Salzburg Festival 2020 Preview: Franz Welser-Möst & Krzysztof Warlikowski Discuss ‘Elektra’

By Dejan Vukosavljevic
(Credit: Anne Zeuner / Salzburg Festival)

Strauss’ operaElektra will open this year’s Festival in Salzburg, in quite unique circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conductor Franz Welser-Möst and stage director Krzysztof Warlikowski discussed their views of the production in a recent press release from the Salzburg Festival.

“The danger of becoming inebriated with the opulence of sound and losing control is particularly great for a conductor in Richard Strauss’ music,” said conductor Franz Welser-Möst after the general orchestra rehearsal for “Elektra.” “It takes great discipline,” he added, “to grasp the composer’s genius when it came to orchestration. The score demands everything from a triple piano to a triple forte, and the rapid changes are quite challenging.”

Regarding the collaboration with soprano Aušrinė Stundytė, who is singing the role of Elektra, Welser-Möst described the collaboration as felicitous.

“Aušrinė is not a steely-voiced Elektra, which is so often the case. She is a fragile, child-like, vulnerable Elektra, a complex figure instead of a harpy,” he said, describing her as a highly intelligent singer whose every fiber goes into embodying the role. “She has astounded me every day, bringing out facets in the score which I would not have dared to hope for.”

In Warlikowski’s production, his ambition is to introduce the figures not only when they enter the stage, but to prepare their entries. Strauss and Hofmannsthal assumed that the viewer would be familiar with Greek mythology and the family constellations of the House of Atreus. Warlikowski has added a prologue to the opera recounting the back story. However, he added, it will not do any harm to refresh one’s knowledge of Greek mythology in order to understand the deep need for revenge portrayed in the opera.

“I owe the discovery of how monolithic Elektra’s feelings are to Franz Welser-Möst,” explained Warlikowski. “Unlike Elektra, Chrysothemis is more alive and present. The sisters’ mother, Clytemnestra, seems very close to death. Both she and Elektra are victims, but Elektra is also a perpetrator,” further noted Warlikowski.

The end? The children’s goal is achieved, revenge has been exacted. However, it also comes with death. When Orestes has almost descended into a state of madness and is declared innocent toward the end of the piece, that puts an end to revenge, the director explained.

The cast for the opera includes Aušrinė Stundytė in the title role, Tanja Ariane Baumgartner in the role of Klytämnestra, Asmik Grigorian as Chrysothemis, Michael Laurenz as Aegisth, and Derek Welton in the role of Orest. The cast is rounded out by Tilmann Rönnebeck, Verity Wingate, Valeriia Savinskaia, Matthäus Schmidlechner, Jens Larsen, Sonja Šarić, Bonita Hyman, Katie Coventry, Deniz Uzun, Sinéad Campbell-Wallace, and Natalia Tanasii.

The opening night of “Elektra” is set for August 1, at 5:00 p.m. CET, with additional performances on August 6, 10, 16, 21 & 24.