Here's news about high-definition video recordings of opera, ballet, classical music, plays, fine-art documentaries, and painting. 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.

April 18. Want to analyze and grade a symphony Blu-ray? Check out the new Wonk Worksheet that lets you do just that!

Bryan Balmer just posted a review of the Berlin Phil's own recording of Abbado---The Last Concert. Thank you Bryan! I just posted a D for the mother of all DVDitis infections: a recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 1 as part of the "Keeping Score" series from the San Francisco Symphony.  See the Wonk Worksheet for this Mahler 1. But with the troubled symphony there is also in the same package a grade A documentary about Mahler's life.

I recently posted a review of the A- ballet La reine morte (The Dead Queen) from the Ballet du Capitole (Toulouse). Dance has benefited the most from HDVDs. See my "hit-parade" story with top dance picks.

The industry is still making classical music HDVDs with video infected by DVDitis. Here's a list of the best classical music HDVDs with 96kHz/24-bit sound, no DVDitis, and mostly grades of A+:

  1. Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 from NHK with the Berlin Philharmonic under Ozawa
  2. Mahler Symphony No. 1 from NHK with the Saito Kinen Orchestra under Ozawa
  3. Brahms Symphony No. 2 from NHK with the Saito Kinen Orchestra under Ozawa
  4. Schumann Piano Concerto & Bruckner Symphony 9 from NHK with the Concertgebouw Orchestra under  Haitink.
  5. Mozart Symphony 35 & Haydn Cello Concerto from NHK with Mito Chamber Orchestra under Ozawa
  6. Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1 and Midsummer Night's Dream Music from NHK with Mito Chamber Orchestra under Ozawa
  7. Tango! from Challenge Records---Piazzolla tango nuevo by the Isabelle van Keulen Ensemble
  8. Winterreise from Challenge Records with tenor Prégardien and Gees on piano
  9. Mutter Live---The Club Album from DG. (This only got a" B+")
  10. Capuleti e i Montecchi opera from San Francisco Opera and EuroArts
  11. Porgy and Bess opera from San Francisco Opera and EuroArts
  12. Mozart Chamber Music from AIX Records with the Dover Quartet + guest artists. (This one got an "A")

The table below shows typical metrics for the best NHK symphony HDVDs mentioned above and can serve as benchmarks for diagnosing DVDitis:

Title Pace   Supershots   Conductor Shots
Tchaikovsky Symphony 6    14.5 seconds per clip   38%   24%
Mahler Symphony 1 9 seconds per clip   21%   11%
Brahms Symphony 2 11 seconds per clip   39%   13%
Bruckner Symphony 9 13.5 seconds per clip   34%   20%
Mito Chamber Orchestra 11 seconds per clip   40+%   18%


Stated briefly, a good HDVD should have a slow pace with more than 10 seconds per video clip on average. 20 to 40% of the clips should be large-scale supershots. Conductor shots should be less than 20% of the clips in the video.

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Wednesday
Apr272016

Turandot

Puccini Turandot opera to libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni. Directed 2008 by Chen Kaige at the Calatrava opera house Palau de las Arts "Reina Sofía" in Valencia. Stars Maria Guleghina (Turandot), Marco Berti (Calaf), Alexia Voulgaridou (Liù), Alexander Tsymbalyuk (Timur), Fabio Previati (Ping), Vincenç Esteve (Pang),  Roger Padullés (Pong), Javier Agulló (Altoum), Ventseslav Anastasov (Un Mandarino), Ossama Badreddine (Prince of Persia, with voice sung by Javier Agulló), Eguzki López (Executioner), plus Immaculada Burriel and Jacqueline Squarcia (Handmaids). Zubin Mehta directs the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, the Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana (Chorus Master Francesc Perales), and the Escolania de la Mare de Déu dels Desemparats (Chorus Master Luis Garrido). Sets by Liu King; costumes by Chen Tong Xun; lighting by Albert Faura; directed for TV by Tiziano Mancini. Released  2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A

Special note: this title (with C Major catalog number 750104) is the exact same record as the popular Turandot published by C Major in 2009 (with C Major catalog number 700404). The only difference between the two versions probably is the artwork, and the reason for the re-issue is likely a berserk lawyer somewhere. For now, just follow the link above for information about the prior recording.

Wednesday
Apr272016

Carmen

Georges Bizet Carmen opera to libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy. Directed 2010 by Calixto Bieito at the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Stars Béatrice Uria-Monzon (Carmen), Roberto Algana (Don José), Marina Poplavskaya (Micaëla), Erwin Schrott (Escamillo), Eliana Bayón (Frasquita), Itxaro Mentxaka (Merédès), Marc Canturri (Le Dancaïre), Francisco Vas (Le Remendado), Àlex Sanmartí (Moralès, a Sergeant), Josep Ribot (Zungia, the Lieutenant), Abdel Aziz El Mountassir (Lillas Pastia), Xavi Estrada (mute/nude Toréador), and Tamara Santiago (Macarena). Marc Piollet conducts the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu (Chorus Master José Luis Basso) and the Cor Vivaldi - Petits Cantors de Catalunya (Chorus Master Òscar Boada). Set design by Alfons Flores; costume design by Mercè Paloma; lighting design by Xavi Clot; video direction by Pietro d'Agostino; produced for video by Gemma Felius; video executive production by Barbara Berini. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+

Special note: this title (with C Major catalog number 750304) is the exact same record as the popular Carmen published by C Major in 2011 (with C Major catalog number 707404). The only difference between the two versions probably is the artwork, and the reason for the re-issue is likely a berserk lawyer somewhere. For now, just follow the link above for a review with screenshots of this recording.

Monday
Apr252016

Dvořák Symphony No. 9 and Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

Dvořák Symphony No. 9 and Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition concert. In 2014 Mariss Jansons conducts the Bavarian Radio Orchestra. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. Grade: Help!

Please help us with a comment or review of this title.

Monday
Apr252016

Giulio Cesare 

Handel Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) opera to libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym. Directed 2012 by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurie at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival. Stars Cecilia Bartoli (Cleopatra), Andreas Scholl (Cesare), Philippe Jaroussky (Sesto), Anne Sofie von Otter (Cornelia), Christophe Dumaux (Tolomeo), Ruben Drole (Achilla), Jochen Kowalski (Nireno/a), and Peter Kálmán (Curio). Giovanni Antonini conducts Il Giardino Armonico. Released 2016. Grade: Help!

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

Monday
Apr252016

I due Foscari

Verdi I due Foscari opera to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Directed by Thaddeus Strassberger in 2015 at the Royal Opera House. Stars Plácido Domingo (Francesco Foscari), Francesco Meli (Jacopo Foscari), and Maria Agresta (Lucrezia Contarini). Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Opera Chorus.  Sets design by Kevin Knight; costume design by Mattie Ullrich; lighting by Bruno Poet. Released 2016, 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.

Monday
Apr252016

Viscera

Viscera or 2016 Royal Ballet Modern Dance Review (my title). Recorded live at the Royal Opera House in 2015. Here's the program:

1. Viscera choreographed by Liam Scarlett to music from the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Lowell Liebermann. Stars Laura Morera, Marianela Nuñez, and Ryoichi Hirano.

2. Afternoon of a Faun choreographed  by  Jerome Robbins to music of Claude Debussy. Stars Sarah Lamb and Vadim Muntagirov.

3. Carmen choreographed by Carlos Acosta to music of Georges Bizet (arrangement by Martin Yates). Stars
Marianela Nuñez, Carlos Acosta, Federico Bonelli, and Matthew Golding.

4. Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux choreographed by George Balanchine to music of Tchaikovsky. Starts Iana Salenko and Steven McRae.

Music by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Emmanuel Plasson and, in the Carmen only, by Martin Yates.

Grade: Help!

Some things old and some things new to celebrate some great dancers at the RB, some of who are getting close to retirement. I indexed this under the name Viscera because it seems to be the most distinctive and novel of the four pieces. It also features one of my favorite dancers, Laura Morera. Laura has had a long career and has danced just about all the roles as principal. But in the HDVDs, it seems she always appears as a supporting dancer. (Nobody else can dance the harlot as well as Laura.) But if there's a starring role on this disc, I think she's got it.

Sunday
Apr242016

Beethoven Symphonies 1-9

Beethoven Symphonies 1-9 (or Complete Beethoven Symphonies) box set. Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker at several locations in 2015. Features soprano Annette Dasch, mezzo Eva Vogel, tenor Christian Eisner, and bass Dimitry Ivashchenko. Preliminary information would be that all the symphonies, a 45-minute documentary, and a bonus lecture from Sir Rattle are on 2 Blu-ray video discs. There is a third Blu-ray disc with audio recordings of the symphonies. The package further has all music on 5 CDs, a lavish booklet, a download code for other audio files, and a digital concert ticket. It appears this will be the 4th important box set from the Berliner Philhamoniker that is not offered in the DVD format.  Grade: Help!

Click on the "Presto" button below to buy this from Presto.

Saturday
Apr232016

Schumann Symphonies 1-4

Schumann Symphonies 1-4  or (Complete Schumann Symphonies) box set. In 2013, Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker in all four Schumann symphonies. Released in 2014, all the symphonies,  a bonus interview, and audio tracks recorded at 96kHz/24-bit are on a Blu-ray disc with 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Also in the package are two CDs, a download code for other audio files, and a digital concert ticket. Grade: Help!

Click on the "Presto" button below to buy this from Presto.

Saturday
Apr232016

St. John Passion

Bach St. John Passion oratorio. Ritualised (directed) 2014 by Peter Sellers at the Philharmonie in Berlin. Stars tenor Mark Padmore (Evangelist), baritone Christian Gerhaher (Pilatus/Petrus), baritone Roderick Williams (Jesus), soprano Camilla Tilling, mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena, tenor Topi Lehtipuu (Arias), and bass Thomas Quasthoff. Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Rundfunkchor Berlin (Chorus Master Simon Halsey).  Music has runtime of 135 minutes and there is a 52-minute bonus extra with Peter Sellers in conversation with Simon Rattle.  Directed for video by Daniel Finkerhagel and Alexander Lück.  Released 2014, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Package also has 2 DVDs, an extensive booklet, and a 7-day digital concert voucher.   Grade: Help!

Click on the "Presto" button below to buy this from Presto.

Saturday
Apr232016

Sibelius Symphonies 1-7

Sibelius Symphonies 1-7 (or Complete Sibelius Symphonies) box set. Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker between December 2014 and February 2015 in all seven Sibelius symphonies. All the symphonies (run time of 297 minutes), plus a 58-minute bonus interview with Rattle discussing the works, are on a Blu-ray video disc with 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. Further, the box has a Blu-ray audio disc (run time 227 minutes) with all the symphonies recorded at 96kHz/24-bit. Finally there are 4 CDs with all the symphonies. Of course, the box has a 64-page booklet and access to Internet downloads and streaming services.

Click on the "Presto" button below to buy this from Presto.

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