Strauss: Elektra - Nilsson, Varnay, Bjoner, Uhl, Nimsgern; Sawallisch. München, 1977


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This recording of Elektra features a triumvirate of great, yet varied, leading ladies. In 1977, Birgit Nilsson was nearing the end of her career. If some of the more delicate passages lack the finesse of her early years, she more than makes up for it with thrilling, tireless singing and a burnished quality that her voice acquired with age. She also invests herself in this role in a way that I have not seen or heard from her. No doubt she must have been inspired standing next to the great Astrid Varnay as Klytämnestra. Even though there is some wear and tear present in Varnay’s oversized soprano, her most interesting work came during her “character role” years and this performance is no exception. Some might find her Klytämnestra a little over the top and they may be right, but she still brings a pathetic frailty to this aging queen that almost makes you sympathize with her. Ingrid Bjoner’s Chrysothemis is a perfect blend of winsome innocence and budding sensuality. Siegmund Nimsgern delivers a beautifully sung Orest. Wolfgang Sawallisch brings surprising order to the cacophony without sacrificing the primal quality of the score. The sound is very good and I was able to pick out new details in the score that had hitherto eluded me.

Birgit Nilsson and Ingrid Bjoner sing arias from Ariadne auf Naxos, Daphne and Die Frau ohne Schatten

OD 11089-2