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 April 19. As a sales promotion, Arthaus offers discounts of up to, say, 70% on 4 nice titles, each of which  has samplers from about 25 other Arthaus discs. We thought we should point this out to our new readers. Check out the Arthaus Electra (B+), The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (A), Rigoletto (B+), and La Traviata (B+).  Arthaus also has this deal on a Tosca; but this got a D grade from us, so we don't consider it a bargain.

We recently published a review with screenshots of the A graded Les Troyens from the Royal Opera House.

We recently posted a review with screenshots of the McGregor Going Somewhere documentary. Like so many of the HDVD documentaries we get, both the editorial and technical aspects of the title are rendered in a somewhat slapdash and careless manner. This makes it hard for us to recommend the title to general viewers (who will probably learn as much as they need to from the title just by reading our review). But it might still be of some interest to specalists, so we wind up with a D+ grade. We hope you can tell from our reviews that we are not a voluntary PR department for the fine-art video industry. When a title is weak, we tell you that.

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Tuesday
Apr222014

Richard II

Shakespeare Richard II play. Royal Shakespeare Company directed 2013 by Gregory Doran at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford -upon-Avon. Stars David Tennant (Richard), Oliver Ford Davies (Duke of York), Michael Pennington (John of Gaunt), Nigel Lindsay (Bolingbroke), and Jane Lapotaire (Duchess of GLoucester). Released 2014, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

This has been out for a while in movie form, and it seems to be popular. The Blu-ray will be released May 6 in Europe and May 13 in the US.

Please help us with a mini-review about this titles!

 

Friday
Apr182014

Les Troyens

Berlioz Les Troyens opera to libretto by the composer. Directed 2012 by David McVicar (Associate Director Leah Hausman) at the Royal Opera House. Stars (appearance order): Anna Caterina Antonacci (Cassandra), Fabio Capitanucci (Coroebus), Ashley Holland (Panthus), Ji Hyun Kim (Helenus), Barbara Senator (Ascanius), Pamela Helen Stephen (Hecuba), Robert Lloyd (Priam), Jenna Sloan (Polyxena), Sophia McGregor (Andromache), Sebastian Wright (Astyanax), Bryan Hymel (Aeneas), Jihoon Kim (Ghost of Hector), Lukas Jacobski (Greek Captain), Eva-Maria Westbroek (Dido), Hanna Hipp (Anna), Ji-Min Park (Iopas), Brindley Sherratt (Narbal), Daniel Grice (Soldier, Voice of Mercury), Ed Lyon (Hylas), Adrian Clarke (First Soldier), and Jeremy White (Second Soldier). Antonio Pappano conducts the Royal Opera Orchestra (Concert Master Peter Manning) and Chorus (Chorus Director Renato Balsadonna). Sets by Es Devlin; costumes by Moritz Junge; lighting by Wolfgang Göbbel; choreography and movement by Andrew George; directed for screen by François Roussillon; produced fo Blu-ray by James Whitbourn; Executive Producer Ben Pateman. Released  2013, two-disc set has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A

When the Greek armies suddenly depart Troy after 10 years of siege, the Trojans believe they have won the war. They flood out before the walls for fresh air and to behold the giant horse left behind by the Greeks:

Only the seer Cassandra (Anna Caterina Antonacci) and the Priest Laocoön see that the Trojans are letting down their guard. They fear the Greeks soon will be back:

But the Trojans celebrate. Priam assembles his court:

Queen Hecuba:

 

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Monday
Apr142014

Partenope

Handel Partenope opera to a libretto by an unknown author from a libretto originally written by Silvio Stampiglia. Directed 2008 by Francisco Negrin at Det Kongelige Teater (The Royal Danish Theater). Stars Inger Dam-Jensen (Partenope), Andreas Scholl (Arsace), Tuva Semmingsen (Rosmira), Christophe Dumaux (Armindo), Bo Kristian Jensen (Ermilio), and Palle Knudsen (Ormonte). Lars Ulrich Mortensen conducts the Concerto Copenhagen. Directed for TV by Peter Borgwardt. Released 2014, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound.

This title came out in 2009 in DVD. We now have only limited, unconfirmed information about its release in Blu-ray.  Amazon in the UK says the Blu-ray will be released in September, 2014. But Amazon in France and Spain claim to have it in stock. H'm---they may be confusing the DVD with the Blu-ray. Grade: Help!

Partenope is not mentioned in my Grove Book of Operas, and this is the only Partenope video ever released. It seems the show ran 8 times live. It was plagued by singers who fell ill, and the somewhat disjointed video had to be pieced together from a number of performances. But never mind. This is a comic opera full of cross-dressing, mistaken identities, and (I think) girls in trousers.  There's a scene here where a woman disguised is a man gets in a pickle. She is challenged to a duel---where the rules call for the combatants to strip to the waist! The show apparently has great music, decent singers, and a fine old-instrument chamber orchestra---so Handel fans who discussed it as Amazon critics generally liked it in DVD. The Blu-ray format ought to improve this, so welcome aboard.

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

Monday
Apr142014

Elektra

Richard Strauss Elektra opera to a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Directed 2013 by Patrice Chéreau at the Aix-en-Provence Summer Festival. Stars Evelyn Herlitzius (Electra), Waltraud Meier (Klytämnestra) , Adrianne Pieczonka (Chrysothemis), Mikhail Petrenko (Orest), Tom Randle (Aegisth), Franz Mazura (Tutor of Orest), Florian Hoffmann (A Young Servant), Donald McIntyre (An Old Servant), Renate Behle (The Overseer/Confidant), Bonita Hyman (First Maid), Andrea Hill (Second Maid/Trainbearer), Silvia Hablowetz (Third Maid), Marie-Eve Munger (Fourth Maid),  and Roberta Alexander (Fifth Maid). Actors are Christine Cardeur, Ana Gabriela Castro, Julie Denisse, Félix Martinez, Amandine Molla-Barré, and Marie Vires. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Orchestre de Paris and Coro Gulbenkian. Sets by Richard Peduzzi; costumes by Caroline de Vivaise; lighting by Dominique Bruguière; wigs and makeup by Campbell Young; dramaturgy by Vincent Huguet. Released 2014. Grade: Help!

In the May, 2014 Opera News Brian Kellow writes a glowing article about the Aix-en-Provence Summer Festival (page 16). Here's a comment he makes about the 2013 summer productions in Aix: "The season's operatic highlights included  . . . what turned out to be Patrice Chéreau's swan song, an Elektra of such profound simplicity and dramatic specificity that I count it among the handful of unqualifiedly great operagoing experience of my life." Many other observers have also praised this, so it's on my buy list for sure.

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

Monday
Apr142014

Aida

Giuseppe Verdi Aida opera to libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni. Directed 2013 by Carlus Padrissa and Àlex Ollé of La Fura Dels Baus at the Verona Festival. Stars Hui He, Fabio Sartori, Giovanna Casolla, Ambrogio Maestri, Adrian Sampetrean, and Roberto Tagliavini. Omer Meir Wellber conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Verona Arena. Choreography by Valentina Carrasco; set design by Roland Olbeter; costume design by Chu Uroz; lighting by Paolo Mazzon. Released 2014. Grade: Help!

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

Saturday
Apr122014

McGregor Going Somewhere

This title includes two films relating to Wayne McGregor:

  • Going Somewhere is an 80-minute documentary about McGregor as choreographer and is reviewed here.
  • A Moment in Time is a 30-minute performance film, offered as a bonus extra, with three short pieces by McGregor. It has nice music from folks like Joby Talbot, Olafur Arnalds, and Kaija Saariaho recorded at 48kHz/24 bit specs. But it will not be reviewed because it only has stereo sound (and the video also suffers from VHS or DVD-level quality).

Going Somewhere considers the choreographic techniques of Wayne McGregor illustrated by recordings of his work with his own dance group, Random Dance. There are also recordings of his work with stars of the Royal Ballet, experimental work with high school students, and several "science" segments. Directed by Catherine Maximoff; photography by Samuel Dravet; sound by François Waledisch and Henri Maïkoff; editing by Emmanuelle Baude. Released 2014, disc has PCM stereo sound. Grade: D+

Here's a better view of the 8 members of Random Dance as seen on the back of the keepcase. The dancers, unfortunately not identified individually on the disc,  are: Neil Fleming Brown, Catarina Carvalho, Agnès López Rio, Paolo Mangiola, Anna Nowak, Maxime Thomas, Antoine Vereecken, and Jessica Wright:

My favorite image from Going Somewhere. This makes for a nice PC wallpaper:

McGregor is now one of the hottest choreographers in the world. He appears briefly in the HDVD title La Dance (at 20:25). He also speaks in the introductions to his Croma, Infra, and Limen dance pieces released in the Three Ballets by Wayne McGregor HDVD. In just moments, McGregor leaves an indelible impression, and he is one of the most unforgettable characters I have never met. How to describe him? Well, mate an octopus with a featherless chicken. Endow the new creature with a genius for movement, and give it a hot-foot. That would be McGregor.

Everyone has a unique face, voice, finger-prints, etc. And, per McGregor,  everyone has a unique movement "signature." The essence of McGregor's movement signature is smooth flexibility. Here he leads the Random Dance in an undulation of the rib-cage that will be the foundation for a piece. Even his own dancers seem to have trouble mimicing this. While working, McGregor is seen constantly in motion showing the dancers what he wants, and sometime he breaks loose into wild improvisations, just for fun:

 

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Monday
Apr072014

Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Mozart Die Entführung aus dem Serail opera to libretto by Johann Gottlieb Stephanie (from Christoph Friedrich Bretzner). Directed 2013 by Adrian Marthaler at the Salzburg Airport Hangar-7 (and 10 other locations) as part of the Salzburger Festspiele. Stars Desirée Rancatore (Konstanze), Tobias Moretti (Bassa Selim, spoken role), Javier Camarena (Belmone), Rebecca Nelsen (Blonde), Thomas Ebenstein (Pedrillo), and Kurt Rydl (Osmin). Hans Graf conducts the Camerata Salzburg and Salzburger Bachchor. 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.

 

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