Original Air Date: 02/23/1952
Reiner; Varnay, Wegner, Höngen, Schöffler, Svanholm
MOD Audio SID.19260208
The Met premiere of Elektra was broadcast in 1932 with Gertude Kappel making a memorable appearance in the title role. I have only heard parts of this, but the whole broadcast does survive. The remaining four performances that season had Rossini’s Il Signor Bruschino as a “”curtain raiser””. The 1938 revival with Rose Pauly was not broadcast and was paired with Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (from Trittico) for the first four, and the fifth was with Menotti’s Amelia goes to the ball. The 1952 broadcast featured this week is the first broadcast in 20 years and features Varnay at the ripe age of 34 in the title role. She went on to sing the role all over the world for two decades before moving on to Klytemnestra. Reiner had conducted a groundbreaking Salome in 1949 with Welitsch, and conducted Varnay in the last two Salomes of the 1952 season after this run of 5 Elektras. I can’t think of a singer (all of 34) who did both title roles in the same season. This is available in Met Opera on Demand (MOoD) as well. 2/6/2012 – This is not a premiere on Sirius, but it is not played often enough. Reiner and Varnay are in tremendous form–one of her very best roles, and this revival was the first at the Met in more than a decade. Reiner was a supreme Straussian. He broadcast Salome with Welitsch, this Elektra, and 3 Rosenkavaliers, 2 with Steber (1 with Stevens, 1 with Novotna) and one with Varnay as Marie Therese. The only thing more interesting about that broadcast would have been to SEE her as Marie Therese. Let’s hear it for the unearthing of Varnay’s Rosenkavalier. Until then, enjoy the House of Mycenae from this February 1952 matinee. 3/11/2011 – Reiner is a great Straussian, and Varnay a great Elektra. That’s quite enough for me. The only broadcast Elektra to precede this is 1932 with Gertrude Kappel. Alas, I do not believe this 1952 performance survives. Certainly I’ve never heard it. The reviews are ecstatic. The 1966 performance which features Resnik’s only Met broadcast Klytemnestra I would like to hear again (it hasn’t been on Sirius). Nilsson and Rysanek are well caught 5 years later with Bohm; Madeira is at the very end of her career and not well served. Ute Vinzing (with Christa Ludwig as Klytemnestra) and Penelope Daner (with Rysanek as Klytemnestra), both under Levine have not been on Sirius, and i would especially like to hear the Vinzing performance again. Daner had replaced Behrens for all performances after the premiere of the new production. Two years after the disastrous Behrens premiere (the Times gave a glowing review to her for a performance that I thought would be interrupted at any moment) , Behrens returned in much-restored voice, and that broadcast was captured in a video with Fassbander that is in the Levine 40th DVD box set as well as Sirius broadcasting.

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