It is not an opera I have returned to often on disc in recent years, nor really reviewed much in the opera house, at least in the UK, over the past decade. I did this year revisit Christian Thielemann's Covent Garden Elektra on a private recording - a live performance I had reviewed. It still strikes me as magnificent, and it brought into focus another Covent Garden Elektra I had once been enthusiastic about but I have since cooled towards.
I think it's very common to review a disc and then change one's mind about it years later (I've also done this with Boulez's VPO Bruckner 8). Ralph mentions we disagree about Carlos Kleiber's Elektra. In fact, we probably today find ourselves in agreement about it.
There's a back story to this Elektra which isn't widely known. Kleiber specifically said he would only conduct it at Covent Garden if Nilsson was his Elektra - a singer he had hitherto not worked with, but had heard sing. However, after the first rehearsal, he seems to have changed his mind about her. His threatened to withdraw from conducting the performances until it was pointed out he had asked for her. I don't think Nilsson was really comfortable with Kleiber (and vice versa) - and it does show. But go to an even later Elektra with Nilsson and James Levine and she is vocally much more powerful and convincing, though I tend to agree her best performances tended to have been behind her.
The Sinopoli still does much for me (though I think his Salome might be an even better Strauss recording). Solti has always been - and I think always will be - a significant blindspot for me. Like Szell, I just find his conducting to be so hard-edged it ends up lacking definition and imagination. I've tried and tried with Solti but I simply don't see (or hear) what others do. I think he often chose his singers to reflect his rather brutalist style of conducting, too - perhaps why you rarely find a studio recording of Nilsson that reflects the true sound of her voice.
I hope Ralph will soon turn to Salome - which I also covered back in 2001.
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