Articles and Reviews

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.

We have the best reviews anywhere of ballet and dance HDVDs. So we recently posted a "hit-parade" story with our top picks. 

It's October 20. We just reviewed both the Region A and Region B versions of the Joseph Losey 1980 opera movie of Don Giovanni. After much agonizing, we decided to exclude this title as legacy material. By 2014 standards, the video shows age and the recording of the orchestra is too poor. Both titles remain, however, the best video there is of any of the 20th century opera movies. One important part of our mission is to exclude from consideration classical art Blu-ray titles that in fact don't merit your attention by today's standards.

Gramophone magazine just published its annual 2014 Music Awards. In the Opera category they picked the FRA L'heure espagnole and L'enfant et les sortilèges as winner and the Opus Arte Les Troyens as the runner-up. In the Contemporary category they picked the Opus Arte Written on Skin as winner. We have reviews already up on all three picks. Curiously, Gramophone identified all three titles as DVDs and didn't even mention that they are also available in Blu-ray. This is just another shocking example of how slow the print critics are to see the importance of HD video. If you are interested in HD video of fine arts stuff, you have to come here for information.

We recently posted the Bolshoi Giselle and gave it a "C+." We are still working on a review of the new ROH Giselle with Acosta/Osipova. Soon we will have the most complete information anywhere about Giselle in HD video.

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Thursday
Oct162014

Lohengrin

 Richard Wagner Lohengrin opera to libretto by the composer. Directed 2009 by Richard Jones at the Munich Festival. Jonas Kaufmann (Lohengrin), Anja Harteros (Elsa), Wolfgang Koch (Telramund), Michaela Schuster (Ortrud), Christof Fischesser (König Heinrich), and Evgeny Nikitin (Herald). Kent Nagano conducts the Bayerisches Staatsorchester. Released 2014. Grade: Help!

Another 5-year old  performance that Decca is finally publishing. Why the delay?

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

Thursday
Oct162014

Strauss Tone Poems

Richard Strauss Tone Poems concert [our name]. Andriss Nelsons conducts the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Also sprach Zarasthustra, Till Eulenspiegel, and Macbeth at the Royal Concertgebouw in 2013 and 2014. Released 2014, disc has dts 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
Oct162014

Dialogues des Carmélites

Francis Poulenc Dialogues des Carmélites opera to a libretto by the composer. Directed 2013 by Olivier Py at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Stars Sophie Koch (Mère Marie de l’Incarnation), Patricia Petibon (Blanche de La Force), Véronique Gens (Madame Lidoine), Sandrine Piau (Soeur Constance de Saint Denis), Rosalind Plowright (Madame de Croissy), Topi Lehtipuu (Le Chevalier de La Force), Phillippe Rouillon (Le Marquis de La Force), Annie Vavrille (Mère Jeanne de l’Enfant Jésus), Sophie Pondjiclis (Soeur Mathilde), François Piolino (Le Père confesseur du couvent), Jérémy Duffau (Le premier commissaire), Yuri Kissin (Le second commissaire, un officier), and Matthieu Lécroart (Le geôlier). Jérémie Rhorer conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra & Chœur du Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Set design and costumes by Pierre-André Weitz; lighting by Bertrand Killy and Hervé Gary; choreography by Natalie Van Parys;directed for film by Olivier Simonnet. Released 2014, dics has Dolby 5.1 sound. Grade: Help!

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

Thursday
Oct162014

Ciboulette

Reynaldo Hahn Ciboulette opera to a libretto by Robert de Flers and Francis de Croisset. Directed 2013 by Michel Fau at the Opéra Comique. Stars Julie Fuchs (Ciboulette), Jean-François Lapointe (Duparquet), Julien Behr (Antonin), Michel Fau, Agnès Terrier, and Jérôme Deschamps. Laurence Equilbey conducts the Orchestre Opéra de Toulon and Accentus. Directed for TV by François Roussillon. Released 2014. Grade: Help!

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

Thursday
Oct162014

Il trovatore

Verdi Il trovatore opera to a libretto by Salvadore Cammarano and Leone Emanuele Bardare. Directed 2012 by Dmitri Tcherniakov at La Monnaie de Mund. Stars Misha Didyk (Manrico), Marina Poplavskaya (Leonora), Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo (Azucena), Scott Hendricks (Il Conte di Luna), and Giovanni Furlanetto (Ferrando). Marc Minkowski conducts the Orchestre symphonique de la Monnaie and the Choeurs de la Monnaie. Set and costume design by Dmitri Tcherniakov. 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
Oct162014

La Sonnambula

Bellini La Sonnambula opera to a libretto by Felice Romani. Directed 2009 by Mary Zimmerman at the Met. Stars Juan Diego Flórez (Elvino), Natalie Dessay (Amina), Michele Pertusi (Count Rodolfo), Jennifer Black (Lisa), Jane Bunnell (Teresa), Jeremy Galyon (Alessio), and Bernard Fitch (Notary). Evelino Pidò conducts the Orchestra & Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera. Set design by Daniel Ostling; costume design by Mara Blumenfeld; lighting design by T. J. Gerckens; choreography by Daniel Pelzig. Released 2014. Grade: Help!

This 2009 production was forcefully booed on opening night by the conservative Met audience that didn't like Zimmerman's radical updating. There followed a flurry of bad press reviews. But a few months later Erick Neher wrote in The Hudson Review a defense of Zimmerman called "On the Booing of La Sonnambula," which is the most thoughtful review of an opera performance I've ever read.

At of this writing in October 2014, we already have 3 fine La Sonnambula HDVDs, all quite different in style, that we graded "A." But none of them has supernova stars like Flórez and Dessay. So bring 'em on. It will be fun to see how this Met show stacks up with the competition.

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

Tuesday
Oct142014

Giselle

Giselle ballet. Music by Adolphe Adam to libretto by Théophile Gautier and Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges. Choreography by Marius Pepita, Jean Coralli, and Jules Perrot as revived by Yuri Grigorovich. Recorded 2011 at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow. Stars Svetlana Lunkina (Giselle), Dmitry Gudanov (Albrecht), Vitaly Biktimirov (Hans [Hilarion]), Maria Allash (Myrtha), Elena Bukanova (Berthe), Ekaterina Barykina (Bathilde), Alexay Loparevich (Duke), Vladislav Lantratov (Wilfreed), Chinara Alizade and Andrey Bolotin (Pas de deux des paysans). Pavel Klinichev directs the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. Set and costume designs by Simon Virsaladze; lighting design by Mikhail Sokolov; produced by François Duplat; directed for TV by Vincent Bataillon. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts Master Audio sound. Grade: C+

This Bolshoi Giselle is not competitive with the other HDVDs we have (October 2014) of this classic. I think Yuri Grigorovich in 2011 was more concerned with the billion-dollar renovation of the Bolshoi theater than he was with perfecting current productions. This show was probably enjoyable live at the Bolshoi.  But as you can see from the streenshots below, little or no attention was given as to how to make the show look good to the HD video camera. 

The Bolshoi stars are all fine dancers, but none of them has enough personality to leave a lasting impression. So to overcome the lack of outstanding stars, everything else about this production would have to be smashing; which, alas, is not the case.

I should say now that the Bolshoi orchestra plays well. I don't plan in this review to explain the plot of Giselle. I've already covered this in several earlier reviews that you should consult now if you are rusty on the story.

In the Bolshoi Act 1 (Giselle's village) there is a relatively small cast on a huge stage, which makes the dancers look lonely. Here we see the stage with Albrecht (Dmitry Gudanov) alone:

To avoid the forlorn look, Bataillon uses a lot of near and close-up shots. But this gets him into other kinds of trouble. The backdrop for the set shown above looks fine to someone in the live audience. But when you move in with an HD camera for a near-shot of Albrecht and Giselle (Svetlana Lunkina), it's painfully obvious how primitive the painting is:

The HD camera also reveals how cheap some of the costumes are. Here Albrecht's vest look like it was made from plastic:

I think all our HDVD productions use 12 girls for the harvest celebration scenes. But the village below seems to be a depopulated place where the young men have gone to work in another country leaving the poor girls to dance for themselves. (Well, turns out the men are employed in the Duke's army, but we don't have room for a screenshot of that.)

 

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