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.

Feb 24.  Finally we have some good grades with an A for the recent Met The Pearl Fishers (Les pêcheurs de perles) and a B- for an earlier The Pearl Fishers from Naples. Also, we recently gave an A- for the new Don Quixote from the Vienna State Ballet

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

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Entries in BelAir (57)

Thursday
Feb222018

Ingmar Bergman – Through the Choreographer's Eye

Ingmar Bergman – Through the Choreographer's Eye dance film made in 2016 by the Swedish Hammars Drama Productions. Features four dance pieces inspired by the films of Ingmar Bergman and filmed on the Swedish island of Fårö, Bergman's home. The four films are:

1. Thoughts on Berman and Dance. Choreography and dance by Alexander Ekman, script by Alexander Ekman and Ingmar Bergman, Jr.; music by Frédéric Chopin, Nocturne No. 2 in E flat major.

2. A Pre-Study. Choreography and dance by Pontus Lidberg; music by Stefan Levin; voice by Stina Ekblad; Groom played by Isabelle Lundberg; dramaturgy by Adrian Silver and Horse Svie.

3. Samband – Bande – Sarabande. Choreography by Pär Isberg; dancers are Nadja Sellrup and Oscar Salomonsson; music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Cello Suites; soloist is Torleif Thedeen.

4. Onapers. Choreography by Joakim Stephenson; dancers are Nathalie Nordquist and Jenny Nilson; music by Stefan Levin.

Released 2018, disc has 2.0 PCM stereo sound. Grade: Help!

Here is an official clip from BelAir:

Please help us with a review of this title!

Monday
Feb122018

Le Coq d’Or

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Le coq d’or opera to a libretto by Vladimir Belsky. Directed 2016 by Laurent Pelly at la Monnaie, Brussels. Stars Pavlo Hunka (Tzar Dodon), Alexey Dolgov (Tzarevich Guidon), Konstantin Shushakov (Tzarevich Afron), Alexander Vassiliev (General Polkan), Agnes Zwierko (Amelfa), Alexander Kravets (Astrologer), Venera Gimadieva (Tzaritza of Shemakha), and Sheva Tehoval (Little Golden Cockerel). Alain Altinoglu conducts La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and La Monnaie Chorus Academy led by Benoît Giaux (Chorus Master Martino Faggiani). Set design by Barbara de Limburg; costume design by Laurent Pelly; collaboration costumes by Jean-Jacques Delmotte; lighting by Joël Adam; choreography by Lionel Hoche. Released in 2018. Grade: Help!

Here is an official clip from La Monnaie:

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

Tuesday
Nov282017

Le nozze di Figaro

Mozart Le nozze di Figaro opera to libretto by Lorenza da Ponte. Directed 2004 by Jean-Louis Martinoty at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées. Stars Pietro Spagnoli (Il Conte d'Almaviva), Annette Dasch (La Contessa d'Almaviva), Rosemay Joshua (Susanna), Luca Pisaroni (Figaro), Angelika Kirchshlager (Cherubino), Sophie Pondjiclis (Marcellina), Alessandro Svab (Antonio), Antonio Abete (Bartolo), Enrico Facini (Don Basilio), Pauline Courtin (Barbarina), and Serge Goubioud (Don Curzio). René Jacobs conducts the Concerto Köln and the Chœur du Théâtre des Champs Elysées. Set design by Hans Schavernoch; costume design by Sylvie de Segonzac; lighting design by Jean Kalman; choreography by Cookie Chiapalone. Produced by François Duplat; directed for video by Pierre Barré. Released 2017, has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Why did it take so long for this to come out in Blu-ray? It was recorded in 2004 and released in 2007 in a highly-regarded DVD with 5.1 Dolby Digital.  I usually don't show YT clips in SD.  But I make an exception here with two clips below showing how pretty this production was (note how crude the subtitles look). The question remains whether this older film is good enough to benefit from Blu-ray presentation. If you have seen the new Blu-ray, please give us your opinion on this!

Tuesday
Oct242017

Paris Opera Ballet Box Set

Paris Opera Ballet box set released 2017. Below are the discs. Each of them has already been reported on this website, and you can get more details by using the links provided:

1. Orpheus und Eurydike. 2009. (Grade: A+)

2. Rain. 2015. (Grade: B+)

3. Tribute to Jerome Robbins. 2011. (Grade: A) 

Thursday
Oct122017

Midsummer Night's Dream

Midsummer Night's Dream ballet choreographed 2015 by Alexander Ekman, with assistant ballet director Mikael Jönsson, for the Royal Swedish Ballet. Music by Mikael Karlsson; lyrics by Mikael Karlsson and Anna Von Hausswolff. Performance seen here was staged in September 2016 by the Royal Swedish Ballet at the Stockholm Opera (Artistic Director Johannes Öhman). Stars Dragos Mihalcea (The Dreamer), Jenny Nilsson (Hostess), Sarah-Jane Brodbeck (Mistress), Lea Ved, Ross Martinson, Amanda Åkesson, Devon Carbone (Love Couples), Daria Ivanova, Desislava Stoeva (The Dreamwomen), Johnny Mcmillan (Mr Canon), Ross Martinson (A Bubbler) and Daniel Norgren-Jensen (A Chef On Pointe), Clyde Emmanuel Archer (Man with the Flag), Preston McBain, Devon Carbone (Headless Men), and Anna Von Housswolff (A Singer). Also features string quartet Dahlkvistkvartetten, percussionist Niklas Brommare, and pianist Henrik Måwe. Set design by Alexander Ekman; costume design by Bregje Van Balen; lighting design by Linus Fellbom; live processing by Roger Bergström and Maria Grönlund; sound design by Lars-Göran Ehn and Andrea Rea; makeup by Betina Stähle and Virginia Vogel; production manager was Ann-Christin Danhammar. Film directed by Tommy Pascal; Director of Photography Charles Sautreuil; produced by Xavier Dubois; line producer Coline Jolly.   Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B-

This ballet was inspired by the customary Swedish Midsummer Eve Festival celebrated on a Friday late in June, originally to honor the sun on the longest day of the year. It has nothing to do with the Shakespeare play (except that perhaps the festival and the play both can be traced back to ancient Pagan traditions). Ekman's Act 1, a depiction of the festival, begins when the Dreamer (Dragos Mihalcea seen below) is awakened early and closes when the Dreamer puts flowers under his pillow at the end of the longest day of the year.  Act 2 is the dream that follows (during the shortest night of the year):
 

The Festival has a lot to do with hay. Throwing hay around reminds me of Ekman's A Swan Lake, which had famous scenes about throwing water around:

Ekman likes to present the audience with the unexpected. Next below you see that the stage has been extended over the orchestra pit. The music for this Midsummer Night's Ballet is provided by musicians on the stage in the background:

Here's Ekman's version of the traditional ring dance around a decorated pole (phallic symbol):

The celebration includes games like the sack race below for kids of all ages and toasts for the adults. Only in a ballet could one try to drink a toast while jumping in a sack:

The Swedes like to have festival feasts at long tables. Standing next to the table is the blond vocalist Anna von Hausswolff, who co-wrote the music and appears constantly wandering about the stage singing:

Of course, there's plenty of beer, wine, and spirits:

 

Click to read more ...

Monday
Oct092017

The Golden Age

The Golden Age ballet. Music by Dmitri Shostakovich. Choreography by Yuri Grigorovich to libretto by Isaak Glikman and Yuri Grigorovich. Staged 2016 at the Bolshoi Ballet. Stars Nina Kaptsova (Rita, a young girl), Ruslan Skvortsov (Boris, a young fisherman), Mikhail Lobukhin (Yashka, gang leader), Ekaterina Krysanova (Lyuska, Yashka’s accomplice), and Vyachslav Lopatin (night club compere). Pavel Klinichev conducts the Corps de Ballet and Orchestra of the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Russia. Lighting design by Mikhail Sokolov; sets and costumes by Simon Virsaladze; choreography assistants Regina Nikiforova and Andrey Melanin. Produced by François Duplat; filmed by Vincent Bataillon. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+

Has any great people suffered more bad luck than the Russians? Have they ever had a Golden Age? Well, the Golden Age depicted in this ballet was part of the Russian Revolution and lasted 5 years between the end of the Russian Civil War (1923) and the beginning of Stalin's Cultural Revolution (1928), which in turn led to the Great Terror of 1934-1939. 5 years is a short time span for an era.

Before the Russian Revolution, the most important art movement in Russia was that of the Wanderers, mostly romantic and impressionist artists who traveled about the vastness of Russian putting on exhibitions to enlighten people. A nice example of the art of the Wanderers is the Girl with Peaches (1887) by Valentin Serov shown next below:

Painting in Russia after the Wanderers was probably headed toward the natural realism of, say, Zinaida Serebriakova (1884-1967). She was an aristocrat who became a wanderer in foreign countries after 1917 and died a French citizen. Below we see her famous Self-Portrait at Toilet (1909) and her also famous Bathhouse (1913):

But then along came the Communists. The devastation of the Civil War forced Lenin in 1922 to allow limited free enterprise under the New Economic Policy (NEP).  This is now viewed as a golden time when "Russian Futurism" flourished. One popular futurist style was "rayism":

And Communist propaganda sprang up as "Agitprop" art. Below is a banner for the New Economic Policy and a poster urging punishment for lazy workers:

Now let's get back to our Golden Age ballet video. The first screenshot below is the final curtain call. I chose this to open with because it gives a clear view of the main set, which is a futurist-style stage in a seaport town where the local Komsomol (Young Communist League) performs. It's 1923. The sign on the back wall reads "АГИТ БРИГАДА" which are cognates for "Agit Brigades" or Propaganda Forces:

Next below we see a scene from a show put on by the Fishermen Agit Brigade. The girls must belong to the local Fish Cleaning and Packing Agit Brigade. The hero of the fishermen is Boris (Ruslan Skvortsov):
 

Now consider below a 1923 painting, Black and Violet, by the Russian futurist artist Kandinsky:

Kandinsky's figures remind me of the Priest, General, and Tycoon who get lampooned in the Boris's Agitprop play:

The People are victorious over the forces of Reaction. Boris is dancing with Rita (Nina Kaptsova), a mysterious new girl who actually isn't a member of the Fish Cleaning and Packing unit:
 

Boris and Rita in love:
 

Rita isn't a member of the Fish Cleaning and Packing unit because she has a double life. She performs with the Agit groups, but she also works as as show girl at the new night club near the City Hall shown below. On the back wall is the name of the club, ЗОЛОТОЙ ВЕК, or, in English, "The Golden Age":

 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep292017

Pelléas et Mélisande 

Debussy Pelléas et Mélisande opera to libretto by Maurice Maeterlinck. Directed 2016 by Benjamin Lazar at the Malmö Opera. Stars Marc Mauillon (Pelléas), Jenny Daviet (Mélisande), Laurent Alvaro (Golaud), Stephen Bronk (Arkel), Emma Lyrén (Geneviève), Julie Mathevet (Yniold), and Stefano Olcese (Doctor / Shepherd). Maxime Pascal conducts the Malmö Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Master André Kellinghaus). Stage design by Adeline Caron; costume design by Alain Blanchot; make-up by Mathilde Benmoussa; lighting by Mael Iger; stage direction assistance by Elizabeth Calleo and Katrina Sörensen Palm; directed for video by Corentin Leconte; produced by Xavier Dubois. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Heres a short YouTube clip:

 

Friday
Sep292017

I Puritani

Bellini I Puritani opera to libretto by Carlo Pepoli. Directed 2016 by Emilio Sagi. Stars Miklós Sebestyén (Lord Gualtiero Valton), Nicolas Testé (Sir Giorgio), Javier Camarena (Lord Arturo Talbo), Ludovic Tézier (Sir Riccardo Forth), Antonio Lozano (Sir Bruno Roberton), Annalisa Stroppa (Enrichetta di Francia), and Diana Damrau (Lady Elvira Valton). Evelino Pidò conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Real de Madrid (Chorus Master Andrés Máspero). Stage design by Daniel Bianco; costume design by Peppispoo; lighting design by Eduardo Bravo; filmed and edited by Jérémie Cuvillier; produced by Xavier Dubois; executive produced by François Duplat. Released 2017, 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.

Friday
Sep082017

The Art of Svetlana Zakharova

The Art of Svetlana Zakharova 4 Disc Set released 2017. Below are the discs for four ballets featuring Svetlana Zakarova at the Bolshoi. Each of these has already been reported on this website, and you can get more details by using the links provided:

1. Swan Lake. Tchaikovsky. 2015. (Grade: D+)

2. flare La Bayadère. Minkus. 2013. (Grade: A+)

3. flare The Sleeping Beauty. Tchaikovsky. 2012. (Grade: A+)

4. La fille du pharaon. Pugni. 2010. (Grade: A)

Probably the only reason to buy this Swan Lake would be to have the Zakharova performance. Also note that this title overlaps the similar Art of David Hallberg in that both boxes have the same The Sleeping Beauty disc.

Thursday
Sep072017

The Art of David Hallberg 

The Art of David Hallberg 2 Disc Set released 2017. Below are the discs for two ballets featuring David Hallberg at the Bolshoi. Both have already been reported on this website, and you can get more details by using the links provided:

1. Marco Spada. Daniel-François-Esprit Auber. 2014. (Grade: A+)

2. flare The Sleeping Beauty. Tchaikovsky. 2012. (Grade: A+)

Hard to image a more delightful 2-disc combo than this one. We have compelling reviews up for each of these titles. With any sort of discount this combo pack becomes irresistible. 

But note this title is similar to the Art of Svetlasa Zakharova box in that both boxes have the same The Sleeping Beauty disc.

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