Yesterday I attended a performance of Richard Strauss's Elektra at the Bavarian State Opera. Peter Schneider conducted well, as usual, and the orchestra seemed very much together. Herbert Wernicke's production was uninspired. It involved a huge black square door that would open to various degrees, but on a diagonal. They also utilized one of the boxes on the left, which must have been dreadfully obscured if one was on the left as well. The costumes were silly, the women wore shifts and the men modern suits. The lead, Gabriele Schnaut, perspired through her costume throughout. Very charming.
The choreography seemed non-existent. Schnaut looked uncomfortable even when she was not moving at all, and when they had her dance around with an axe, it was not pleasing to the eye. Jane Henschel, as Clytamnestra, was given a huge velvet curtain to use as a mantel. Her movements down the staircase revealed when the giant door swung its widest, were awkward. Her subsequent displays of the mantel were also absurd.
The singing wasn't too bad, Schnaut was much better in this than as Brünnhilde last season, as the part is much less demanding. Inga Nielsen had the perfect voice for Chrysothemis: sweet, thin, and bird-like. Her final "Orest, Orest" was haunting. Alan Held (Orestes) had a noble, strong voice, his duet with Schnaut was one of the best parts of the evening. Henschel's voice seemed dark and rich, I would like to hear her in a bigger part.
The music was not to my taste. At times, R. Strauss seems to make everything very loud in order to disguise how bad his music is. Though the opera is not even two hours long, it melodramatically clunks along. To his credit, there were moments that were quite beautiful as well. That Strauss! A first-rate second-rate composer, indeed. Toscanini said of him, "To Strauss the musician I take off my hat; to Strauss the man I put it on again." I just giggle.