There are two Elektras that I class as “must have’s” for entirely different reasons.
Elektra - A filmed performance
The first version is the historical one done with Birgit Nilsson at the Metropolitan in 1980. The background to this filmed performance – Birgit a long-time favourite of New York audiences had not been treading the NY boards for some time due to an argument with the American taxation department who claimed there were monies owed to them.
When Birgit visited and sang at a Met Gala in the late 80’s they couldn’t believe how great her vocal estate still was, and many offers were made to entice her back. It was only after the argument was settled with the IRS by a wealthy fan that this production of Elektra was scheduled for 1980 when Birgit was 62.
After the first performance, Maestro Levine realised these performances were historic and so he hastily arranged for the last performance to be filmed several days later– no mean feat to organise in those days. Leonie Rysanek was ill and running a high fever but determined to perform alongside her friend regardless. She pulls it off so well you would never know.
Wonderful NZ bass Donald McIntyre is Oreste – and does a fine job vocally – shame about the costume which borders on the comic!
The result is one of the most compelling performances of a great artist you will ever see. It is a must for fans of Birgit and it contains something very rare…at the end of the performance after the bows you can switch into the special features section on the DVD and see the complete curtain calls from two perspectives- front of house and behind the curtain. It not only enhances the experience of the performance enormously- it allows the viewer to actually see la Birgit “coming down” from being caught in the dramatic Elektra persona to regaining her almost girlish, funny self, that endeared her to colleagues and fans alike. To see her like that is a treat!
This performance is the one that the Elektra poster on this website is dedicated to.
With Hildegard Behrens, Deborah Voigt and Brigitte Fassbaender with James King.
This is another performance that is an absolute must in any opera lover’s collection. It is powerful and with Hildegard Behrens giving one of the performances of her life it is spinetinglingly wonderful…everything works!
I’m not going to rave on about it other than to say dramatically speaking it is one of the greatest productions of Elektra you will ever see - and with James Levine in the pit and the incomparable Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at their usual best, this one is definitely one to have with you on that desert island.