Above: Christine Goerke in Elektra Credit: Vienna State Opera/EBU
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Vienna State Opera, one of the most influential and historically important opera houses in the world, brings two excellent performances to US airwaves: Offenbach’s final opera Tales of Hoffmann, and Strauss’ emotionally charged work Elektra. In Tales of Hoffmann, tenor Dmitry Korchak—one of the most exciting and sought-after voices of his generation and regarded as one of today’s best performers of bel canto repertoire—stars in the title role alongside soprano Olga Peretyatko and mezzo-soprano Gaëlle Arquez.
Next is the gripping and violent Elektra by Richard Strauss—in one act, the opera explores the psychology of obsession and revenge through Sophocles’ Greek myth of the same name, based on a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. This production features the inimitable Christine Goerke as Elektra, with soprano Waltraud Meier as Klytaemnestra, Simone Schneider as Chrysothemis, tenor Norbert Ernst as Aegisth, and the role of Orest sung by Michael Volle.
The Vienna Opera House is a marvel, with a deep history that touches the very core of Austrian and European classical music. The structure of the opera house was planned by the Viennese architect August Sicard von Sicardsburg, while the inside was designed by interior decorator Eduard van der Nüll. It was also impacted by other major artists such as Moritz von Schwind, who painted the frescoes in the foyer, and the famous “Zauberflöten” (“Magic Flute”) series of frescoes on the veranda. Neither of the architects survived to see the opening of ‘their’ opera house: the sensitive van der Nüll committed suicide, and his friend Sicardsburg died of a stroke soon afterwards.
On May 25, 1869, the opera house solemnly opened with Mozart’s DON JUAN in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth. The popularity of the building grew under the artistic influence of the first directors: Franz von Dingelstedt, Johann Herbeck, Franz Jauner, and Wilhelm Jahn. The Vienna opera experienced its first high point under the direction of Gustav Mahler. He completely transformed the outdated performance system, increased the precision and timing of the performances, and also utilized the experience of other noteworthy artists, such as Alfred Roller, for the formation of new stage aesthetics.
This opera is brought to you through the European Broadcasting Union, by way of the Austrian radio organization Österreichischer Rundfunk.
This program is a part of the WFMT Radio Network Opera Series, a series designed to complement the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts to fill out the year with great Opera content. The series begins in May and lasts until November.