“It's a change to see a production of Strauss's and Hofmannsthal's psychotic masterwork that's not weighted with greater German gloom, louring Second World War-derived imagery and cakes of lurid make-up. Martin Kušej directs people well, and since Elektra is largely an opera of dialogues, his work (all closely derived from the text) demands attention.
Eva Johansson's Elektra is a hooded tomboy with definite Asbo leanings; she has to be on full throttle for this role but both Dohnányi's orchestra and TDK's engineers are kind to her.
Melanie Diener, a consummate singing actress, locates the hard, hard role of Chrysothemis somewhere between Victoria Beckham and Brechtian alienation: every entry, every new event is as surprising to her as a goldfish going round its bowl.
Marjana Lipovšek presents their mother as a complex of confused identities, eschewing both in voice and acting any melodramatic harridan tendencies. As their brother, Alfred Muff survives a dreadful first 'disguise' wig to present a revenger of quiet, un-neurotic determination.
Equally original is Rudolf Schasching's lecherous groper of an Aegisthus, convincingly deceived when Elektra plays up to his libido.
The action takes places in a dangerously uneven, hillock-strewn courtyard, reached by many doors. There is much cavorting by the smaller roles: the maids (and one token transvestite) dress up as…maids (French) for Aegisthus' pleasure, while action or tension in the palace (Strauss's 'interludes') is illustrated by door-to-door crosses by a large troupe of actors in various states of ecstasy, undress, axecarrying, etc. They've not been terribly well directed and the effect only really works when the (false) news of Orestes' death sets off Klytemnestra's laugh. At the end, when revenge is done, the girl extras perform a dance in Las Vegas-style frillies – weird, but suitably unnerving.
Dohnányi's old master's approach to the score goes for a long pay-off rather than whipping up the tension from the word go, employing a wide range of tempi and dynamics and stressing the modernity of the score. Both the Vienna staging of Harry Kupfer (with Claudio Abbado) and the studio film of Götz Friedrich (with Karl Böhm and a veteran stellar cast) remain indispensable.
But, for an alternative vision allied to a close, human reading of the text, the new performance, while not quite the sum of its parts, makes for intelligent viewing.”