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.

May 8. The industry slowdown continues as we enter the summer holiday season in Europe and the publishers debate what to do about 4K. A handfull of new titles have appeared in early PR recently---I'm waiting to get better information before posting them. I'll also will be on vacation in London until May 22. Later in the early summer I'll get back to new editorial contributions including another Messiah review from Brian Balmer that's waiting to be formatted and published.

In the meantime, I urge you to dig deeper into older reviews and special stories. More and better will soon be coming your way.

Hank McFadyen

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Thursday
May252017

Bohème (Golovneva)

Puccini La Bohème opera to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Directed 2014 by Orpha Phelan at the Malmö Opera. Stars Olesya Golovneva (Mimi), Joachim Bäckstöm (Rodolfo), Vladislav Sulimsky (Marcello), Maria Fontosh (Musetta), Daniel Hellström (Schaunard), and Miklós Sebestyén (Colline). Christian Badea conducts the Malmö Opera Orchestra & Chorus and Malmö Children’s Chorus. Choreography by Lynne Hockney; stage and costume designs by Leslie Travers; lighting design by Thomas C. Hase; video direction by Volker Werner. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Strange YouTube clips about this production (tending to show single acts more or less completely) show brutal updating, cheap-looking sets and costumes, and clumsy directing. The singing is much better than the mise-en-scène, and Olesya Golovneva is more appealing than the artwork on the keepcase suggests. This was probably a reasonably satisfactory show live. But overall, this title in Blu-ray appears to not be strongly competitive with all the other choices we now have.

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

Thursday
May252017

Rosmonda d'Inghilterra

 

Donizetti Rosmonda d'Inghilterra opera to libretto by Felice Romani. Directed 2016 (we think) by Paula Rota at the Teatrto Donizetti in Bergamo. Stars Jessica Pratt (Rosmonda), Eva Mei (Leonora), Dario Schmunck (Enrico), Nicola Ulivieri (Clifford), and Raffaella Lupinacci (Arturo). Sebastiano Rolli conducts the Orchestra Donizetti Opera. Set and lighting design by Nicolas Bovey; costumes by Massimo Cantini Parrini; assistant direction by Irene Petris; assistent costume design by Jessica Zambelli; video direction by Matteo Ricchetti. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Another lost treasure is being unearthed by the folks at the Donizetti Foundation and the Dynamic label. This is a big deal for lovers of Donizetti and bel canto. It helps the treasure hunters a lot to have HDVD presentation of new productions of almost-forgotten works. Sorry, I don't see any worthwhile YouTube clip on this.

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

 

Thursday
May252017

Bruckner Symphony No. 3 

Bruckner Symphony No. 3 (the "Wagner Symphony"). Christian Thielemann conducts the Dresden Staatskapelle at the Philharmonie Munich in 2016. Video director was Elizabeth Malzer. Released 2017 disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. Grade: Help!

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

Thursday
May252017

Il trionfo

Handel Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno oratorio to a libretto from Benedetto Pamphili. Directed 2016 by Krzysztof Warlikowski with assistant Marielle Kahn at at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Stars Sabine Devieilhe (Bellezza), Franco Fagioli (Piacere), Sara Mingardo (Disinganno), Michael Spyres (Tempo), and Christine Angot. Emmanuelle Haïm conducts Le Concert d’Astrée. Stage and costume designs by Malgorzata Szczesniak and Barbara Creutz; dramaturge by Christian Longchamp; lighting by Felice Ross; choreography by Claude Bardouil; video designs by Denis Guéguin and Fabien Laubry; musical assistance was by David Bates; language coaching by Rita de Letteriis; directed for video by _______________.   Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. Grade: Help!

PR information on this from Erato is ridiculously shabby. Preliminary info needs to be confirmed.

Handel wrote 3 versions of Trionfo:

1. HWV 46a, Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno (Triumph of Time and Disillusionment). This was his 1st oratorio.

2. HWV 46b, Il trionfo del tempo e della verità (Triumph of Time and Truth)

3. HWV 71, Triumph of Time and Truth (everything reviewed and rewritten in English). This was his last oratorio!

Subject title is HWV46a, where it all began.

There is a ton of stuff on YouTube showing the aggressive staging of this oratorio, but I can't find anything I  can connect for sure to subject disc. To get a some idea about this, consider these two clips:

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

Monday
May082017

Mahler Symphony No. 8

 

 

(White space above is package art.)

Mahler Symphony No. 8 with Ricardo Chailly conducting the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and the following vocal groups (1) the Chor des Bayersichen Rundfunks (Bavarian Radio Choir), (2) the Latvian Radio Choir, (3) the Orfeón Donostiarra (famous Spanish choir), and (4) the Tölzer Knabenchor (Tölzer Boys Choir). Also stars sopranos Ricarda Merbeth (Magna Peccatrix), Julia Banse (Una poenitentium), Anna Lucia Richter (Mater gloriosa), contralto Sara Mingardo (Mulier Samaritana), mezzo Mihoko Fujimura (Maria Aegyptiaca), tenor Andreas Schager (Doctor Marianus), baritone Peter Mattei (Pater ecstaticus), and bass-baritone Samuil Youn (Pater profundus). This was performed in the Concert Hall of KKL Luzern as Chally's first performace with the Lucern Festival Orchestra. It also completes the Lucerne Festival Orchestra cycle of all the Mahler symphonies begun by the late Claudio Abbado.

All these forces were crammed in on the stage and rear balconies of the KKL Luzern Hall without encroaching on the audience! Produced by Paul Smaczny; directed for TV by Ute Feudel.  Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-Master Audio surround sound.

There are several YouTube clips about this performance, but I don't think I see a trailer for this Accentus disc.

 

Thursday
Apr202017

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.

Thursday
Apr202017

Beethoven Symphony No. 9

Beethoven Symphony No. 9 concert. Other music in the program: Beethoven Coriolan Overture, a Christian Jost Fanfare (for 9 brass commissioned by the Graffenegg Festival), and the Jost An die Hoffnung (for voice and orchestra, also commissioned by the Graffenegg Festival). Yutaka Sado conducts, at the 2016 Graffenegg Festival, the Tonkunster Orchestra, 24 alumni of the European Union Youth Orchestra, and the Weiner Singverein (Chorus Master Johannes Prinz). Soloists are Camilla Nylund (soprano), Elena Zhidkova (mezzo-soprano), Klaus Florian Vogt (tenor), and René Pape (baritone). Video by Karina Kibich. Released in 2017, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound.  Grade: Help!

I couldn't find a YouTube clip I liked.

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

Thursday
Apr202017

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!

Below is the official Accentus YouTube clip. This recording sounds great even on PC sound. The video images are about as good as can be in 1080 HDVD. But alas, the clip also strongly suggests that this whole project is fatally infected with DVDitis:

Wednesday
Apr052017

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!

Sorry, can't find a YouTube clip  for this recording.

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

 

Wednesday
Apr052017

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:

 

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