuedo-Greek garb. Elektra herself appears like some deranged homeless woman reeking with sweat and slime (in the rain). And the depravity doesn’t stop there. Friedrich plays up the work’s sado-masochistic elements, with bloody whippings and an orgy sequence involving nude lesbians bathing themselves in the blood of a sacrificial ram. Now you might think that all of this detracts from the score, but on the contrary, the production matches image to music so brilliantly that anyone seeing this opera for the first time would think they were created for each other (which allows you to ignore the occasional useless, almost silly gesture, such as the frequent and prolonged shots of Agamemnon’s bloodied visage during Elektra’s opening monologue).
The other major orchestral release here features the Richard Strauss recordings conducted for Sony Classical by Zubin Mehta.