For the performances of Elektra at the 2010 Baden-Baden festival the Powers that Be chose to revive Herbert Wernicke’s 1997 Munich production with Bettina Göschl directing. The production concept seems to have been inspired by classical Greek drama. Sets and costumes are very simple, even austere, and the singers often address the audience directly. On stage this probably worked quite well as the overall effects are visually striking and the relative lack of interaction between the characters is perhaps appropriate for a work that is so much about alienation.
On video it’s not so effective. Video director Andreas Morell is quite conventional in his direction and intersperses brief setting shots with lots and lots of close ups. The trouble is there is nothing much happening in the close ups and we get the worst of both worlds. We miss out on Wernicke’s carefully composed stage and get focussed on some rather bland acting performances. There are also some slightly off choices in the production. Elektra, for example, carries an axe throughout. Not, it must be said, something ceremonial but the sort of axe one buys at Canadian Tire for chopping wood. It’s rather odd. Also, in a lot of places stage directions are just ignored to no obvious purpose.
The singing isn’t bad. All the principals are serviceable but none really stand out except perhaps Manuela Uhl’s lyrical and intense Chrysothemis. Jane Henschel is also pretty decent as a Klytemnestra more evil than frightened. Linda Watson’s portrayal of the title is rather unexciting both vocally and dramatically and neither of the men has much spark. The musical highlights come from the Munich Philharmonic who sound wonderfully clear and lyrical under the baton of Christian Thielemann.
Technically this is a perfectly decent Blu-ray release. The picture is 1080i from HD stock and the surround sound is only just short of the best out there. There’s a decent “making of” feature as a bonus. It’s especially interesting to watch Thielemann rehearsing the orchestra. Documentation is standard and subtitle options are German, English, French and Spanish.
Bottom line, there are much better video recordings of Elektra available. The 2010 Salzburg recording is a good choice and for the more historically minded Gõtz Friedrich’s film version is quite fascinating, if technically not in the same class.