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 Deutsche Grammophon (40)

Friday
Jul212017

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:

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


Friday
Jun232017

 Lohengrin

The top of this story is about the Blu-ray version. See information on the 4K Ultra HD version at the bottom. Both entries on the Alphalist link to this story.

Wagner Lohengrin opera to libretto by the composer. Directed 2016 by Angela Brandt (after the 1983 production by Christine Mielitz) at at the Dresden State Opera or Semperoper. Stars Piotr Beczała (Lohengrin), Anna Netrebko (Elsa von Brabant), Tomasz Konieczny (Friedrich von Telramund), Evelyn Herlitzius (Ortrud), Georg Zeppenfeld (König Heinrich der Vogler), Derek Welton (Der Heerrufer des Königs or the King's Herald), Tom Martinsen (1st Nobleman of Brabant), Simeon Esper ( 2nd Nobleman of Brabant), Matthias Henneberg (3rd Nobleman of Brabant), Tilmann Rönnebeck (4th Nobleman of Brabant) as well as Jana Hohlfeld, Monika Harnisch, Annett Eckert, and Masako Furuta (four Pages). Christian Thielemann conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Sächsischer Staatsopernchor Dresden, men of the Sinforniechor Dresden, and the Sempreoper Extra Choir (Choirmaster Jörn Andresen). Set and costume designs by Peter Heilein; lighting by Friedewalt Degen; dramaturgy by Matthias Rank. Directed for video by Tiziano Mancini with photography directed by Luca Longarini. All regions. Sound on the 4K version was recorded with 96kHz/24-bit sound sampling with Audio Engineer Peter Hecker and Audio Producer Arend Prohmann. Recording by Metisfilm Classica produced by Magdalena Herbst. Released 2017, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio surround sound. Grade: Help!

Looks promising! And in the December 2017 Opera News (pages 52-53) Fred Cohn offers a ringing endorsement of this production in which the "dowdy" mise-en-scène gets out of the way to let 5 stellar leads and Thielemann in the pit put together "not just a beautiful piece of music but a tragic drama." In particular, he applauds Netrebko's "youthful lyricism  . . . now scaled to truly Wagnerian dimensions."

Here's a clip from the production that probably is very similar if not the same as the disc:

 

 

For the 4K edition :

 

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:

 

Monday
Jul182016

Rigoletto

Verdi Rigoletto opera to libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Directed 2013 by Michael Mayer at the Met. Stars Piotr Beczala (Duke), Željka Lučić (Rigoletto), Diana Damrau (Gilda), Štefan Kocán (Sparafucile), Oksana Volkova (Maddalena), Maria Zifchak (Giovanna), Robert Pomakov (Monterone), Jeff Mattsey (Marullo), Alexander Lewis (Borsa), David Crawford (Count Ceprano), Emalie Savoy (Countess Ceprano), Earle Patriarco (A Guard), and Catherine Choi (Page). Michele Mariotti conducts the Met Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Master Donald Palumbo). Met Ballet choreographed by Steven Hoggett. Sets by Christine Jones; costumes by Susan Hilferty; lighting by Kevin Adams. The English subtitles in this production contribute enormously to its success; I think the credit for this should go to David Rebhun. Released 2013, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A+

This is the Met "Rat Pack" production that premiered January 2013. The realization of some of Verdi's characters are inspired by famous personalities in the US in the early 1960s, and this is covered briefly in one of the extras. All of the stars when interviewed say they sing for this updated show exactly the same as they sing in a traditional version. The music and libretto are unaltered. But for viewers in the US anyway, the Met does an amazingly good job of updating the setting of this opera by 400 years from a royal principality to modern times.

Las Vegas in 1960:

The Duke (Piotr Beczala) is a charismatic casino owner with ties to the American mafia.  His connections to the mob provide a neat analog to the kind of power a Duke might have had in earlier centuries. At this point I should explain that the Met orchestra is one of the best opera bands in the world, and this title offers good proof of that. The orchestration is admirably beautiful and refined throughout. The balance between the orchestra and the singers seems always to be perfect so that the dialog is startlingly clear. Here we also have a fantastic set of star singers and actors with many productions of Rigoletto behind them. But I sense in this video that they are all excited about being in this zany new Met blowout.

Now read the subtitles in the image below. I don't have the Rigoletto score. But I'm pretty sure this English text bears little direct relationship to what Maria Piave wrote in 1850. The Met commissioned subtitles would make this production work, and the result is a big boost in entertainment value for the HT viewers. I can't think of any other opera HDVD where the English subtitles have been handled so well:

Rigoletto (Željka Lučić) is here created in the mold of Donald Rickels, the great American "insult comic" who went by the name of "Don." The word "Don" in many languages means "Lord." So here we have a Duke and a Lord consorting, all of which is forbidden by the United States Constitution, which proscribes titles of nobility in America. Further I note that in the subtitles below, Lord Rigoletto claims to be "untouchable." The title "untouchable" in American folklore is reserved for agents of the FBI and other government police units that suppressed mob activities in the United States in the 1930s.  (I told you the subtitles here are great.) An insult comedian is one who gets laughs by being as obnoxious as possible to everyone else including the audience. This explains, of course, why the other members of the Duke's entourage hate Rigoletto:

Don Rickles:

Monterone (Robert Pomakov) curses Rigoletto. Making Monterone an Arab big shot was another stoke of genius. Few in the world in 1960 worried about being cursed. But who knows what an Arab billionaire might do if somebody messed with a daughter:

Below Sparafucile (Štefan Kocán). In the English subtitles, Sparafucile kills with a knife. (In German he uses a "messer" and in Spanish a "cuchillo", both of which mean knife.  But in Italian he uses the original and out-dated "spada" or sword.)

 

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Tuesday
Jun142016

Tristan und Isolde

Wagner Tristan und Isolde opera to libretto by the composer. Directed 2015 by Katharina Wagner at the Bayreuth Festival. Stars Stephen Gould (Tristan), Evelyn Herlitzius (Isolde), Georg Zeppenfelds (König Marke), Iain Paterson (Kurwenal), Raimund Nolte (Melot), Christa Mayer (Brangäne), Tansel Akzeybek (Ein Hirt), Kay Stiefermann (Ein Steuermann), and Tansel Akzeybek (Junger Seemann). Christian Thielemann conducts the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra. Released 2016. Grade: Help!

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

Monday
Jan252016

Manon

Jules Massenet Manon opera to libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille. Directed 2007 by Vincent Paterson at the Staatsoper unter den Linden. Stars Anna Netrebko (Manon), Rolando Villazón (Le Chevalier des Grieux), Christof Fischesser (Le Comte des Grieux), Alfredo Daza (Lescaut), Rémy Corazza (Guillot de Morfontaine), Arttu Kataja (Brétigny, a nobelman), Hanan Alattar (Poussette, an actress), Gal James (Javotte, an actress), Silvia de la Muela (Rosette, an actress),  and Matthias Vieweg (Inkeeper). Daniel Barenboim conducts the Staatskapelle Berlin and the Staatsopernchor (Chorus Master Eberhard Friedrich). Stage design by Johannes Leiacker; costumes by Susan Hilferty; lighting by Duane Schuler; choreography by Vincent Paterson; directed for TV by Andreas Morell; produced by Bernhard Fleischer. Released 2008, music was recorded with 48kHz/24-bit specs, and disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio and 5.1 PCM sound. Grade: A

Antoine-François Prévost d'Exiles (Abbé Prévost) wrote his book L'Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut in 1731. It inspired a number of opera and ballet works including this Massenet opera finished in 1884. Manon has probably been the most popular French opera after Faust and Carmen. (In 1893, Puccini wrote an opera based on the same book; for copyright reasons he called it Manon Lescaut.)

Manon is a comic opera, but the libretto, probing human nature on many points, contains a drama laced with considerable anguish leading to a sad death. It's rich entertainment (not designed to make you cry), but it also gives you things to think about.

Manon (Anna Netrebko) is 15 and too interested in material things, so her family is sending her to a convent.   I read Anna was already an outstanding singer as a teenager, and I think someone advised her to remember how girls act at that age. So here she is convincing, at the actual age of 36, in playing the role of 15-year old.  Her cousin Lescaut (Alfredo Daza) meets her at the train station. Daza is the best sergeant in opera; see him also as Belcore in L'elisir d'amore:

Lescaut cautions Manon to behave (while he and some army pals gamble in a back room at the station):

The young man on the left below is Brétigny (Arttu Kataja), a poor nobleman of scant honor. The man on the right is Guillot de Morfontaine (Rémy Corazza) a rich lecher with good political connections. He has three groupies, whom I will try to ID (loving to live dangerously) as (from your left to right): Javotte (Gal James), Rosette (Silvia de la Muela), and Poussette (Hanan Alattar). We will see these characters again. Guillot tried to enter into a conversation with Manon, but his groupies restrain him:

Manon is resigned to her fate as a nun:

Until she meets Le Chevalier des Grieux (Rolando Villazón) another stranger in the station. For both it's love at first plight; and in about 90 seconds, they run away to Paris:

 

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Friday
Oct232015

Don Giovanni (Mattei)

Mozart Don Giovanni opera to libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. Directed 2011 by Robert Carsen at the Teatro alla Scala. Stars Peter Mattei (Don Giovanni), Bryn Terfel (Leporello), Anna Netrebko (Donna Anna), Giuseppy Filianoti (Don Ottavio), Barbara Frittoli (Donna Elvira), Štegan Kocán (Maseto), Anna Prohaska (Zerlina), and Kwangchul Youn (Commhendatore). Daniel Barenboim conducts the  Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala. Set designs by Michael Levine; costumes by Brigitte Reiffenstuel; lighting by Robert Carsen and Peter van Praet; choreography by Philippe Giraudeau. Directed for video by Andreas Morell. Released 2015. Grade: Help!

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

Saturday
Oct172015

Macbeth

Verdi Macbeth opera to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. The 2007 Adrian Nobel production is revived in 2014 at the Met and directed by Assistant Stage Directors Gregory Anthony Fortner and Gina Lapinski. Stars Željko Lučić (Macbeth), Anna Netrebko (Lady Macbeth), René Pape (Banquo), Joseph Calleja (Macduff), Raymond Renault (Duncan), Noah Baetge (Malcolm), Claudia Waite (Lady-in-waiting), Christopher Job (Servant), Moritz Linn (Fleanzio), Richard Bernstein (Murderer), Seth Malkin (Herald), James Courtney (Doctor), David Crawford (Warrior Apparition), Ashley Emerson (Bloody Child Apparition), and Jihee Kim (Crowned Child Apparition). Fabio Luisi conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chorus (Donald Palumbo Chorus Master) and Ballet (Sue Lefton Choreographer). Stage band conducted by Jeffrey Goldberg. Sets and costumes by Mark Thompson; lighting by Jean Kalman; directed for live TV by Gary Halvorson; music producer Jay David Saks. Supervising Producers are Mia Bongiovanni and Elena Park; Producers are Louisa Briccetti and Victoria Warivonchik. Released 2015, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

This is the production where Anna Netrebko, age 43, leaves behind her lyric and bel canto soprano roles for the more mature dramatic soprano repertory. Anthony Tommasini (New York Times) wrote a glowing review of this show in September 2014 in which he heaps up praise of Netrebko for her performance as Lady Macbeth. This promises to be a good HDVD. Please help us by writing a comment that we can place here as a mini-review of this title.

Monday
Sep212015

Mutter Live - The Club Album

Updated on Saturday, September 17, 2016 at 9:04AM by Registered CommenterHenry McFadyen Jr.

Anne-Sophie Mutter Live - The Club Album concert. Anne-Sophie Mutter performs May 7 and 8, 2015 at the Neue Heimat nightclub in Berlin as part of the Yellow Lounge concert series. Features Mutter's long-time accompanist, pianist Lambert Orkis, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, and the Mutter Virtuosi ensemble. Also features a live video installation by VJ (that's video jockey) Philipp Geist. The setlist is as follows:

1. Vivaldi 3. Presto from The Four Seasons - Concerto In G Minor, RV 315, "The Summer"
2. Gershwin  Allegro ben ritmato e deciso from Three Preludes
3. Gershwin  Andante con moto e poco rubato from Three Preludes
4. Gershwin  Allegro ben ritmato e deciso from Three Preludes
5. J.S. Bach. Allegro (3rd movement) from Double Concerto For 2 Violins, Strings, and Basso continuo In D Minor, BWV 1043 (Noa Wildschut, solo violin II)
6. Tchaikovsky "Mélodie" from Souvenir d'un lieu cher, Op. 42
7. Vivaldi Allegro non molto from The Four Seasons - Concerto In F Minor, RV 297, "The Winter"
8. J.S. Bach Vivace (1st movement) from Double Concerto For 2 Violins, Strings, And Continuo In D Minor, BWV 1043 (Nancy Zhou solo violin II)
9. Brahms Hungarian Dance No.1 In G Minor
10. Debussy "Golliwogg's Cakewalk" from Children's Corner
11. Saint-Saëns Introduction et Rondo capriccioso
12. Debussy "Clair de lune" from Suite bergamasque
13. Copland "Hoe-Down" from Rodeo
14. J.S. Bach/Gounod "Ave Maria"
15. Arthur Benjamin "Jamaican Rumba"
16. John Williams "Theme from Schindler's List" 

What is this all about? Here goes: The "Yellow Lounge" is a PR campaign of the Deutsche Grammophon recording company. The Yellow Lounge mission is to get classical music before audiences of young people, mostly or entirely by performing in night clubs. The logo of the Yellow Lounge is an abstraction of the famous yellow "picture frame" logo that has been used by DG on its recordings for a long time. The Yellow Lounge also has a motto: "use your ears as eyes." Here at HDVD, our version of the motto would be: "use your eyes as ears." (Younger readers may be familiar with the DVD title Lang Lang at the Roundhouse. This was an earlier and similar Sony initiative to evangelize the dating set.)

So The Yellow Lounge is not a specific place. The DG promotion started in Berlin with performances at various venues. DG tried to export the idea to London, it seems, and maybe other cities.

Die Neue Heimat (New Home) is a place. It's a hippy shopping center with restaurants, bars, and at least one nightclub where people dance to DJ music, etc. If you're lonely and in Berlin, visit Revaler Str. 99 (Ecke Dirschauer Str.), which is now, I guess, the Pickup Center of Galaxy Avant-Garde. Look for this sign across a driveway to a huge old barn-like building:

Mutter Live - The Club Album was recorded in May 2015 (and reached my mailbox 4 months later) at the main dance floor in the middle of the Neue Heimat club. The show "recreates the impact" of a show Mutter performed in 2013 at another Yellow Lounge event. My guess is that the program for Mutter Live - The Club Album is similar to the 2013 show. But this time, DG also hired video jockey Philipp Geist to back up Mutter with an installation. Throughout the concert, you see weird videos on the walls. Pretty soon you realize that the ghostly but vivid images are partly of Mutter and her group playing! (At first I thought this was just part of a night-club environment that makes cool images of club patrons with their best dance moves. But now I think the images were provided special for this concert.) Well, for sure you know you are not at Wigmore Hall. 

Finally, although not a word is said about it in the Blu-ray package or in the PR, this was recorded with 96kHz/24-bit sound sampling (according to my Oppo BDP-93). Released 2015, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+

If you have stayed with me this long, you deserve some screenshots. The first set of music includes "Mutter's Virtuosi." The 1st violins are Ye-Eun Choi (concertmaster), Nancy Zhou, and Fanny Clamagirand. 2nd violins are Agatha Szymczewska, Noa Wildschut, and Albrecht Menzel. On viola are Vladimir Babeshko and Hwayoon Lee. Cellos are Kian Soltani and Pablo Ferrández. Dominik Wagner is on bass:

Lambert Orkis has been with Mutter as long as many of the patrons in the club have been alive:

Mahan Esfahani on harpsichord:

Mutter works the crowd pretty well. With all the special lighting, the club was in fact super hot, not cool. Somewhere I heard the heat threaten to melt the finish on Mutter's Stadivarius:

 

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Sunday
May312015

Roméo et Juliette

Charles Gounod Roméo et Juliette opera to libretto by Jules Barbier & Michel Carré. Directed 2008 by Bartlett Sher at the Salzburg Festival. Stars Nino Machaidze (Juliette), Rolando Villazón (Roméo), Mikhail Petrenko (Frère Laurent), Russell Braun (Mercutio), Cora Burggraaf (Stéphano), Falk Struckmann (Comte Capulet), Juan Francisco Gatell (Tybalt), Susanne Resmark (Gertrude, the Nurse), Christian Van Horn (Duc de Vérone), Mathias Hausmann (Comte Pâris), Jean-Luc Ballestra (Grégorio), and Robert Murray (Benvolio). Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg and the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor (Chorus Master Jörn H. Andresen). Musical Assistant was Leo Hussain; set design by Michael Yeargan; costumes by Catherine Zuber; lighting by Jennifer Tipton; choreography by Chase Brock; fight scene by B. H. Barry; directed for TV by Brian Large. Released  2009, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+

According to The Grove Book of Operas, many composers have written operas based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, but Gounod's version is the only one that's now being performed. It came later than the era of French grand opera, but it's in five acts and gives the director plenty of opportunity to sate with audience with lavish costumes, magnificent sets, and a huge chorus. But to do that, you have to be in a real opera house with all the facilities for quickly changing scenery and props.

The Felsenreitschule (The Clift Riding School) venue in Salzburg, where this was produced, is a combination of an outdoor arena and a huge barn. It doesn't have what's needed to put on a grand show. The lighting at the Felsenreitschule isn't the greatest either, and the stage tends to be dark. But at least the venue is relatively small. Everybody, including the audience, does the best they can.

Bartlett Sher had a great cast to work with including Nino Machaidze, a young and beautiful Juliette specialist (singing in French) and Rolando Villazón as Roméo. They spent plenty on costumes, and the opera opens with the Capulet party where Juliette is to meet the Comte Pâris, who has declared his interest in marrying her. Our first screenshot depicts the party. This is the only long-range shot I have in this review. The great videographer Brian Large shot this. With the low light, drab set, and great costumes, he elected to move in and shoot mostly near-range and close-ups. This works great in the HT:

On the left is Le Comte Pâris (Mathias Hausmann) with Tybalt (Juan Francisco Gatell), Juliette's cousin. Tybalt is the leading young man in the Capulet clan. The main theme in his opera is, of course, the love between Roméo and Juliette. The second theme is the hatred that the aggressive Tybalt has for Roméo because Roméo is of the House of Montaigu. Gatell doesn't get to sing all that much in this libretto, but he gets plenty of action:

Juliette's father (Falk Struckmann):

Roméo (Rolando Villazón) crashes the party. He and Juliette meet and instantly both fall in love at first sight. The text of the initial courtship follows Shakespeare well, but the kissing is contributed I think by Director Sher:

Juliette isn't with Roméo all that long, but Tybalt notices right away that the party is not going as planned:

 

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