Here's news about high-definition video recordings of opera, ballet, classical music, plays, fine-art documentaries, and paintings. I call these recordings "HDVDs." In the journal below are independent (and hard-to-find critical) reports on hundreds of HDVDs. Pick the best titles for your excelsisphere.

Apr. 20. For the first time in a long time I'm completely caught up with posting the recently published new HDVDs (that meet our standards). The industry is slowing down as we enter the summer holiday season in Europe. Also, I think the publishers are debating which form factors to focus on: DVD, old-style 2K Blu-ray, the super new 4K Blu-ray, or the super-duper new Ultra Blu-ray with 4K, high dynamic video range (HDR), the expanded color gamut, and various new surround sound systems. Whew--- we have another format war, this time with 4 contenders.

If you have been looking at displays and gear in stores recently, you'll know that we finally have high-definition TV that makes DVD standard-definiton video completely obsolete. But which flavor of Blu-ray will replace it?

At the same time the industry has been slowing down, I've been required by fate to focus on several parts of my life other than fine-arts video. So I've done fewer reviews recently. Hang in there and take advantage of the breathing room to dig deeper into older reviews and special stories. More and better will soon be coming our way.

Hank McFadyen



Sacred Cantatas - Bach & Telemann

Sacred Cantatas - Bach & Telemann concert. Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor) performs sacred cantatas with the Freiburger Barockorchester (which often works with the concertmaster serving also as conductor). Performed at the Alte Oper Frankfurt, 2011. The Cantatas are as follows:

  1. Telemann Overture to St. Matthew Passion; "Der am Ölberg zagende Jesus"
  2. Telemann Overture to Brockes Passion; "Jesus liegt in den letzten Zügen"
  3. Bach "Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis"
  4. Bach "Der Herr denket an uns"
  5. Bach "Ich habe genug"

Directed for TV by Grete Liffers. Released in 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound.  Grade: Help!

Please help us by writing a comment that we can place here as a mini-review of this title.


Beethoven Symphony No. 9

Beethoven Symphony No. 9 concert. Other music in the program is: Beethoven Coriolan Overture, a Jost Fanfare, and the Jost An die Hoffnung. Yutaka Sado conducts the Tonkunster Orchestra & alumni of the European Union Youth Orchestra. Soloists are Camilla Nylund (soprano), Elena Zhidkova (mezzo-soprano), Klaus Florian Vogt (tenor), and René Pape (baritone). Released in 2017, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound.  Grade: Help!

We don't cover pure youth orchestra concerts. But this program, which opened the 10th Grafenegg Festival, appears to be a fully professional event and we also were impressed by the quality of the singing stars.

Please help us by writing a comment that we can place here as a mini-review of this title.


Beethoven Symphonies 6-7

Beethoven Symphonies 6-7 concert. Herbert Blomstedt conducts the Gewandhausorchester. Performed at the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig May 2016 (Symphony 6) and May 2015 (Symphony 7). Ute Feudel was TV director. Produced by Paul Smaczny. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio. Grade: Help!


Brahms Symphonies 1-4

Brahms Symphonies 1-4. In 2016, Thomas Hengelbrock conducts the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester at the Laeiszhalle Hamburg.

Video director was Beatrice Conrad. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade:  Help!

Please write a comment or mini-review about this title.



Moses und Aron

Schönberg Moses und Aron opera to libretto by the composer. Directed 2015 by Romeo Castellucci at the Paris Opera House. Stars Thomas Johannes Mayer (Moses), John Graham-Hall (Aron), Julie Davis (Ein junges Mädchen or Young Girl), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Eine Kranke or An Invalid), Nicky Spence (Ein Junger Mann or A Young Man), Michael Pflumm (der nackte Jüngling or The Naked Youth), Chae Wook Lim (Ein Mann or A Man), Christopher Purves (Ein anderer Mann/Ephraimit or Another Man/Ephraimit), Ralf Lukas (Ein Priester or A Priest), Julie Davies, Maren Favela, Valentina Kutzarova, and Elena Suvorova (Vier Nackte Jungfrauen or Four Naked Virgins), Shin Jae Kim, Olivier Ayault, Jian-Hong Zhao (Drei Älteste or Three Elders), as well as Béatrice Malleret, Isabelle Wnorowska-Pluchart, Marie-Cécile Chevassus, John Bernard, Chae Wook Lim, and Julien Joguet (Sechs Solostimmen or Six Solo Voices). Philippe Jordan conducts (1) the Orchestre et Chœurs de l'Opéra national de Paris and (2) Maîtrise des Hauts-de-Seine or Chœurs d'enfants de  l'Opéra national de Paris (Chorus Master José Luis Basso). Sets, costumes, and lighting by Romeo Castellucci; choreography by Cindy Van Acker; dramaturgy by Christian Longchamp and Piersandra Di Matteo. Directed for TV by Francois-René Martin. Produced by François Duplat and Laurent Métivier. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

This is the first HDVD of Moses und Aron (there are some CDs and two DVDs). This is some of Schönberg's most difficult music, but the score is now 85 years old and no longer sounds particularly strange to modern ears. Castellucci's stupendously abstract production occupies some of the no-man's land located between opera, ballet, and staged oratorio and appears to me to be as aggressively up-to-date as possible. I suspect this title will be considered "important" for years to come. If you have seen this Castellucci show in Paris, Madrid, or on disc, we would be happy to hear from you.

Here are two clips that relate to the performance in Paris. There are other clips on YouTube from the later, but similar, performance in Madrid with a different cast:




Verdi Otello opera to libretto by Arrigo Boito. Directed 2015 by Paco Azorin at the Arena Sferisterio di Macerata, Italy. Stars Stuart Neill (Otello), Jessica Nuccio (Desdemona), Roberto Frontali (Jago), Tamta Tarieli (Emilia), Manuel Pierattelli (Roderigo), Seung Pil Choi (Lodovico), Giacomo Medici (Montano), and Franco Di Girolamo (A Herald). Riccardo Frizza conducts (1) the Fondazione Orchestra Regionale delle Marche, (2) the Coro Lirico Marchigiano "Vincenzo Bellini" (Chorus Master Carlo Morganti), (3)the Zpueri Cantores "D. Zamberletti" (Chorus Master Gian Luca Paolucci), and (4) the Complesso di Palcoscenico Banda "Salvadei." Sets by Paco Azorin; costumes by Ana Garay; lighting by Albert Faura; movement and fight scenes by Carlos Martos; videos by Pedro Chamizo. Directed for TV by Tiziano Mancini. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Please help us by writing a comment or mini-review of this title.



Handel Box Set

Handel Box Set released 2017. Below are the discs. Each of them has already been reported on this website, and you can get more details by using the links provided:

1. Guilio Cesare in Egitto. McVicar. 2005. (Grade: A+)

2. Rinaldo. Carsen. 2011. (Grade: B+)

3. Saul. Kosky. 2016. (Grade: Help!)

This is a fine box with 3 highly-regarded titles. Early indications are the price will be right.


Ballet for Children Box Set

Ballet for Children Box Set released 2017. Below are the discs. Each of them has already been reported on this website, and you can get more details by using the links provided:

1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Wheeldon. 2011. (Grade: A+)

2. The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky.  2010. (Grade: B) [Grade adjusted to A- for this box]

3. Peter and the Wolf. Prokofiev. 2011. (Grade B) [Grade adjusted to A+ for this box]

4. Tales of Beatrix Potter. Ashton. 2010. (Grade: A)

This is one of the best box sets that Opus Arte has offered. For adult viewers, this Nutcracker faces huge competition, but it's probably as good as any for the kids. I marked down the Peter and the Wolf as a warning to adults that it's a short student recital. But it passes the kid test with an A++. So this is a box set with no loser and a big winner for the consumer with children in mind.


Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet ballet. Music by Sergei Prokofiev. Libretto by Leonid Lavrovsky and Sergei Prokofiev. Staged 2015 at the San Francisco Ballet based on choreography by Helgi Thomasson.  Stars Maria Kochetkova (Juliet), David Karapetyan (Romeo), Pascal Molat (Mercutio), Luke Ingham (Tybalt), Joseph Walsh (Benvolio), ___ (Paris), ___ (Lord Capulet), ___  Lady Capulet), ___ (Escalus, Prince of Verona), Wan Ting Zhao (Rosaline), Anita Paciotti (Nurse), ___ (Friar Laurence) ___ Lord Montague), and ___ (Lady Montague). Martin West conducts the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.  Lighting design by Thomas R. Skelton; sets and costumes by Jens-Jocob Worsaae; fight direction by Martino Pistone; directed for film by Thomas Grimm; executive producer Andrew Carl Wilk. Released 2017, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Preliminary information needs confirmation.

Here's a nice clip:


New York City Ballet in Paris

New York City Ballet in Paris show of 4 famous one-act works choreographed by George Balanchine to music of French composers, all performed in 2016 in the Paris Théâtre du Châtelet as part of Les Etés de la Danse (The Summers of Dance Festival). This was shown as a Great Performances broadcast on PBS over two nights in February 2017. Works performed (in PBS order) are:

1. Walpurgisnacht Ballet from the Charles Gounod Faust opera staring Sara Mearns, Adrian Danchig-Waring, and Louren Lovette, first performed as an independent piece by the NYCB in 1980.

2. La Valse, created in 1951 to the famous music of Ravel, staring Sterling Hyltin, Jared Angle, and Amar Ramasar.

3. Sonatine, also to Ravel, a pas de deux originally written for Violette Verdy and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux in 1975 and now performed by Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz with solo pianist Elaine Chelton.

4. Symphony in C, one of Balanchine's greatest works, to a 4-movement score by Georges Bizet of the same name but better known as Le Palais de Cristal. This ballet is performed by more than 50 dancers led by Tiler Peck, Andrew Veyette, Teresa Reichlen, Tyler Angle, Alston Macgill, Anthony Huxley, Brittany Pollack, and Taylor Stanley.

L'Orchestre Prométhée plays under NYCB Resident Conductor Daniel Capps. Produced by François Duplat; directed for TV by Vincent Bataillon. Grade: Help!

Information above is preliminary and has to be confirmed.

Alastair Macaulay, the chief dance critic for the New York Times, wrote on February 15, 2017 praising the filming of this by Vincent Bataillon for "sensitive camerawork, in which the screen alternates, excitingly and musically, between long shots showing the full company and full-length views of leading dancers." Right on Alastair! As we have demonstrated on this website, Bataillon is in a class by himself as the leading ballet videographer in the world. Alas, Alastair also expressed the hope that the TV show will become a DVD!!! Oh, forgive the print critics: they know not what they are missing! And, BTW, it appears this title will be published in Blu-ray format but not as a DVD. (However, there's no suggestion that this will be out in 4K Ultra Blu-ray.) 

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