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.

Jan. 18. This odd symbol is called an "interrobang." It's the mating of a question mark with an exclamation point.  I'm adding this now to the Alphalist to warns you that a title is extremely unusual in some way. My favorite interrobang title is the opera Experimentum Mundi which means "experience your world." Not many people know about it. So in honor of our new symbol, I moved Experimentum Mundi to the top of the Journal.

I recently posted a story about Joss Whedon's famous Much Ado about Nothing movie, a short report on La Voix Humaine, one of the smallest operas in the repertory, and a full report on the new ballet Mata Hari by the Dutch Ballet. I also just posted an exciting report from Wonk Bryan Balmer on the A-grade Ein Deutsches Requiem performed by the Cleveland Orchestra in Austria at the Stiftsbasilika. I think this the first time we have been able to give an A to an HDVD of a full-symphony and large-chorus. Maybe the age of DVDitis is starting to wane.

2017 will be an important year for us because 4K is here. My report near the top of the Journal explains this by covering the past and future of fine-arts HDVDs.

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Thursday
Jan192017

Jonas Kaufmann - Du bist die Welt für mich

Jonas Kaufmann - Du bist die Welt für mich concert. Features Julia Kleiter (Soprano).  Jochen Rieder conducts the Rundfunksinfonieorchester Berlin (The Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra). Released 2014, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

This appears to be the Tracklist for the live performance in Berlin:

  1. Introduktion
  2. Franz Lehár - Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert! from Giuditta
  3. Emmerich Kálmán -  Grüß mir mein Wien from Gräfin Mariza
  4. Robert Stolz -  Frag nicht, warum ich gehe from Das Lied ist aus
  5. Hans May - Ein Lied geht um die Welt
  6. Robert Stolz -  Im Traum hast du mir alles erlaubt from Liebeskommando
  7. Ralph Benatzky Es muss was Wunderbares sein from Im weißen Rössl
  8. Richard Tauber -  Du bist die Welt für mich from Der singende Traum
  9. Mischa Spoliansky - Heute Nacht oder nie from Das Lied einer Nacht
  10. Werner Richard Heymann - Irgendwo auf der Welt from Ein Blonder Traum
  11. Franz Lehár - Hab' ein blaues Himmelbett from Frasquita
  12. Franz Lehár - Gern hab' ich die Frau'n geküsst from Paganini
  13. Franz Lehár - Dein ist mein ganzes Herz! from Das Land des Lächelns
  14. Erich Wolfgang Korngord -  Glück, das mir verblieb from Die tote Stadt
  15. Paul Abraham - Reich mir zum Abschied noch einmal die Hände from Viktoria und ihr Husar
  16. Paul Abraham - Diwanpüppchen from Die Blume von Hawaii

The Berlin 1930 TV documentary has this similar list of songs:

  1. Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert!
  2. Gern hab' ich die Frauen geküsst
  3. Hab' ein blaues Himmelbett
  4. Dein ist mein ganzes Herz!
  5. Grüss mir mein Wien
  6. Frag nicht, warum ich gehe
  7. Im Traum hast Du mir alles erlaubt
  8. Ob blond, ob braun, Heute Nacht oder nie, Irgendwo auf der Welt (Traumfabrik Berlin, Jan Kiepura)
  9. Ein Lied geht um die Welt
  10. Du bist die Welt für mich
  11. Das Lied vom Leben des Schrenk, Im weissen Rössl, Es muss was Wunderbares sein (Eduard Künneke)
  12. Glück, das mir verblieb
  13. Reich mir zum Abschied noch einmal die Hände
  14. Diwanpüppchen

Kaufmann is now in a class of 1 as the world's leading opera tenor. And he can move over into operetta and high-class show songs big-time without sounding stilted. This is out now in a CD, DVD, and Blu-ray. ArkivMusic has given the CD version its Recommended designation, so the Blu-ray stands to be pretty good.

I can't explain why it has taken so long for us to notice this. Kaufmann has so many titles out now it's hard to keep track of them. It appears even the big players like Sony and Amazon are overwhelmed by Kaufmann and find themselves unable to coherently and accurately market his recordings. For example, I looked hard to find the right keepcase artwork for this title. What you see above is fairly clear, but it's not the right shape. And I could not find any photos of the rear of the package that are legible. Why do the distribution folk go the trouble to publish rear-of-the-package artwork in thumbnail versions that noboby can read?

The songlist information above comes from disc PR and needs to be confirmed by someone who buys the disc and can check out what in fact in on it.

Wednesday
Jan182017

Experimentum Mundi

Giorgio Battistelli Experimentum Mundi opera (composed 1981). Staged and directed 2013 by the composer himself at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome. Percussion by Nicola Raffone; voce recitante (both spoken and sung narration) by Peppe Servillo. Star performers and "accidental musicians" include male craftsmen and female citizens of Albano Laziale, a suburb of Rome. Filmed by Giancarlo Matcovich. The aspect ratio of the video is given as 16:9. But the film (while recorded at 30fps) is in "letterbox" format similar to the Cinemascope picture ratio of 1:2.35 that was used in Written on Skin. The music was recorded for stereo and surround using 48kHz/24-bit sound sampling. Released 2015, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. This is the only HDVD so far that has the score reprinted in the keepcase booklet (the front page of the score is also on the keepcase cover). But we know of no resource with the text of the libretto.    Grade: A

The Latin title of this unique work, Experimentum Mundi, translates into English as "Experience of the World." Battistelli isn't speaking of experiencing the whole globe. To the contrary, what we experience here is a tiny and disappearing part of the world. The word "opera" means "works." So the term "experimental opera" refers both to Battistelli's composition and to the real-world crafts that are celebrated in the piece. Enough of theory for now. Let's jump right into screenshots.

Of the forces on stage, two persons are traditional classical musicians, and each of them wears white tie. Below is Battistelli, the composer and conductor. He was born in 1953 in Albano Laziale and started work on Experimentum Mundi at about age 20. After much trial and error, he finished the piece in 1981 when he was 28. It was his first opera, and he's written about 20 others since. I'm confident this was performed at night in the open-air arena that's part of the Auditorium Parco della Musica. There's no light except from small spots turned on from time to time as the piece progresses. This turns out to be extremely dramatic, but was doubtless a tough project for film-maker Matcovich:

The other white tie is on percussionist Nicola Raffone. He provides, of course, leadership in the performance and some melody with his drums (no keyboard instruments). He's the principal in a most unusual and much augmented percussion section:

Another driving force is the "voce recitante" or narrator Peppe Servillo, a self-taught singer, actor, and composer. He's a kind of bridge between the classical musicians and the worker-percussionists. So he gets to wear an open shirt and doesn't have to shave. He has a beautiful singing voice which he uses in a few bars. But mostly he adds tremendous personality to a somewhat quirky and obscure libretto:

The world that Battistelli wants us to experience is the world he knew as a child in his small town (then rather distant from Rome) as he wandered about watching and listening to all the craftsmen working at their trades. All the members of the augmented percussion section are men. Battistelli had to figure out a way to get a feminine touch into the mix. He also loved the sights and sounds of the ladies praying in church. He recruited four ladies (originally five) to provide a feminine background sound.  The ladies repeat names, prayers, and other repetitive text in a kind of murmur. You can't understand anything they say and there are no subtitles. Battistelli doesn't call the ladies "worshipers." He calls them "witches" or "fortune-tellers." The murmuring sound provides filler and a softening buffer for the cacophony that is conjured up by the men. The ladies from rear to near are Paola Calcagni, Anna Rita Severini, Elvira Battistelli, and Tiziana Delle Chiaie:

The piece opens with the odd sound of eggs dropping into a pool in the batter that the pastry-maker (Marcello Di Palma) will turn into pasta. Whipping and mixing sounds open up a rhythmic "singing line" for the entire opera to come. Originally, the narrated text was in French. Now it's in Italian. The translation of "Open waffle iron" maybe should have been, "Flat uncovered grill."

The narrator directs our attention to the next craft to be in the spotlight and to add new sounds: the cobblers or shoemakers:

The cobblers are Giovanni Piersanti and Guido Salustri. They make whirring sounds sharpening their tools and pounding noises as they work the leather over their lasts. (I should point out that all the craft activities in this work are performed manually---there are no power tools around.):

One of Battistelli's objectives as a composer was to break free of the chains in classical music that bind the orchestra to precise time-keeping and regular rhythms. Masons Ciro Paudice and Luigi Battistelli come in next with the sloppy, slushy, irregular sounds of mixing mortar. Later they will build a wall:

 

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Monday
Jan162017

Much Ado About Nothing

Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing film. Adapted for the screen and directed by Joss Whedon. Stars Amy Acker (Beatrice), Alexis Denisof (Benedick), Jillian Morgese (Hero), Fran Kranz (Claudio), Reed Diamond (Don Pedro), Clark Gregg (Leonato),  Sean Maher (Don John), Spencer Treat Clark (Borachio), Riki Lindhome (Conrade), Nathan Fillion (Dogberry), Ashley Johnson (Margaret), Emma Bates (Ursula), Tom Lenk (Verges), Nick Kocher (First Watchman), Brian McElhaney (Second Watchman), Joshua Zar (Leonato’s Aide), Paul M. Meston (Friar Francis), Romy Rosemont (The Sexton), and Elsa Guillet-Chapuis (mute role as Court Photographer). Music by Joss Whedon; cinematography by Jay Hunter; edited by Daniel Kaminsky and Joss Whedon; produced by Joss Whedon and Kai Cole. Released 2013, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A

This is a delightful film version of Much Ado that follows the plot well with maybe 40% of the original text trimmed. Has English subtitles. The text that's left still makes you work.  But the visual telling of the love stories carries you along even before you master the text.  The whole film was made almost as a lark on a shoestring budget (more later on that). Whedon also published a book about the film which has the complete screenplay:

For once, you get a bargain.  I bought the HDVD from an Amazon third party vendor for about $6 and the book for about $3. So with shipping this came to about $15 total.

Below we find Leonato, Governor of Messina (Clark Gregg) with his daughter Hero (Jillian Morgese) and his niece Beatrice (Amy Aker). They are discussing the return from the wars of Benedick, a young Lord with whom Beatrice has an ongoing "merry war" of wits. Beatrice asks:

The august Atlantic magazine doesn't follow movie and TV stars much. But here's what Terrence Rafferty had to say in the July/August 2015 issue of Atlantic (page 99 or so): "Maybe the most spectacular recent example of a young American . . . tackling a classical part is Amy Acker's radiant Beatrice in Much Ado about Nothing, Joss Whedon's nimble, and very faithful, 2012 movie. . . . she's at least as formidable a Beatrice as Emma Thompson was in Branagh's 1993 Much Ado, and Acker is, I think, more touching and finally more believable."

Next below is Claudio (Fran Kranz), another returning soldier. He meets Hero and it's love at first sight:

Now we meet dour Benedick (Alexis Denisof) shoring up his defenses against Beatrice:

Glittering entertainment:

Meet Elsa Guillet-Chapuis, the Court Photographer. She kept getting in the rushes by accident, so Whedon, in total control, fixed that by making her part of the cast:

The friends conspire to trick Beatrice and Benedick into falling in love. The trick requires action on two fronts. Here's Front 1: Claudio, Don Pedro (Reed Diamond), and Leonato discuss (while they know Benedick is listening) how obvious it is that Beatrice loves Benedick:

Which starts to break through Benedick's defenses:

 

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Sunday
Jan152017

La Voix Humaine

La Voix Humaine opera by Poulenc to a libretto by Jean Cocteau. Soprano Felicity Lott and pianist Graham Johnson perform the piano version (normally the singer is backed by an orchestra). Recorded 2011 at the Music Room of Champs Hill Records. Producer and balance engineer was Alexander Van Ingen; director of photography was Steve Plant. Sung in French. The package has a DVD, a Blu-ray disc, and a very nice keepcase booklet with the complete libretto in French and English. The video was made at 24 frames per second instead of the 30 frames per second we see on most HDVDs. The music was recorded using 48kHz/24-bit. Released 2013, disc has sound sampling in stereo only. I normally exclude classical music Blu-rays that have only stereo sound. But I made an exception for this because surround sound might be overkill for music with only 2 sound sources, the recording specs are better than CDs, and this recording is unique. Grade: B

This opera depicts half of the last conversation between an aging woman and her ex-lover, who has dumped her, no doubt, for a younger girl. You have to figure out what has happened and what the man is saying by hearing only one side of the conversation. If you have been on the losing end of a similar end-of-a-romance phone call, a lot of what she says will probably sound familiar. Cocteau adds wicked twists with a primitive telephone system: there's a party line with strangers sometime butting in, frequent interruptions, and telephone operators to placate. (If you don't know what a party line is, ask someone older.)

Below are a few screenshots, not all in the order as you see them in the recording. All the shots have subtitles---just seeing a bunch of pictures of Lott might get boring. I hope the text will convince you that this 41-minute show is quite interesting.

"Elle" (the only name we have for her) finally gets a call from her lover:

Elle on looking in the mirror:

 

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Friday
Jan132017

Mata Hari

Mata Hari ballet choreographed and directed by Ted Brandsen. Music by Tarik O'Regan with orchestration by Anthony Weeden. Libretto by Janine Brogt. Staged 2016 at the Dutch National Opera. Stars (in order listed in disc booklet) Anna Tsygankova (Born Margaretha Zelle, later known as Mata Hari), Casey Herd (Rudolph McLeod, Margaretha's husband), Jozef Varga (General Kiepert), Artur Shesterikov (Vadim De Masloff), Young Gyu Choi (Shiva), Wen Ting Guan (Temple Dancer), Emanouela Merdjanova (Friede McLeod, Rudolph's mother), Erica Horwood (Isadora Duncan), Nadia Yanowsky (La Madame), Edo Wijnen (Master of Ceremonies), Anatole Babenko (M. Guimet), Roman Artyushkin (Lieutanant Ladoux), Wendeline Wijkstra, Pascalle Paerel, Hannah de Klein (three Aunts), Wolfgang Tietze, Peter Leung, Matthew Pawlicki-Sinclair (three Uncles), and Nicolas Rapaic (Adam Zelle, Margatetha's father) as well as students and pupils of the Dutch National Ballet Academy. Matthew Rowe conducts the Dutch National Ballet Orchestra. Sets and lighting by Clement & Sanôu; costumes by François-Noël Cherpin; video directed by Jeff Tudor. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound (sound info on back of package above is wrong and was corrected on the disc I bought). Grade: B

Ballet doesn't mesh well with biography. True, MacMillan made 3 ballets connected to famous real persons, Mayerling, Isadora, and Anastasia. Mayerling, a marvelous work, is a true-crime story, not a biography. Isadora was inspired by the life of Isadora Duncan, but it's an experimental mashup of dancing and readings from texts. Anastasia asks the question whether a lady in a hospital was the Russian Grand-Duchess, a fraud, or just plain crazy. Spartacus is, it appears, fiction loosely suggested by the life of a real slave Spartacus who challenged the ancient Roman state. Copeland's Billy the Kid is per Wikipedia "not so much a biography of a . . . desperado as it is a perception of the pioneer West." Finally, see our review of Chaplin, a series of scenes inspired by the life of Charlie Chaplin which we decided is, "not a biography or a comedy."

If you want a biography, you buy a book that has 600 pages of facts and nuanced analysis of a life. Ballet can't remotely compete with that. But in Mata Hari, Brandsen and Brogt have attempted to present, though vastly over-simplified, an explanation of who Magraretha Zelle was and why her life ended before a firing squad.

Their ballet gives you something to think about. But is it a biography? We will go through an analysis using screenshots. Each step of the way, we will see what Brandsen and Janine Brogt tell us. Then we will refer to the Wikipedia article on Mata Hari to see history says---and this we will relate in "[]" brackets. Pardon me for using Wikipedia. I haven't got time to find a reliable book about Mata Hari, if such a thing exists.

Let's get started. In our first screenshot below we see Magraretha Zelle at about age 8 (young dancer not credited). She's already preternaturally attractive and adorable. But her mother is gone and her father Adam (Nicolas Rapaic), wearing the red scarf, soon will also leave her.  To the right we meet her three sets of uncles and aunts:

Adam Zelle departs, never to return. He leaves his scarf behind, which Margaretha will desperately clutch for the rest of her life: 

Margaretha (Anna Tsygankova ) isn't an heiress, but there's money to support her. She grows up interested in the arts and is seen here posing for a painter:

Her conservative, bourgeois, and repressed relatives treat her strictly, perhaps in over-reaction to scandal caused by her parents. So as Margaretha finishes her schooling she has been correctly treated but starved for love. She is beautiful but isolated, creative but restricted, and ambitious but surrounded by reactionaries. Already the blue-print for a Mata Hari is there, but Margaretha is too dutiful and respectful to rebel. Instead she dreams of a man who can take her to a better place:

[Janine Brogt's concept of Margaretha's childhood is artistically intriguing, but it is all but total fantasy. Margaretha grew up in a normal Dutch family with a mother, father, and three brothers. There were no collateral relatives in the picture. Both of Margaretha's parents died while she was a teenager, and she lived for some time with her Godfather, who took his duties seriously. The future Mata Hari entered a training program to become a kindergarten teacher! But the Godfather jerked her out of the program when the director started hitting on her. So at 18, our heroine was a normal girl with a lot of sex appeal, a modest education, no inheritance or boyfriend, and not much advice. What does such a girl do? She answered a newspaper ad from an army officer looking for a young wife. How boring.]

Meet Rudolph McLeod (Casey Herd), an army officer 20 years Margaretha's senior. He is the guy she's been waiting for:

But there's something wrong with Rudolph that Margaretha cannot fathom: a domineering possessive mother (Emanouela Merdjanova):

Rudolph drinks too much and then gets violent, beats, and rapes Margaretha. Her first child is will be the outcomes of the rape depicted below:

 

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Wednesday
Jan112017

Ein Deutsches Requiem

Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem concert. Franz Welser-Möst, on August 22-23, 2016, conducts the Cleveland Orchestra and the Vienna Singverein. Welser-Möst is back at his home-town church in Austria, the Stiftsbasilika Monastery in St. Florian. (The picture above was made with a still camera for disc PR; for much more on this beautiful church see our review of a Bruckner Symphony No. 4 concert by the Cleveland Orchestra and Welser-Möst at the same Stiftsbasilika.) Soloists are Hanna-Elisabeth Müller (soprano) and Simon Keenlyside (baritone). Directed for TV by Brian Large. (This title complements the three Blu-ray set “Johannes Brahms Cycle”, which was released in late 2015, and which we have not yet reviewed.) Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-Master Audio sound. The video was made in 1080p rather than 1080i.  Grade: A

This title is an absolute winner! It may be the best symphony recording ever made by a Western recording company. (The only better recordings would be those state-of-the-art demo discs made by NHK in Japan.) Before I fill your plate with too much text, I'll serve some screenshots appetizers.

First below is Brian Large's shot of the whole orchestra and chorus with the alter. It's maybe even prettier than the PR photo. In an ordinary hall, we would call this an "anthill" shot of little value as the orchestra fills only a small part of the view. But given the visual interest inherent in this venue, I counted every zoomed-out shot of the orchestra and choir as Other high-value in my video statistics discussed later.

And next is a view from the midst of the chorus looking toward the entrance of the church. On the second floor you see a magnificent organ. That's the Anton Bruckner Organ. That's where Bruckner played for church services for many years while dreaming about marriage to beautiful young girls (who always turned him down) and also about the symphonies that he, as penitent, would write for God (who always accepted them). Bruckner is buried below the church in a spooky crypt. (You don't get these kinds of signals from a CD.) Well, in an ordinary hall, we might mark down this shots as being nothing more than conductor-over-backs (C/B) view. But in this extraordinary venue, this is a high-value shot also:

With total control over his craft, Brian Large gives us this magnificent view of the total forces engaged. We call this kind of view a whole-orchestra (WO) shot:

And here next below is a fabulous, rare shot showing all the violins and all the cellos in action. This we call a large-group (LG), or part-orchestra (PO) shot:

Now I hope these tasty treats have whetted your desire to move on the next course of somewhat tough beef: our analysis of what makes for proper video content in an HD recording of a symphony (see, if you dare, our special article on this subject).

 

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Wednesday
Jan042017

Turandot

Puccini Turandot opera to a libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni and as completed by Lucio Berio. Directed 2015 by Nikolaus Lehnhoff at Teatro alla Scala. Stars Nina Stemme (Turandot), Aleksandrs Antonenko (Calaf), Maria Agresta (Liù), Alexander Tsymbaluk (Timur), Angelo Veccia (Ping), Roberto Covatta (Pang), Blagoj Nacoski (Pong), Carlo Bosi (Altoum), Gianluca Breda (Mandarino), Azer Rza-Zada (Prince of Persia), Barbara Rita Lavarian (First Handmaid), and Kjersti Odegaard (Second Handmaid). Riccardo Chailly conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala and the Childrens' Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala School. Sets by Raimund Bauer; costumes by Andrea Schmidt-Futterer; lighting by Duane Schuler; choreography by Denni Sayers. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Preliminary information needs confirmation. There are several clips from this production on YouTube. It's hard to tell if any of them come from this video, but the one below gives you a good idea about the fairly radical designs used in this show:

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

 

Tuesday
Jan032017

2017 New Year's Comment: What's HDVD?

Fine-arts shows in HDVD look and sound better than DVDs or even broadcast high-definition TV. I define high-definition video and sound as 1080i or better video together with at least 4.0 high-fidelity surround sound.

The term HDVD stands for five different ways to distribute high-definition video and sound:

  1. High-Definition Video Disc
  2. High-Definition Video Downstream
  3. High-Definition Video Download
  4. High-Definition Video Device
  5. High-Definition Video Display

High-Definition Video Disc now means Blu-ray. (There was a competing disc type called HD DVD.) Blu-ray is the optical disc promoted by Sony. It's the only optical disc format now generally available for HD content. (By "optical disc format", I mean it looks just like the music CDs you are familiar with.) The conventional wisdom was that Blu-ray with 1080p would be the last optical medium used for HD recordings. Wrong. Now being introduced to the market is an improved version of Blu-ray called "4K Ultra HD Blu-ray."

High-Definition Video Downstream and Download. If a fine-arts title is available in high-definition, then one day you may be able to get the title by downstreaming or downloading it into your media center or a PC.  We say "one day" because it's quite a daunting project to get an Internet bit stream properly integrated with a typical home theatre based on an AV receiver, a big screen, and a 5.1 set of speakers. But this is already starting to happen with movies being offered by NetFlix and others.

In the fine-arts arena, the New York Met has for some time had their Met Player streaming download service. You can get a high-definition video picture of sorts together with stereo (44 kHz /16-bit) sound. This is OK with some folks, but I think opera benefits from surround sound, which the Met doesn't offer. Many other players are entering the market with a blizzard of different distribution schemes. The first general Internet service to focus on downstreaming of fine-arts titles would appear to be www.medici.tv.

Reviews in the past suggested that the actual quality of downstreamed or downloaded product was not as good as hyped.  How will the PQ and SQ of such offerings compare to the wonderful results we are now getting with discs? How practical/flexible will a one-time rental be? Will subscribers get access to subtitles in different languages and the extra features often found on a disc? And will Internet distribution schemes be able to cope with all the new features offered by the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray standard? If you are using downstreaming or downloading as an alternate to buying fine-art Blu-ray titles, please let me know how it is going!

High-Definition Video Device. Now we start looking further over the horizon and consider any transportable media (other than spinning discs) that could be used to make a video. The best example of this would be the read-only flash memory device. If you don't know about this, let me describe it this way: You get in the mail from your seller or rental company a smooth solid-state (no moving parts) object about the size of a postage stamp. You stick the end of this into a small hole on your audio-visual amp or PC. Then you watch Aida on your big high-definition television screen with wonderful surround audio. At the moment, this is, of course, just a day-dream---I've yet to see or hear of anything being proposed along these lines.

High-Definition Video Display. Maybe one day somebody will invent a smart TV that works. You look at order lists of operas, ballets, and concerts on the Internet and enter what you to want to see. You then turn on the TV, and the opera is there. You have no idea how any of this works and you don't care. Or maybe the display will be reached by putting on something that looks a bit like a fighter pilot's helmet which makes you think you are actually in the Momus Cafe with Mimi watching Musetta sing her way back into Marcello's heart. If you're a bass, push a button and Colline's part will mute so that you can sing it yourself. Believe it or not, technology is being worked on now that might allow such things to happen.

Are New Standards Worth the Trouble?  Up until now, Blu-ray has not distinguished itself sufficiently from DVD to set the HD market alight. But I think 4-K Ultra HD Blu-ray probably will finally be the end of DVD. (I have not discussed here all the things that make 4-K Ultra HD Blu-ray much better than plain-Jane Blu-ray. There are plenty of places on the Internet where you can learn about this.)

I started this website about 9 years ago when Blu-ray first came out. Maybe I started too soon. But if the HDVD era didn't really get started in 2008, I think it will start for sure in 2017.

At this time, nobody is suggesting that broadcast television will in the foreseeable future go to a standard higher than 1080p. But we can now expect that the standards used in motion-picture houses and high-definition home theatres soon will soon be divorced from the world of television broadcasting.

The Future is Always Arriving. Not long ago there was a big push to bring 3-D to television. But it appears 3D has flopped in the fine-art sector. But as technology advances, 3D may one day be feasible within the 4-K Ultra HD Blu-ray form factor.

The industry is already making 8K TV displays, but indications are this will be for the commercial markets only.

 4-K Ultra HD Blu-ray includes many improvements in surround sound. But there could be even more radical changes ahead. In nature, you hear surround sound with only two ears. The brain knows where each sound is coming from because it arrives at each ear at a slightly different time. So how do you take advantage of this ability of the brain in a home theater? First, you make two recordings with microphones about 7 inches apart (that's how far apart typical ears are). Then you pipe in the recording from each mike to one ear only and the listener will hear everything in surround! Bet alas, if sound from one side bleeds to the other side of the head, "crosstalk" occurs and the surround effect is lost.

"Real" stereo is being done now with earphones, but the problem remains that earphones are earphones. Others are working on using stereo speakers together with noise cancellation to deliver only one channel of sound to each ear.  If they can figure out how to this, you might need only two speakers in your home theater. (The AVR component would be considerably more sophisticated than is the case today.)

Back to HDVD. So you see I coined the term HDVD in 2008 to stand for all the technologies that could in the future allow us to see as well as hear high-quality recordings of fine-arts subjects. I thank God for letting me live long enough to see this start to happen. In the last 8 years I've been able to enjoy (often in many multiple versions) 125 wonderful ballet/dance works, about 250 operas, a ton of classical music (including all of Mahler and Bruckner), and some great Shakespeare plays.

This I did in my little 10 x 12 HT whenever I could work it into my busy working-life schedule. And this website is my report to you (with a lot of help from friends) on what I've learned.

Of course, it would have been even better to see all this live. But only a fanatical billionaire with a private jet could have covered all the ground I have.

Hank McFadyen in Dallas, Texas

Wednesday
Dec282016

Armida

Rossini Armida opera to libretto by Giovanni Schmidt. Directed 2015 by Mariame Clément at the Vaanderen Opera House. Stars Carmen Romeu (Armida), Enea Scala (Rinaldo), Robert McPherson (Gernando/Ubaldo), Dario Schmunck (Goffredo/Carlo), Lenoard Bernad (Idraote/Astarotte), and Adam Smith (Eustazio). Alberto Zedda conducts the Vaanderen Opera House Symphony Orchestra and Opera Chorus (Chorus Master Jan Schweiger). Set and costume design by Julia Hansen; lighting by Bernd Purkrabek. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

If you saw this live or have seen the video, please give us your opinion!

Here's an official YouTube clip:

Wednesday
Dec282016

Messiah

Handel Messiah oratorio to libretto by Charles Jennens (Foundling Hospital Version, 1753). Performed 2014 by the American Bach Soloists and the American Bach Choir at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco under the baton of Jeffrey Thomas. Stars Mary Wilson (soprano), Eric Jurenas (countertenor), Kyle Stegall (tenor), Jesse Blumberg (baritone), and John Thiessen (trumpet).  Stage direction by Philip Daley; directed for video by Frank Zamacona; produced by Abigal McKee with Don Scott Carpender as Executive Producer.  Released in 2016, the disc has 5.1 dts-HD sound. Grade: Help!

Thanks to Wonk Bryan Balmer for spotting this rare item for us! This title is only sold, it appears, through the American Bach Soloists website (see link below). This is also the only Blu-ray title that ABS has produced.

This was no doubt an excellent performance. Further, it appears there are many architectural and other art works incorporated in the video. The ABS website has exhaustive credits for a great number of people who worked on this performance and recording.  The question remains whether the audio and video are up to international standards for HDVDs. Bryan says he has ordered this.  I'm sure he will give us an appropriate report on it in due course.

In the meantime, here's a YouTube clip that suggests there may be a DVDitis issue with the video:

Available for purchase through the American Bach Soloists website.

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