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 11.  Finally we have a good grade (A-) to brag about for the new Don Quixote from the Vienna State Ballet.  Recently we posted a F+ grade for the new C Major Bruckner Symphony 3 and an F- grade for that C Major Mahler S1-10 Box performed by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. How can a major publishing house turn out something that gets an F-?

We recently posted more than you wanted to know about that Brahms Cycle Box from Belvedere. Now you can buy the 3 discs in the box independently. We bunched the 4 different deals together near the top of the Journal.

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


Entries in Nonesuch (2)



Alban Berg Lulu opera to libretto by the composer (3-act version completed by Friedrich Cerha in 1979). Directed 2015 by William Kentridge at the Met. Stars Marlis Petersen (Lulu), Susan Graham (Countess Geschwitz), Daniel Brenna (Alwa, Dr. Schön's Son, a composer), Paul Groves (The Painter/The African Prince), Johan Reuter (Dr. Schön/Jack the Ripper), Martin Winkler (The Animal Tamer/The Acrobat), Franz Grundheber (Schigolch), Elizabeth DeShong (The Wardrobe Mistress/The Schoolboy/The Page), Alan Oke (The Prince/the Manservant/The Marquis), Julian Close (The Theater Manager/The Banker), Ashley Emerson (The Fifteen-Year-Old Girl), Jane Shaulis (Her Mother), Kathryn Day (The Designer), Tyler Duncan (The Journalist), Paul Corona (The Servant), James Courtney (The Physician/The Professor/The Police Commissioner), Joanna Dudley (Solo Performer), and Andrea Fabi (Solo Performer). Lothar Koenigs conducts the Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera. Co-directed by Luc De Wit; projection designs by Catherine Meyburgh; sets by Sabine Theunissen; costumes by Greta Goiris; lighting design by Urs Schönebaum; video direction by Matthew Diamond; music production by Jay David Saks. Supervising Producers were Mia Bongiovanni and Elena Park; Producers were Louisa Briccetti and Victoria Warivonchik. Released 2016, combo package has a Blu-ray disc and a DVD. The Blu-ray disc has Dolby TrueHD surround sound. Grade: Help!

Peter Quantrill, writing in the January 2017 Gramophone (page 82) calls this "the funniest, least absurd, and most approachable Lulu on film."

Please help us with a comment or mini-review about this title.

Here a clip about this production as seen on TV; the disc should have similar if not exactly the same images:


Nixon in China

John Adams Nixon in China opera to a libretto by Alice Goodman. Directed 2011 by Peter Sellars at the Metropolitan Opera. Stars singers (order of appearance) Russell Braun, Ginger Costa-Jackson, Teresa S. Herold, Tamara Mumford, James Maddalena, Janis Kelly, Richard Paul Fink, Robert Brubaker, and Kathleen Kim, as well as dancers Haruno Yamazaki and Kanji Segawa. John Adams (the composer) conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chorus (Chorus Master Donald Palumbo), and Ballet. Produced by Peter Sellars; set design by Adrianne Lobel; costume design by Dunya Ramicova; lighting design by James F. Ingalls; choreography by Mark Morris; sound design by Mark Grey. Released 2012, disc has Dolby TrueHD 24-bit sound. Grade: A-

I personally lived through Nixon going to China, and I had my doubts whether one could write a tolerable opera about that event. I watched Nixon in China cold and found it much more interesting than I thought it would be.

The music is similar to Glass and Reich, but more variable with many shifts required by the libretto. The general effect is quite pleasant in the same way that movie soundtracks are. But I'm sure the score is really much better than that once you get your mind wrapped around it. And, of course, it's brilliantly directed (by the composer), played, and recorded by the Met folks.

The picture resolution is just OK and picture quality is decent but not as good as other Met operas published lately. But I think the picture content is fine with a variety of enjoyable angles and good editing. A wish I knew who to credit for the video, but I could not figure out who was responsible. I think whoever produced the HD feed to the movie theaters for this show also gets credit for the Blu-ray product. The innovative and generous Nonsuch package has a DVD along with the HDVD. The DVD doesn't succeed; the HDVD does, but there's room for improvement. To have a fully satisfactory video of a venue as large as the Met stage, we need a next-generation "4K" display.

The libretto is hugely challenging with a bizarre mixture of actual history, serious discourse, satire, wild fantasy, and physical comedy. And the work is more meaningful now than when it was when first produced in 1987 because we know today something about what history had in store for both China and the U.S. It would take a lot of study of history and the libretto to tease out all the ideas that Sellers and Goodman installed in this. Here are just a few of the questions I wish I had time to try to answer:

1. What really was said at the conference with Mao Tse-tung and the state dinner that took place soon after Nixon arrived? How much of Act 1 is history and what is literature?

2. What really happened at the propaganda ballet that gets so out-of-control in Act 2?

3. Act 3 depicts the intimate thoughts of each the main characters as they go to bed for the last night of the Nixon visit. Were Mao and his wife really sexual reprobates? Was Chou En-lai as noble a character as depicted?

4. I noted somewhere that Nixon in China was conceived as an "anti-grand opera." What does that mean?

5. Is the libretto available for study without the score? Is there an annotated text what gets into all the topical allusions and insider jokes? For example, Nixon refers to a "long march" he proposes to attain the goal of Peace. Well, maybe some viewers don't know that the Mao's great, fabled military triumph was called "The Long March." Did Nixon really use the "long march" reference in his pitch? Or was this added by Goodman? When I watched the opera, I "got" some of the clever stuff, but I had the feeling that I was missing much of it.
Well, now to some screen shots. I was surprised to see how many shots are needed to do this work justice. And I regret so many shots I deleted! I think this is due to the fact that Nixon in China is an opera of ideas like no other, and each idea wants to have it's own picture taken!

You have to start with Air Force One. It arrives coming straight down like a helicopter. Nixon (James Maddalena) and Pat (Janis Kelly) are greeted by Chou En-lai (Russell Braun), who has his back to us here:

Nixon is enamoured of his role in history, which is miniscule compared to accomplishments of the leading Chinese figures he is visiting. So he keeps talking about it:

Nixon really did make history later when he became the only U.S. president forced to resign (after getting caught in the cover-up of a politically-inspired burglary). I'll brag that I never voted for Nixon, chiefly because I viewed him as a politician never without a platitude:

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