Titles by Category

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.

December 2. I just posted a review of the 2016 Royal Ballet Nutcracker. We have on our Alphalist a thorough rundown and grade on each of the 10 Nutcracker Blu-rays you could order for a Christmas present!

I just updated and added screenshots to the Priory title The Grand Organ of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. Finally we have reported on all 5 of the Priory organ Blu-rays. These exemplary recordings include a Blu-ray video, a DVD video, and a CD! Each of these titles has a fine program of organ music played by virtuoso musicians. In addition, there are fabulous bonus extras with information about the cathedrals, the towns where they are located, the details of each organ instrument, and a discussion of each selection that is played in the recital. Never before was so much value in recordings conveyed for such a modest price.  To see information on all these Priory titles, just go to the left navigation bar and click on "Priory" under "Titles by Publisher." Then all 5 Priory stories will be instantly produced for your enjoyment! _______________________________________________________________________________

Entries in BelAir (55)

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) 

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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:

 

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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":

 

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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.

Monday
Aug072017

Lulu

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!

Peter Quantrill, writing in the November Gramophone (pages 94-95) is mightily impressed by Petersen as Lulu and Bo Skovhus as Dr. Schön/Jack the Ripper. Otherwise he has less enthusiasm about "this staging of intermittent insights, pretensions, banalities, and longueurs." With an opera that's as cerebral and abstract in conception as Lulu, what else can be added by a deconstructionist director like Tcherniakov?

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

 

Sunday
Jul162017

New York City Ballet in Paris

New York City Ballet in Paris show of 4 one-act works, each to pieces of French music, choreographed by George Balanchine and performed in 2016 in the Paris Théâtre du Châtelet as part of Les Etés de la Danse (The Summers of Dance Festival). This was shown as a Great Performances broadcast on PBS over two nights in February 2017. Works performed are:

1. Walpurgisnacht Ballet from the Charles Gounod Faust opera, first performed as an independent piece by the NYCB in 1980. Stars Sara Mearns, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Louren Lovette, Kristen Segin, and Sarah Villwock. Costumes by Karinska (Barbara Karinska: 1886-1983, Balanchine's favorite costume designer); lighting by Mark Stanley.

2. Sonatine by Ravel, a pas de deux originally written for Violette Verdy and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux in 1975. Stars Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz with solo pianist Elaine Chelton. Lighting by Mark Stanley.

3. La Valse, also created to famous music of Ravel (in 1951).  Stars Sterling Hyltin, Jared Angle, and Amar Ramasar with Marika Anderson, Meaghan Dutton-O'Hara, Gwyneth Muller, Lauren King, Antonio Carmena, Ashley Laracey, Zachary Catazaro, and Ralph Ippolito. Scenery by Jean Rosenthal; costumes by Karinska; lighting by Mark Stanley.

4. Symphony in C to the Georges Bizet Symphony No. 1 in C Major, created in 1947.  (The original name of the ballet was  Le Palais de Cristal). This ballet is performed by more than 50 dancers led by Tiler Peck, Andrew Veyette, Teresa Reichlen, Tyler Angle, Alston Macgill, Anthony Huxley, Brittany Pollack, and Taylor Stanley. Costumes by Marc Happel; lighting by Mark Stanley.

L'Orchestre Prométhée plays under NYCB Resident Conductor Daniel Capps. Produced by François Duplat; directed for TV by Vincent Bataillon. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audo  Grade: A

Alastair Macaulay, the chief dance critic for the New York Times, saw this on PBS TV and gave his stamp of approval to the program and the dancing on February 15, 2017. He also praised the filming by Vincent Bataillon for "sensitive camerawork, in which the screen alternates, excitingly and musically, between long shots showing the full company and full-length views of leading dancers." Right on Alastair! As we have demonstrated on this website, Bataillon is in a class by himself as the leading ballet videographer in the world. Alas, Alastair also expressed the hope that the TV show will become a DVD. Oh, forgive the print critics: they know not what they are missing! (Turns out this was published in Blu-ray and as a DVD, and recently Amazon was selling the Blu-ray a bit cheaper than its homely cousin.)

Can't wait for screenshots! First below is a pretty whole-stage shot from the opening of Walpurgisnacht Ballet. I did a Ballet Wonk Worksheet on this title. Across all 4 works on the disc, 50% of Bataillon's video clips show the entire stage:

And next below is a beautiful part-stage, whole-body shot from the same scene as above. 46% of Bataillon's clips are from this range. So 96% of the clips on this disco show the whole bodies of the dancers:

Sara Mearns:

I think the dancer center in the lighter dress is Lauren Lovette:

Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz in the Sonatine duet:

It was hard to get screenshots from the dark La Valse. The next 4 views below are the best I could do. Ravel's music becomes increasingly disjointed and neurotic before it collapses into a death spiral:

 

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