Richard Strauss' 'Elektra', back in Naples,
impresses GIUSEPPE PENNISI
In popular opinion, San Carlo Theatre in Naples is one of the cradles of Italian opera with programs entirely geared to Italian comic operas and melodramas. Yet one of the most accurate Italian musicologists, the late Giorgio Gualerzi, demonstrated that San Carlo Theatre is where Richard Strauss' operas are most frequently performed in Italy. On 9 April 2017, I was sitting in a side box to listen to and see Elektra, not a new production but a revival of a much acclaimed 2003 staging which in that year was awarded the Premio Abbiati — the Oscar Prize for Opera awarded by the Italian National Association of Music Critics. I remember I saw the production in December 2003 and I was thoroughly enthralled by it.
The special feature of the 2003 production was the full fusion between the drama (or rather the tragedy) and the music. The stage director was Klaus-Michael Grüber, who died in 2008. The stage set was by Anselm Kiefer who is not a stage setting professional but a sculptor and a painter — among the best known in Germany. Kiefer had been convinced by Grüber to join forces with him in this undertaking. In the revival, Ellen Hammer, Grüber's long-term assistant, revamped the production with utmost care to be as faithful as possible to the 2003 original. The musical cast has, of course, entirely changed over the last thirteen years. Then, the conductor was Gabriele Ferro.