STRAUSS: Elektra
Evelyn Herlitzios (Elektra). Anne Schwanewilms (Chrysothemis). Waltraud Meier (Klytämnestra). René Pape (Orest). Frnk Van Aker (Aegisth). Dresden State Opera/Christian Thielemann, cond.
DECCA 479 3387 (2 disks) TT: 51:51 / 52:24
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RUBINSTEIN: The Deamon
Alexander Polyakov (Deamon). Nina Lebedeva (Tamara). Evgeny Vladimirov (Gudal). Alexey Usmanov ((Sinodal). Nina Gregorieva (Nanny). Nina Derbina (Angel). Yuri Elnikov (Messenger). Chorus and Orchestra of the USSR All=Radio Union/ Boris Khaikin, cond.
MELODIYA 10 02102 (2 disks) TT: 68:36 & 79:15
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This Elektra was recorded live during a performance in Berlin's Philharmonie January. 20 of this year. It has much to offer but surely does not challenge the great recordings of Strauss's masterpiece. Evelyn Herlitzios has been singing the role for sometime now, and she is in admirable form in the live recording with the Netherlands opera conducted by Marc Albrecht which has been issued on SACD (REVIEW). She is better vocally in this new version, but her voice sometimes is unsteady and she lacks the sheer vocal power the role demands. Herlitzios has another DVD shortly to be issued, with the Paris Opera conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen — the video clip currently on ArkivMusic does not impress. Anne Schwanewilms is a powerful Crysothemis, Waltraud Meier outstanding as the doomed Klytämnestra although for whatever reason, we do not hear her laughing when she learns of Orest's supposed death. . René Pape's Orest is a luxury, and the orchestra plays very well indeed. This is Christian Thielamn's second recording of Elektra; the first, a video, featured Linda Watson in the title role, rather unenthusiastically covered on this site (REVIEW). The conductor's direction is remarkably detailed, but there is little sweep to the performance, and the final pages don't amount to much. These performances surely cannot match the grandeur of the incredible 1965 Vienna State Opera performance with Böhm on the podium along with Birgit Nilsson, Leonie Rysanek and Regina Resnik (REVIEW). And check out our feature on all recordings of this opera (FEATURE).

Anton Rubinstein (1828-1894) was one of the great pianists of his era and founded he St. Petersburg Conservatory. He taught composition to Tchaikovsky and composed prolifically: 20 operas, 6 symphonies, and 5 piano concertos, most of which are forgotten today except for the Piano Concerto No. 4 and the work he is known universally for, the 3-minute piano solo Melody in F. The Demon was one of the composer's later works, an opera in three acts and six scenes composed in 1871, based on a poem by Mikhail Lermontov. The beautiful maiden Tamara is to marry Prince Sinodal, but the Demon falls in love with her and arranges for the death of the Prince. When Tamara discovers this, she enters a convent where the Demon still tries to win her. Confused, she falls dead after seeing the ghost of the Prince, and in the final scene an Angel proclaims Tamara has been redeemed by her suffering, she is forgiven as the Demon is damned to eternal solitude—and Tamara's soul, accompanied by angels, is carried to heaven (sound familiar?—Gounod's Faust was premiered in 1859) .Aside from some delightful ballet music, little of Rubinstein's vocal writing is low on cacacterization . Mussorgsky , Rimsky-Korsakov and Cuí . were not impressed with it, but critics were kind and The Demon enjoyed considerable success for a time—but soon its popularity diminished and performances, when ever, are mostly in Russsia. There hove been several recordings of the opera, all somewhat different, and probably the finest is this 1974 Melodiya version here remastered and sounding very good for its time. The performance seems authentic indeed, and complete track listings are provided along with a rther sketchy synopsis. If you are interested in this opera you might investigate the Naxos recording of a 1994 performance at the Wexford Festival, and you also can see excerpts from the opera on YouTube including a live performance.

R.E.B. (August 2014).