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.

October 15. We are getting again into symphony titles and the existential issue of DVDitis. I just posted a story on a Mahler 2 recording at the Gewandhaus that might be considered DOA from the dread plague.

I recently put up a story about the 3rd version (!) of the same Giselle production published by Opus Arte. I recently posted a story about the Ekman Midsummer Night's Dream ballet (which has nothing to do with Shakespeare). I also just posted two stories about Shakespeare's The Tempest. The first is a definitive stage play version by the RSC. The second is an updated review of The Tempest movie staring Helen Mirren as Prospera (the female version of Prospero). The movie is streamlined - try it first. Then move on to the RSC "real deal", which is probably the best The Tempest ever made for home viewing.



The Royal Opera Collection

The Royal Opera Collection Box Set released 2017. Below are the discs for 15 productions of The Royal Opera. Each of them has already been reported on this website, and you can get more details by using the links provided:

1. Le nozze di Figaro. Mozart. 2009. (Grade: A+)
2. Don Giovanni. Mozart. 2014. (Grade: A)
3. Die Zauberflöte. Mozart. 2008. (Grade A)
4. Macbeth. Verdi. 2012. (Grade A-)
5. La traviata. Verdi. 2011. (Grade A)
6. Carmen. Bizet. 2008. (Grade A+)
7. Parsifal. Wagner. 2014. (Grade N/A)
8. Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci. Mascagni/Leoncavallo. 2016. (Grade N/A)
9. La Bohème. Puccini. 2010. (Grade C+)
10. Turandot. Puccini. 2014. (Grade N/A)
11. Il trittico (Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi). Puccini. 2012. (Grade A)
12. Salome. Strauss. 2010. (Grade A+)
13. Król Roger. Syzmanowski. 2015. (Grade N/A)
14. Gloriana. Britten. 2013. (Grade N/A)
15. Written on Skin. Benjamin. 2014. (Grade B+)

There are 17 operas here (Il trittico has three 1-Act operas rolled into one). This Le nozze is considered by some to be the best opera video ever. The Salome is, per the traffic on this website, one of the most popular Blu-ray opera recordings. The Carmen and Zauberflöte are still the best available recordings in Blu-ray. The Written on Skin is the authoritative recording of this remarkable new opera. We haven't graded all of the titles in this box, but we have given 9 of the titles a B+ or better. So if the price drops below, say $200, you are probably getting at a good discount 10 titles you will really admire plus 5 bonus recordings that likely will unearth for you some buried treasure. If you are new to opera on video, this looks like a great place to start.


Dvořák Symphony No. 8

2017 Europakonzert: Mariss Jansons conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker this year in its traditional "Europakonzert" on May 1 celebrating the founding of the orchestra on May Day. Normally, this event occurs in a different European city in a beautiful venue of historical significance. For 2017, the concert was held outdoors in front of the main Byzantine castle at Paphos, Cyprus. Features clarinetist Andreas Ottensamer. Directed for TV by Henning Kasten. Here's the program:

1. Weber, Overture to Oberon

2. Weber, Clarinet Concerto No. 1 (Andreas Ottensamer)

3. Koncz, Hungarian Fantasy on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber

4. Dvořák, Symphony No. 8 

5. Brahms, Hungarian Dance No. 5

Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound, with "high resolution" audio, i.e. 96kHz/24-bit sound sampling. Grade: Help!

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Così fan tutte

Mozart Così fan tutte opera and dance program to libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Directed 2017 by choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker at the Opéra national de Paris! Singing stars are Jacquelyn Wagner (Fiordiligi), Michèle Losier (Dorabella), Frédéric Antoun (Ferrando), Philippe Sly (Guglielmo), Paulo Szot (Don Alfonso), and Ginger Costa-Jackson (Despina). The corresponding dancing stars are Cynthia Loemij (Fiordiligi), Samantha Van Wissen (Dorabella), Julien Monty (Ferrando), Michaël Pomero (Guglielmo), Boštjan Antončič (Don Alfonso), and Marie Goudot (Despina), all supported by other dancers of de Keersmaeker's Rosas dance company.  Philippe Jordan conducts the Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Master Alessandro di Stefano). Set and lighting design by Jan Versweyveld; costume design by An D'Huys; choreography by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker; dramaturgy by Jan Vandenhouwe. Directed for video by Louise Narboni. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Here we have a piece with opera singers and dancers paired up to present a combination opera and dance production in the vein of the Pina Bausch Orpheus und Eurydike. Except that Così fan tutte is a vastly more elaborate work than the Christoph W. Gluck Orpheus. This concoction lasts about 3 hours, which suggests de Keersmaeker is trying to keep as much of the text as she can while weaving her dancers into the libretto. What a challenge!



Shakespeare Cymbeline play. Directed 2016 by Melly Still at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Stars (in alphabetical order) Hiran Abeysekera (Posthumus), Romayne Andrews (First Lord/Dutchman), Gillian Bevan (Cymbeline), Doreene Blackstock (Cornelia/Soldier), Eke Chukwu (Caius Lucius/Spaniard), James Clyde (The Duke), James Cooney (Arviragus), Bethan Cullinane (Innogen), Marième Diouf (Helen/British Officer), Jenny Fennessy (Gentlewoman/Jailer), Kevin N. Golding (British Officer/Messenger), Marcus Griffiths (Cloten), Oliver Johnstone (Iachimo), Byron Mondahl (Philario/Soldier), Theo Ogundipe (Second Lord/Frenchman/Roman Captain), Natalie Simpson (Guideria), Graham Turner (Belarius), Temi Wilkey (Philharmonia), and Kelly Williams (Pisania). Designs by Anna Fleischle; lighting design by Philip Gladwell; music by Dave Price; sound by Jonathan Ruddick; movement by Emily Mytton; fights by Terry King; video by Dick Straker. Directed for screen  by Matthew Woodward; produced by John Wyver. Has a director's commentary. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Cymbeline is one of the most problematical and rarely produced Shakespeare plays. That the RSC and Opus Arte would produce this now is evidence of something I heard from the grapevine: that RSC and Opus Arte plan to publish Blu-rays of all of the Shakespeare canon.

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


Verdi Messa da Requiem

Verdi Messa da Requiem concert. Recorded 2016 at the Opernhaus Zürich. Fabio Luisi conducts the Philharmonia Zürich and the Chor und Zusatzchor (Extra Choir) of the Zürich Opera (Chorus Master Marcovalerio Marletta). Soloists are Krassimira Soyanova (soprano), Veronica Simeoni (mezzo-soprano), Francesco Meli (tenor), and Georg Zeppenfeld (bass). Choreography and stage direction by Christian Spuck; set design by Christian Schmidt; costume design by Emma Ryott; lighting design by Martin Gebhardt; dramaturgy by Michael Küster and Claus Spahn. Video direction by Michael Beyer; produced by Paul Smaczny. Subtitles in Latin, German, English, and French. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

There is a documentary on this disc called Stepping into the unknown---Christian Spuck's production of Verdi's Requiem." So this show promises to be something new and different. The first HDVD opera with ballet added was the Pina Bausch Orpheus und Eurydike. This Verdi Messa is, I gather, our first concert with ballet added. Or perhaps this Messa will seem more like a staged concert along the lines of the Berlin Philharmoniker Saint Matthew Passion.  (I think of the Béjart Ninth Symphony dance recording as a ballet set to Beethoven's 9th Symphony).

We applaud this new title as yet another attempt to bring vision to the aid of classical music in a form that can be shared by people all over the world. The (pretty empressive) trailer shown below is from the Zürich opera house, but it gives us a good idea what the Accentus disc is likely to show:


I due Foscari

Verdi i due Foscari opera to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Directed by Alvis Hermanis in 2016 at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan. Frédéric Olivieri directs soloists of the Academy and students of the Ballet Academy of Teatro alla Scala. Stars Plácido Domingo (Francesco Foscari), Francesco Meli (Jacopo Foscari), Anna Pirozzi (Lucrezia Contarini), Andrea Concetti  (Jacopo Loredano), Edoardo Miletti (Barbarigo), Chiara Isotton (Pisana), Azer Rza-Fade (Fante), and Modestas Sedlevičius (Servant of the Dodge). Michelle Mariotti conducts the Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala (Chorus Master Bruno Casoni).  Stage and set designs by Alvis Hermanis; costume design by Kristīne Jurjāne; lighting by Gleb Filshtinksy; choreography by Alla Sigalova; video designs by Ineta Sipunova; dramatic advisor was Olivier Lexa. Directed for TV by Tiziano Manchini. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

I could only find one clip in  HD, and it comes from alla Scala, not from C Major:

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



Alban Berg Lulu opera to libretto by the composer (3-act version completed by Friedrich Cerha in 1979). Directed 2015 by Dmitri Tcherniakov at the Bayerische Staatsoper. Stars Marlis Petersen (Lulu), Bo Skovhus (Dr. Schön/Jack the Ripper), Daniela Sindram (Gräfin Geschwitz), Matthias Klink (Alwa), Rainer Trost (Der Maler (Painter)/Ein Neger (Negro)), Martin Winkler (Ein Tierbändiger(Animal Trainer)/Ein Athlet), Pavlo Hunka (Schigolch), Christian Rieger (Der Medizinalrat/Der Bankier/Der Professor), Rachel Wilson (Eine Theater-Garderobiere/Ein Gymnasiast/Ein Groom), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Der Marquis), Christoph Stephinger (Der Theaterdirektor), Elsa Benoit (Eine Fünfzehnjährige (15 year-old girl)), Cornelia Wulkopf (Ihre Mutter (Mother of the Girl )), Heike Grötzinger (Eine Kunstgewerblerin (Gallery Owner)), John Carpenter (Ein Journalist), Leonard Bernad (Ein Diener (Servant)), and Nicholas Reinke (Der Polizeikommissär). Kirill Petrenko conducts the Bayerisches Staatsorchester. Costume designs by Elena Zaytseva; choreography by Tatiana Baganova; set design by Dmitri Tcherniakov; lighting design by Gleb Filshtinksy; video direction by Andy Sommer; produced by François Duplat. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Here a long clip from the Bavarian State Opera about this production; images on subject disc will be similar:

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Christopher Wheeldon Double Feature

Two Ballet Favourites by Christopher Wheeldon--- a two disc set released in 2017. Below are links to both shows, which have already been reported on this website:

1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Talbot. 2011. (Grade: A+)

2. Cinderella. Prokofiev. 2013. (Grade: A)

A beautiful paring of very fine performances---a real bargain at a reduced price.



Anastasia ballet. Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Bohuslav Martinů. Choreography by Kenneth MacMillan. Staged 2016 at the Royal Ballet. Stars Natalia Osipova (Anastasia/Anna Anderson), Marianela Nuñez (Mathilde Kschessinska), Federico Bonelli (Kschessinska’s Partner), Edward Watson (Anna Anderson's husband), Thiago Soares (Rasputin), Christina Arestis (Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna), and Christopher Saunders (Tsar Nicholas II). Simon Hewett conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Concert Master Sergey Levitin). Electronic music provided by the studio of The Technical University of West Berlin (Fritz Winckel and Rüdiger Rüfer); production realized by Deborah MacMillan; designed by Bob Crowley; lighting design by John B. Read; staging by Gary Harris; directed for the screen by Ross MacGibbon. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

This is from the October/November 2016 revival at the RHO. Both Laura Morera and Natalia Osipova were well received in the lead, but Osipova is the more famous and got the star berth in the video. Preliminary information needs confirmation and is incomplete.

Here's a clip about this performance with Osipova:

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La Favorite

Donizetti La Favorite opera to a libretto by Alphonse Royer and Gustave Vaëz. Directed 2016 by Amélie Niermeyer at the Bayerische Staatsoper. Stars Elīna Garanča (Léonor de Guzmán), Matthew Polenzani (Fernand), Mariusz Kwiecień (Alphonse XI, King of Castile), Mika Kares (Balthazar), Joshua Owen Mills (Don Gaspar), and Elsa Benoit (Inès). Karel Mark Chichon conducts the Bayerisches Staatsorchester and the Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper. (Chorus Master Sören Eckhoff). Set design by Alexander Müller-Elmau; costume design by Kirsten Dephoff; lighting design by Michael Baueri. Directed for video by Tiziano Mancini. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Here's the official trailer:

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