This website is about high-definition video recordings of opera, ballet, classical music, plays, fine-art documentaries, painting, and sculpture. We call these recordings "HDVDs." Below are hundreds of stories about HDVDs, including critical reviews that are hard to find on the Internet. But first check out our Title Index/Alphalist, the world's only list of all fine-arts videos available in high-quality HD.

It's August 21. We just posted an updated review of the Fauré Requiem concert disc and gave it a "C" grade. This was a fine performance of some wonderful music, but it's marred by DVDitis compounded with adult attention deficit disorder. Read our story and special article to learn more about these dread diseases.

Back in 2010, Arthaus published a Peter & der Wolf, a wonderful "A+" short animated film with the Prokofiev music. Alas,  it was in all-German presentation and limited to Region B. But now Arthaus has issued an Engish version that's region free!

We are now in the new-title "silly season."  The publishers will be pushing product getting ready for Christmas. For August we posted 18 new titles. This can be time-consuming because the early new-title PR tends to be incomplete and rife with errors, which we try to correct.  Often there's confusion about the artwork that will be on the keepcases. Soon we will start getting the September new releases.

__________________________________________________________________

Thursday
Aug212014

Mowgli

Mowgli ballet. New choreography by Natalia Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasilyov.  Performed 2009 by the Moscow Classical Ballet at the Kremlin Ballet Theatre, Moscow. Original music by Alexander Prior, who conducts the New Opera Orchestra. Released in 2014, disc has PCM stereo sound. Grade: Help!

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

Thursday
Aug212014

Coppélia

Coppélia ballet to music by Léo Delibes. Choreography by Eduardo Lao.  Stars dancers of the Victor Ullate Ballet Comunidad de Madrid. Released in 2014, disc has PCM stereo sound. Grade: Help!

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

Thursday
Aug212014

Platée

Rameau Platée opera to libretto by Adrien-Joseph Le Valois d'Orville. Directed 2002 by Laurent Pelly at the Opéra national de Paris, Palais Garnier. Stars Paul Agnew (Platée), Mireille Delunsch (La Folie, Thalie), Yann Beuron (Thespis, Mercure), Vincent Le Texier (Jupiter), and Doris Lamprecht (Junon). Marc Minkowski conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of Les Musiciens du Louvre – Grenoble. Released 2013, disc has PCM stereo sound. Grade: Help!

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

Thursday
Aug212014

Prince Igor

Borodin Prince Igor opera to libretto by the composer. Directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov at the Metropolitan Opera. Stars Ildar Abdrazakov (Prince Igor), Mikhail Petrenko (Prince Galitsky), Sergey Semishkur (Vladimir Igorevich), Vladimir Ognovenko (Skula), Andrey Popov (Yeroshka), Oksana Dyka (Yaroslavna), Kiri Deonarine (Polovtsian Maiden), Anita Rachvelishvili (Konchakovna), Mikhail Vekua (Ovlur), Štefan Kocán (Khan Konchak), Barbara Dever (Yaroslavna's Nurse), and Mikhail Vekua (Ovlur). Gianandrea Noseda conducts the Metroplitan Opera. Released 2014, 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.

Thursday
Aug212014

Carmen 

Bizet Carmen opera to libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy. Directed 2008 by Matthias Hartmann at the Opernhaus Zurich. Stars Jonas Kaufmann (Don José), Vesselina Kasarova (Carmen), Isabel Rey, and Michele Pertusi. Franz Welser-Most conducts the Philharmonia Zurich. Released 2014, 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.

Tuesday
Aug192014

Fauré Requiem

Fauré Requiem concert. Performed 2011 at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. Features the following pieces by Fauré for orchestra and chorus:

1. Pavane in F sharp minor, Op. 50  [6:44] (Popular piece based on a Spanish dance called the pavane)

2. Élégie in C minor, Op. 24  [7:23] (cello Eric Picard) (chorus rests)

2. Super flumina Babylonis  [11:00]  ("By the rivers of Babylon")

3. Cantique de Jean Racine in D flat major, Op. 11  [6:08] ("Hymn of Racine")

4. Requiem in D minor, Op. 48 [37:30] (soprano Chen Reiss and baritone Matthias Goerne)

Paavo Järvi conducts the Orchestre de Paris and the Chœur de l'Orchestre de Paris (Chorus Director Stephen Betteridge). Directed for TV by Isabelle Soulard; film edited by  Richard Poisson; audio by Aurélie Messonnier; produced by Sabrina Iwanski.  Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: C

General Comments

All the music on this disc, while modern enough to be relevant today, is melodic and relaxing to the point of being blissful. Most of the selections are religious, but there's nothing pompous, imposing, or sanctimonious about them. The orchestra and singers were fine, and I'm sure the audience heard a grand performance. The more I listened to this disc, the more I liked it; and I'm grateful for this introduction to Fauré, a composer that was new to me. But I still have plenty of criticism as to how the disc could have been better made.

PQ is weak throughout. As you can see from the screenshots below, the lighting on the Pleyel stage was spotty and probably low. I also question whether Soulard had adequate video cameras. On my 59" calibrated plasma display the image has soft resolution (somewhere between HD and SD) and looks hazy. There is glare from the sheet music and skin tones are often pink. Gordon Smith in France, who uses a projector, reports that "the lighting is terrible [and] washes out the image.. . .  killing any contrast."  I found that the poor PQ didn't in itself keep me from admiring the beauty of the performance, but it's not what we expert in a full-priced HDVD.

SQ also falls short.  I think the music was recorded using 48kHz/16-bit sound sampling. Today I would expect at least 48kHz/20-bit, or better yet, 96kHz/24-bit sound. Generally the sound is enjoyable, and I heard considerable dynamic contrast on my system. The devil pops up in the details. There's a lot of pizzicato in Fauré's music. I could see the strings being plucked and I could hear them, but only faintly and without verve. I could hear the harp, but not well; I doubt the harp had its own mike.

Gordon Smith often watches symphony HDVDs with headphones and stereo sound. He reports that the left and right channels in stereo are incorrectly reversed. So when the soprano (in the Requiem) stands on the left side of the the stage as seen by the viewer,  the sound of her voice comes from the right earphone. I was not able to duplicate this in my small HT, which doesn't have a center speaker. On my system, the voice of the soprano in the Requiem seems to come from the center. Also, I point out that Gordon has no problem with the surround sound.

Requiem

The Requiem recording has an acute case of DVDitis. See our special article on this dread disease for more about the cause and symptoms of DVDitis. I ran the numbers. The Requiem lasts 37.5 minutes and has at least 300 cuts. That's  7.5 seconds for the average cut. This is too fast for a short piece of serene music. The very fastest recordings I have measured have cuts that average about 5 seconds. The best symphony HDVDs have cuts that average 15+ seconds each.

The good symphony HDVD will proceed at a stately pace to show the viewer plenty of whole-orchestra shots as well as shots of whole sections and multiple sections. Featured soloists will, of course, receive special attention. This will be augmented with a modest number of shots of first-chair soloists and the conductor. The idea is to start the viewer off with a show similar to what he would experience at a live concert, and then add value through close-up shots that the spectator at the live performance can't see.

Soulard and Poisson give us not even one whole-orchestra shot from the Requiem. At 00:37:33 there is a single shot that embraces the whole orchestra, but it doesn't count because the angle hides many of the musicians:

The picture above shows that the orchestra is placed on the stage off-center to the right (there are 2 ranks of double basses on the right that are not balanced off on the left). The shot below shows that the chorus was placed on the stage off-center to the left. All this imbalance may have made it harder to get good whole-orchestra shots:

There are several shots like the one below that perhaps were intended to be whole-orchestra shots but don't count because they miss a double bass:

In all the pictures above, some of the singers in the chorus are in a shadow. In the view below, the entire chorus recedes into gloom. Did someone turn the lights off in the middle of the show? I don't think so. Maybe this is some kind of gross camera error:

Here's a shot showing the chorus as a section and the lighting over the stage. I'm not versed in stage lighting, but common sense tells me the lighting here is flimsy:

To be fair, there are about a dozen shots of most of the orchestra (and typically the entire chorus), but even these tend to be cut short.

The cameramen were instructed to pan and zoom at will---little is allowed to stay still long. I work so hard adjusting to the "performance" of the cameras that I have less energy left with which to enjoy the actual performance. I should feel uplifted by the beautiful music on the disc; but to some extent, I feel drained at the end from squandering energy on the antics of the videographers.

 

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug112014

Bruckner Symphony No. 5

Bruckner Symphony No. 5. Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 2013. Released 2014. Grade: Help!

Please help by writing a mini-review about this title! 

Page 1 2 3 4 5 ... 103