Titles by Category

Here's news about high-definition video disc ("HDVD") recordings of opera, ballet, classical music, plays, fine-art documentaries, and paintings. In the journal below are independent (and hard-to-find critical) reports on hundreds of HDVDs. Pick the best titles for your excelsisphere.

January 12. We just posted La grande danza, a new, B+ dance title from ATERBALLETTO, the leading modern dance group in Italy.

We resently posted reviews of Chailly conducting Mahler Symphony No. 5, Mahler Symphony No. 6, Mahler Symphony No. 7, and Mahler Symphony No. 9 at the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig. We continue our valiant search for symphony titles that are not infected with DVDitis (alas, most are).

Mahler Symphony No. 3 is 90 minutes long and therefore seldom played or recorded. We just posted a review of M3 performed by The Lucerne Festival Symphony. Although flawed by DVDitis, it's probably the best M3 recording ever made.

We just updated our manifesto about the best ballet and dance videos.

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Entries by Henry McFadyen Jr. (1083)

Thursday
Jun082017

Ballet du Capitole

Ballet du Capitole Box Set released 2017. Below are the discs for three ballets choreographed by Kadar Belarbi at the Theatre du Capitole in Toulouse. Each of them has already been reported on this website, and you can get more details by using the links provided:

1. Le Corsaire. Adam. 2014. (Grade: C+)

2. La Bête et la Belle. Daquin, Haydn, Ligeti, and Maurice Ravel.  2015. (Grade: B)

3. La reine morte. Tchaikovsky. 2016. (Grade A-)

Proof that even a small ballet company can compete with the big boys. Tasteful productions give you a refreshing break from the warhorses, and you can see Kadar's work progress over recent years. I bought all these at full price and enjoyed them, so the box price for this is a good value. Three cheers for Belarbi and his troop!

 

Wednesday
Jun072017

Parsifal

Wagner Parsifal opera to a libretto by the composer. Directed 2016 by Uwe Eric Laufenberg at the Bayreuth Festival. Stars Ryan McKinny (Amfortas), Karl-Heinz Lehner (Titurel), Georg Zeppenfeld (Gurnemanz), Klaus Florian Vogt (Parsifal), Gerd Grochowski (Klingsor), Elena Pankratova (Kundry), Tansel Akzeybek (First Knight of the Grail), Timo Riihonen (Second Knight of the Grail), Alexandra Steiner (1st Squire), Mareike Morr (2nd Squire), Charles Kim (3rd Squire), Stefan Heibach (4th Squire), Anna Siminska, Katharina Persicke, Mareike Morr, Alexandra Steiner, Bele Kumberger, Ingeborg Gillebo (Flower Maidens), and Wiebke Lehmkuhl (Voice from Heaven). Hartmut Haenchen conducts the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Master Eberhard Friedrich).  Stage design by Gisbert Jäkel; costumes by Jessica Karge; lighting by Reinhard Traub, dramaturgy by Richard Lorber, video designs by Gérard Naziri. Directed for video by Michael Beyer. Released 2017, disc has 5.0 dts-. Grade: Help!

We now have 8 HDVDs of Parsifal! It would take a whole workweek to carefully watch all them just once.

This latest version from Bayreuth refers to modern times in the Middle East and created security problems in Bayreuth. Print critics have been generally favorable. For example, David Baker, writing in the December 2017 Opera News (page 54) states that "musical splendor comensates for the festival's customary excesses in staging." Further, "the heavy string vibratos, the 'spiritual' hush, and glacial pacing that signaled awe and reverence" in other productions are replaced by conductor Haenchen's "impeccable instrumental articulation."

Below are three images I found on the Internet that were not protected by individual copyright notices (and are probably not directly from the DG recording that published in DVD and Blu-ray):

Here are the Flowermaidens. Underneath they are wearing outfits that are much more colorful:

And next below is a YouTube clip with more about the flower maids:

 

Tuesday
Jun062017

Les Contes d'Hoffmann

Offenbach Les Contes d'Hoffmann opera to a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. Direction by John Schlesinger. Stars Vittorio Grigòlo (Hoffmann), Thomas Hampson (Lindorf/Coppélius/Dapertutto/Miracle), Sofia Fomina (Olympia), Christine Rice (Giulietta), Sonya Yoncheva (Antonia), Kate Lindsey (Nicklausse/Muse), Christophe Mortagne (Spalanzani), Eric Halfvarson (Crespel), Vincent Ordanneau (Andrès/Cochenille/Pittichinaccio/Frantz), Catherine Carby (Spirit of Antonia's Mother), David Junghoon Kim (Nathanaël), Charles Rice (Hermann), Yuriy Yurchuk (Schlémil), Jeremy White (Luther), and Olga Sabadoch (Stella). Evelino Pidò conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Co-Concert Master Sergey Levitin) and the Royal Opera Chorus (Chorus Director Wiliam Spaulding). Sets by William Dudley; costumes by Maria Björnson; lighting by David Hersey; choreography by Eleanor Fazan; fight direction by William Hobbs; directed for the screen by Johathan Haswell. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

This title appears to have a fine cast for time-honored traditional production of Les Contes. Here is the official YouTube clip:

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


Monday
Jun052017

Verdi Messa da Requiem

Special note: This title has been released twice by C Major with different catalogue numbers and artwork. The upper images in the story below refer to C Major Catalogue No. 713804 which was released in 2013. It has Amazon AISN B00FEMGCH4:

The next images below refer to C Major Catalogue No. 741304 which was released in 2017. It has Amazon AISN B072B8R6T1:

The most obvious difference between the two titles is the artwork on the front page. But there are other tiny differences. For example, the art on the back of the keepcase shows the concert track in 2017 version runs 4 minutes longer than in 2013, and the Bonus is described in slightly different words. Now let's move on to information common to these titles:

Verdi Messa da Requiem concert. Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale in 2013 at the Hollywood Bowl. Soloists are Julianna DiGiacomo (soprano), Michelle DeYoung (mezzo), Vittorio Grigolo (tenor), and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (bass). Video direction by Michael Beyer; produced by Bernhard Fleischer. Released 2013, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Malcolm Riley reviewed the 2013 version of this in the March 2014 Gramophone at page 76. He especially liked the orchestra and the chorus. But he did note difficulties one encounters recording classical music in a band shell before 11,000 spectators. He also paid some attention to the video itself stating, "Visually, I wonder how often one would regularly re-view this performance. Some of the camera angles are awkward and the lighting makes everything look somewhat  flat." Hugo Shirley reviewed the 2017 version of this in the Gramophone 2017 "Awards Edition" at pages 107-109! Shirley was apparently not aware that his magazine already had published the 2013 review of the exact same video. All this is just more evidence of how little attention the fine folks at Gramophone give to the growing Blu-ray market for recordings of classical music.

I'm confident this was an exciting performance. But recording sight and sound live outdoors is always a huge challenge for the technicians. And with Michael Beyer around, you would expect an infection of DVDitis as well.

(This reminds me of when my family went to the Atlanta Olympics and we had nice tickets for the women's beach volley ball games (ultimate girl-watching exercise). When we took our seats, there was a jumble of TV cameras and a crane right between us and the court. I complained to the supervisor of the TV crew that we couldn't see the action. He said, "Sir, there are 2 billion people watching what I'm shooting right now and you want me to move my gear?" Well, at the next intermission in the matches, the TV crew did in fact move to the other corner of the court and cleared up our line-of-sight (to the consternation of other spectators). I had, of course, no idea whether my complaint had anything to do with this move by the TV guys. But I did for several days catch my children gazing on me with respect and even awe---something that fathers rarely experience.)

If you want to buy the old version, here goes:

 

 

If you want to shop around, here are buttons for the 2017 version:

 

Monday
Jun052017

Don Carlo 

Verdi Don Carlo opera to a 4-act libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle. Directed 2016 by Cesare Lievi as part of the Verdi Festival, Teatro Regio di Parma. Stars Michele Pertusi (Philip II, King of Spain), José Bros (Don Carlo, Infante of Spain), Vladimir Stoyanov (Rodrigo, Marchese di Posa), Ievghen Orlov (Grand Inquisitor), Serena Farnocchia (Elisabetta di Valois), Marianne Cornetti (Princess Eboli), Lavinia Bini (Tebaldo, Elisabetta’s Page), Gregory Bonfatti (Conte di Lerma), and Marina Bucciarelli (Celestial Voice). Daniel Oren conducts the Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini and the Chorus of the Teatro Regio di Parma (Chorus Master Martino Faggini). Sets and costumes designed by Maurizio Balò; lighting by Andrea Borelli. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Hugo Shirley, writing in the October 2017 Gramophone (pages 100-101), condemns this recording to the limbo of "a solid performance" offering evidence that the Parma festival, "which seemed to be in trouble a few years ago, might be back on an even keel."

Here is the official YouTube clip:

Sunday
Jun042017

Béatrice et Bénédict

Berlioz Béatrice et Bénédict opera to a libretto by the composer. Directed 2106 by Laurent Pelly at the Glyndebourne Summer Festival. Stars Stéphanie d'Oustrac (Béatrice), Paul Appleby (Bénédict), Philippe Sly (Claudio), Léonato (Georges Bigot), Sophie Karthäuser (Hero), Lionel Lhote (Somarone), Frédéric Caton (Don Pedro), Katarina Bradić (Ursule), and Paul Sheridon (Notary). Antonello Manacorda, replacing the ill Robin Ticciati, directs the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Leader Vesselin Gellev) and the Glyndebourne chorus (Chorus Master Jeremy Bines). Set designs by Barbara de Limburg; costumes designed by Laurent Pelly; lighting by Duane Schuler; and dialogue adapted by Agathe Mélinand. Film direction by François Roussillon; George Bruell was Executive Producer. Sung in French. Released 2017, disc has 5,1 dts-HD Master Audio surround sound. Grade: Help!

This was Berlioz' last work and has rarely received full-blown stage treatment. It's a highly truncated version of Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing. According to Arkiv Music there are only 4 CD recordings of this opera. So subject title performed at Glyndebourne and recorded in Blu-ray video with the London Philharmonic Orchestra would most likely be the best record of this ever.

Print critics generally liked the music, but were less impressed by stage designs that feature huge boxes in a mostly gray world. For example, Mike Ashman, writing in the August 2017 Gramophone (page 86) concludes that this is "well recorded and filmed in a slick modern production . . . [that] deserves a place in the catalogue and on your shelves." Just looking at the early PR, I thought that Glyndebourne had made a mistake with this, but MDT Records reports that it has been a good seller.

You can get a good idea about the gray world from this clip:

 

Thursday
Jun012017

Macbeth

Verdi Macbeth opera to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Directed 2016 by Darko Tresnjak at the LA Opera House. Stars Plácido Domingo (Macbeth), Ekaterina Semenchuk (Lady Macbeth), Ildebrando D’Arcangelo (Banquo), Joshua Guerrero (Macduff), Joshua Wheeker (Malcolm), Summer Hassan (Lady-in-Waiting), Theo Hoffmann, (Doctor/ First Apparition), Liv Redpath (Second Apparition), Isaiah Morgan (Third Apparition), Reid Bruton (Servant), and James Martin Schaefer (Assassin). James Conlon conducts LA Opera Orchestra and Choir (Chorus Director Grant Gershon). Scenic design by Darko Tresnjak and Colin McGurk; costume design by Suttirat Anne Larlarb; lighting design by Matthew Richards; projection design by Sean Nieuwenhuis; fight director by Steve Rankin; climbing consultant was Daniel Lyons. Executive Producers Christopher Koelsch and Rupert Hemmings; Screen Producers Anthea Bhargava and Eric White; directed for screen by Matthew Diamond. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Mike Ashman contemplates this production (2017 Awards Gramophone at page 123) about the same as Lady Macbeth comtemplates that spot on her hand stating that this title  is "really only recommendable for Semenchuk and those collectitng everything Domingo has done."

There are several YouTube clips about this production, but I can't find a trailer for this Sony disc.

 

Thursday
Jun012017

Beethoven Triple Concerto and Symphony No. 5

Beethoven Triple Concerto and Beethoven Symphony No. 5 concert. Herbert Blomstedt conducts the Gewandhausorchester in 2017. The Triple Concerto features Isabelle Faust (violin), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), and Martin Helmchen (piano). Directed for TV by Ute Feudel; produced by Paul Smaczny. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 Dolby Digital and dts sound. Grade: Help!

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

Here's the official trailer on YouTube, which strongly suggests that this title has a bad case of DVDitis:

Thursday
Jun012017

Il barbiere di Siviglia

 

Rossini Il barbiere di Siviglia opera to libretto by Cesare Sterbini. Directed by 2016 Annabel Arden at Glyndebourne. Stars Danielle de Niese (Rosina), Alessandro Corbelli (Dr Bartolo), Björn Bürger (Figaro), Taylor Stayton (Count Almaviva), Christophoros Stamboglis (Basilio), and Janis Kelly (Berta). Enrique Mazzola conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Leader Pieter Schoeman) and The Glyndebourne Chorus (Chorus Master Jeremy Bines). Designs by Joanna Parker; lighting by James Farncombe; movement by Toby Sedgwick; directed for film by François Roussillon; Executive Producer George Bruell.  Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Richard Osburne, writing in the August 2017 Gramophone (page 90) was not well impressed by this production complaining of tiresome acting by Danielle de Niese, overly busy and illogical directing by Annabel Arden, and excessive use of blue in the designs (leading to scenes that are too dark on the small HT screen). Here the official trailer (with lots of blue):

 

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 (Mimì), 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!

Early YouTube clips about this production (which seem to have been withdrawn) suggested to me tacky updating. But it did seem to me that the singing is better than the mise-en-scène and that Olesya Golovneva is more appealing than the artwork of her on the keepcase. Henson Keys, writing in the November 2017 Opera News (52-53) goes all out in support of this Bohème.  He says,"Golovneva is the most touching Mimì of my many experiences with this opera." Wow! He further praises all the rest of the cast as "youthful, fresh-voiced singers who are also superb actors." So this may yet be a hit even with the competition of 11 other Blu-ray Bohèmes now on the market.

Here are a couple of official clips about the Malmö effort:

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