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.


Entries in harmonia mundi (7)


Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV concert (The Royal Funerals of Louis XIV). Performed November, 2015 at the Palace of Versailles. Raphaël Pichon conducts the Ensemble Pygmalion. Features singers Céline Scheen (Soprano), Lucile Richardot (Mezzo-soprano), Samuel Boden (Tenor), Marc Mauillon (Baritone), and Christian Immler (Baritone). Released 2018. Grade: Help!

For the 300th anniversary of the death of Louis XIV, the Sun King, the Palace of Versailles staged a concert featuring baroque French compostions played during the various funereal processions of the king. Here is the program, and which cycle of the funeral procession each work was played at:

1. Lying in state
Jean Colin – Miserere, falso-bordone for 6 voices

2. Funeral procession
André Danican Philidor - Drums and Funeral March for the King's Procession 

3. Office for the Dead
Michel-Richard de Lalande - De Profundis, Grand Motet  

4. Absoution & Burial
Jean Colin - Pie Jesu, plainsong and falso-bordone for 6 voices  

5. Fanfare "Le Roy est mort ! Vive le Roy !"

6. Funeral ceremony & first anniversary
Michel-Richard de Lalande -  Dies Irae, Grand Motet 

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Der Fliegende Holländer

Wagner Der Fliegende Holländer opera to a libretto by the composer. Directed 2016 by Àlex Ollé at the Teatro Real de Madrid. Stars Kwangchul Youn (Daland), Ingela Brimberg (Senta), Nikolai Schukoff (Erik), Kai Rüütel (Mary), Benjamin Bruns (Der Steuermann), and Samuel Youn (Der Holländer). Pablo Heras-Casado conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Real de Madrid (Chorus Master Andrés Máspero). Sets by Alfons Flores; costumes by Josep Abril; lighting by Urs Schönebaum; videos by Franc Aleu; filmed by Stéphane Vérité; produced by Jean-Romain Sales. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts sound. Grade: Help!

Early information needs confirmation and completion.

Below find the entire opera uploaded to YouTube by French media company Culturebox. Normally at this point our goal is to have a review with screenshots to help you decide if you are interested in the title in question. But with the whole opera uploaded by an official source, you can watch now as much as you want.


We know that streaming of fine-arts material is now being done, but what about the quality and versatility of the stream?

We originally found this long clip by searching YouTube from a desktop PC. When approached this way, YouTube tells you the ID is "ywkSXsiRBPY." We embedded this in our HTML code to provide you with a link. We then viewed portions of this on two different computer monitors. The picture quality is decidedly better than that of a standard DVD, but falls just short of what you'd expect from a Blu-ray. The picture is just a bit too soft. Also, one of our PCs was too old to provide a completely smooth viewing experience.

Next we found this opera clip on a high-end Smart TV. The YouTube application on the TV didn't accept the ID "ywkSXsiRBPY." We had to do a Boolean search (in French). It took a while to wade through a bunch of other clips of Der Fliegende Holländer before we could find the Culturebox upload. Perhaps a typical consumer would give up when faced with a problematical search such as this. Picture quality on the big TV was also a tad soft compared to how we would expect a Blu-ray picture to appear.

All this suggests that streaming still has a way to go before being competitive with the images we are used to from Blu-ray discs.  There are other benefits to having the Blu-ray as well: the subtitles of your choice, full surround sound (instead of stereo or mono from a stream),  more flexibility in jumping back and forth throughout the opera (as well as in starting and stopping), and an informational booklet. But one can hardly complain about a free, nearly-Blu-ray-quality option to at least test the product. Hopefully we see more of this sort of thing in the future.



Claudio Monteverdi L'Orfeo opera to a libretto by Alessandro Striggio. Directed 2017 by Paul Agnew at the Théâtre de Caen. Stars Cyril Auvity (Orfeo), Hannah Morrison (Euridice/La Musica), Paul Agnew (Apollo/Eco), Miriam Allan (Proserpina/Ninfa), Lea Desandre (Messaggiera/Speranza) Carlo Vistoli (Spirito infernale/Pastore), Sean Clayton (Pastore), Zachary Wilder (Spirito infernale/Pastore), Antonio Abete (Plutone/Spirito infernale/Pastore), and Cyril Costanzo (Caronte/Spirito infernale). Paul Agnew conducts Les Arts Florissants as well as serving as director and having two roles! Costumes by Alain Blanchot; sets and lights by Christophe Naillet. Directed for TV by Isabelle Soulard. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

This received the "Video of the Month"  award from Gramophone in December 2017. David Vicers praises it greatly at pages 112-13 of the same Gramophone issue; he was especially impressed how many of the instrumentalists learned their parts by heart and blended in on scage as actors also. Judith Malafronte, writing in the March 2018 Opera News at pages 52-53, praises the production for visual beauty and intimacy, but complains that it "falls short in emotional power and vivid drama." 



Luigi Rossi L'Orfeo opera to a libretto by Francesco Buti. Directed 2016 by Stéphane Vérité at l'Opéra national de Lorraine (Nancy). Stars Judith van Wanroij (Orfeo), Francesca Aspromonte (La Musica/Euridice), Giuseppina Bridelli (Aristeo), Giulia Semenzato (Venere, Proserpina), Luigi de Donato (Augure, Plutone), Ray Chenez (Nutrice, Amore), Renato Dolcini (Satiro), Dominique Visse (Vecchia), Victor Torres (Endimione, Caronte), Marc Mauillon (Momo), and David Tricou (Apollo). Raphaël Pichon conducts Pygmalion (a combination of orchestra and choir). Staging by Jetske Mijnsseni. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts sound. Grade: Help!

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Jean-Philippe Rameau Dardanus opera to libretto by Charles-Antoine Leclerc de La Bruère. Directed 2015 by Michael Fau at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux. Stars Karina Gauvin (Vénus), Gaëlle Arquez (Iphise, the Princess), Reinoud van Meehelen (Dardanus, son of Electra and Jupiter), Florian Sempey (Anténor, a King), Nahuel de Pierro (Teucer, a King / Isménor, a magician), Katherine Watson (Amour / une Bergère (Shepherdess) / Bellone / un Songe (a Dream), Étienne Bazola (Un Berger ( Shepherd), Virgile Ancely (Un Songe (Dream)) and Guillaume Gutierrez (Un Songe (Dream)). Raphaël Pichon conducts the Ensemble Pygmalion. Set design by Emmanuel Charles with assistance from Pejman Mirzaei; costume design by David Belugou; choreography by Christopher Williams; lighting design by Joël Fabing. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts sound. Grade: Help!

Spectacular designs and production from the same house that staged the popular Les Indes galantes. This got a "2016 Critics Choice Award" in the December 2016 Gramophone magazine (page 24). It also got a "Critics Choice" award from Judith Malafronte in the February 2017 Opera News (page 50). It appears Judith saw this in DVD, and the magazine doesn't even say that it's available in Blu-ray form.

Here's a short clip showing how colorful this is:

If you have seen this, please share what you think with the readers.



Don Giovanni (Weisser)

Mozart Don Giovanni opera to libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte.  Directed 2006 by Vincent Boussard at the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus. Stars Johanes Weisser (Don Giovanni), Marcos Fink (Leporello), Alexandrina Pendatchanska (Donna Elvira), Werner Güra (Don Ottavio), Malin Byström, (Donna Anna), Sunhae Im (Zerlina), Nikolay Borchev (Masetto), and Alessandro Guerzoni (Commendatore). René Jacobs conducts the Freiburger Barockorchester and the Insbruck Festival Chorus. Designs by Vincent Lemaire; costumes by Christian Lacroix; lighting by Alain Poisson; directed for TV by Georg Wübbolt. Released 2008, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+

This show presents Don John as a big kid in a candy store. The young, attractive cast is refreshing, and all of them have had flourishing careers since 2006. This was a relatively low budget production with one really nice set plus whimsical costumes and props.  The directing is successful at bringing out the humor in the work without being silly. René Jacobs keeps the Freiburger Barockorchester relentlessly moving forward with the raw sound period instruments. SQ, PQ, and video content are pretty good throughout. The screenshots below tend to look a bit dark, but this is no problem when shown in the HT.

The insatiable Giovanni (Johanes Weisser) briefs his servant Leporello (Marcos Fink), on his next conquest:

Leporello is forever complaining:

But this time Giovanni tries an assault instead of a seduction, and the adventure turns sour when Donna Anna (Malin Byström) cries out for help from her father, the Commendatore (Alessandro Guerzoni). Don Giovanni kills the Commendatore; here Donna Anna and her fiancé Don Ottavio (Werner Güra) try in vain to help:

We have just seen Giovanni's first murder. He is all but out of control now, and his end is near. But Donna Elvira (Alexandrina Pendatchanska) loves him so much that she will never give up.  Suddenly their paths cross; now Elvira will stay on Giovanni's case for the short rest of his life:

Leporello tells Elvira about the many hundreds of Giovanni's seductions all across Europe. In this production there's no book; the names of the seduced are written out in the heavens:

Giovanni stumbles onto a wedding party of peasants. Our hero carries a noble's sword; but he is perfectly democratic and would not discriminate against a pretty girl just because she is a farmer's daughter. Nor would he turn down a girl just because she's getting married the next day. Here the bride Zerlina (Sunhae Im) is celebrating with her fiancé Masetto (Nikolay Borchev):


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Handel Belshazzar opera to a libretto by Charles Jennens. Directed 2008 by Christof Nel with Martina Jochem at the Aix Festival. Stars Kenneth Tarver, Rosemary Joshua, Bejun Mehta, Kristina Hammarström, Neal Davies, Christina Sampson, Lucy Taylor, Andrew Radley, Richard Wilberforce, Vernon Kirk, and Andrew Davies. René Jacobs conducts the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin and the RIAS Kammerchor (Chorus Master Tim Brown). Sets by Roland Aeschlimann; costumes by Bettina Walter; lighting by Olaf Freese; filmed by Don Kent. Released 2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound.  Grade: Help!

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