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.

October 15. We are getting again into symphony titles and the existential issue of DVDitis. I just posted a story on a Mahler 2 recording at the Gewandhaus that might be considered DOA from the dread plague.

I recently put up a story about the 3rd version (!) of the same Giselle production published by Opus Arte. I recently posted a story about the Ekman Midsummer Night's Dream ballet (which has nothing to do with Shakespeare). I also just posted two stories about Shakespeare's The Tempest. The first is a definitive stage play version by the RSC. The second is an updated review of The Tempest movie staring Helen Mirren as Prospera (the female version of Prospero). The movie is streamlined - try it first. Then move on to the RSC "real deal", which is probably the best The Tempest ever made for home viewing.

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Entries in Opus Arte (217)

Friday
Oct132017

Giselle 

Giselle ballet. Libretto by Théophile Gautier after Heinrich Heine.  Music by Adolphe Adam revised by Joseph Horovitz. Choreography by Marius Petipa after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. 2016 production and additional choreography by Sir Peter Wright at the Royal Opera House. Stars Marianela Nuñez (Giselle), Vadim Muntagirov (Count Albrecht), Bennet Gartside (Hilarion), Johannes Stepanek (Wilfred), Elisabeth McGorian (Berthe), Gary Avis (Duke of Courland), Christina Arestis (Bathilde), Jonathan Howells (Leader of the Hunt), Itziar Mendizabal (Myrtha), Olivia Cowley (Moyna), Beatriz Stix-Brunell (Zulme) as well as Yuhui Choe, Alexander Campbell, Francesca Hayward, Luca Acri, Yasmine Naghdi, and Marceline Sambé (Pas de Six). Barry Wordsworth conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Concert Master Peter Manning). Designs by John Macfarlane; original lighting by Jennifer Tipton re-created by David Finn; staging by Christopher Carr; directed for screen by Ross MacGibbon. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A

This is the third Opus Arte publication of a Blu-ray disc of the Peter Wright Giselle by the Royal Opera! The first version came out in 2009 with Cojocaru and Kobborg, and I gave it an A-. Five years later the second version was released (in 2014) with Osipova and Acosta, and I gave that one an A. Now, just three years later we have the third recording with Marianela Nuñez as Giselle and Vadim Muntagirov as Albrecht, both seen in my opening screenshot below. Since this is my third visit to this production, this review will be short, and I will say little about the plot of Giselle. You can learn a lot more about the ballet by reading my earlier reviews of this production from 2009 and 2014.

Nuñez is a great dancer and actress, but she is approaching retirement age. 8 years prior to this she was cast as Myrtha in the 2009 Giselle production!

Next below Gary Avis as the Duke of Courland with his daughter Bathilde played by Christina Arestis:

Now we see Bennet Gartside as Hilarion proving that Albrecht is a slumming impostor:

And Giselle learns she is a jilted girl:

Next below four views of Giselle's mad scene:

 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct122017

The Tempest

Shakespeare The Tempest play. Directed 2017 by Gregory Doran at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre. Stars (alphabetical order) Alison Arnopp (Spirit), Simon Russell Beale (Prospero), Laura Cairns (Spirit), Elly Condron (Iris/Spirit), Joe Dixon (Caliban), Daniel Easton (Ferdinand), Caleb Frederick (Mariner/Spirit), Samantha Hay (Ceres), Sarah Kameela Impey (Spirit), Tony Jayawardena (Stephano), Matthew McPherson (Francisco), Joseph Mydell (Gonzalo), Oscar Pearce (Antonio), Mark Quartley (Ariel), Jenny Rainsford (Miranda), Darren Raymond (Boatswain), Joe Shire (Master of the Ship), Oliver Towse (Adrian), Simon Trinder (Trinculo), James Tucker (Alonso), Tom Turner (Sebastian), and Jennifer Witton (Juno). Also features musicians Samantha Hay and Jennifer Witton (sopranos), Max Gittings (flutes/whistles), Nick Lee (guitar), James Jones (percussion), and Bruce O'Neil and Gareth Ellis (keyboards). Production design by Stephen Brimson Lewis; digital character creation by The Imaginarium Studios; video by Finn Ross; lighting by Simon Spencer; music by Paul Englishby; sound by Jeremy Dunn and Andrew Franks; movement by Lucy Cullingford; screen direction by Dewi Humphreys; screen production by John Wyver. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A+

This is a huge and elaborate production coming to us from the best resource for Shakespeare plays that has existed since the death of the Bard. On the whole it is quite excellent. The performances are engaging, the play is funny and affecting in equal measure, and the disc itself presents high quality audio and visuals. Of course the biggest talking point will be the elaborate use of visual projection and lighting to really make this production stand out. This includes not just projections on backdrops of different sizes and shapes, but also a real-time motion capture projection of Ariel. As the actor Mark Quartley moves around the stage, his suit sends information to computers behind the scene that then create the animated avatar (using 27 separate projectors). So when Mark moves, the spirit apparition moves along with him. This technology took two years to perfect, and the final product reflects the care taken by all involved. As elaborate as the visual side of this production is, at its core this is still a stage play done with the care that one would expect from the Royal Shakespeare Company; the visuals add extra verve without distracting from the play or the performance.

The stage itself is static - there are no changes in scenery. Instead the production relies on various lighting cues and projections to clue the audience as to changes in setting. The stage is a flat area painted to look like dirt, flanked on both sides by wooden scaffolding that doubles at various points as the wrecked ship, the walls of Prospero and Miranda's dwelling, and wooded areas. The scaffolding also provides a second level for side actors to perform.

Here below we see the royalty on the main stage and the boatsmen on the upper levels:

Prospero explains to Miranda how they arrived on the island. Here we see the basic scenery - dirt and wood, with no elaborate lighting trickery:

Prospero speaks to Ariel, here presented as a dancing spirit projected on the backdrop. This uses the live motion capture technology developed for this performance. (NB: The screenshots here are darker than the picture as it appears in the home theater. While the show is dark, it is not distractingly so. In fact, the visual effects shine all the more given the dark nature of the video.)

A more elaborate meshing of lighting and projection, here representing Ariel's unfortunate time stuck in a tree. Here Mark Quartley plays Ariel twice, once physically in his suit, and again as the motion capture avatar projected on the center screen:

During calmer scenes, the lighting and projections take a break to allow the actors more attention, as shown below:

Stephano comes across the Caliban/Trinculo hybrid beast:

 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep282017

Monteverdi Two Classic Operas

Monteverdi Two Classic Operas Box Set released 2017. Below are the discs. Both already have been reported on this website, and you can get more details by using the links provided:

1. L'Orfeo. 2011. (Grade: B+)

2. L'incoronazione di Poppea. 2012. (Grade: Help!)

Thursday
Sep282017

Shakespeare Three Tragedies

Shakespeare Three Tragedies Box Set. This box set includes the Royal Shakespeare Company productions of Hamlet, King Lear and Othello. All three are available individually on this website, and you can get more details by using the links provided:

1. Hamlet. 2016. (No grade yet)

2. King Lear. 2017. (No grade yet)

3. Othello. 2016. (No grade yet)

Released 2017, both discs have 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Monday
Sep252017

Norma

Bellini Norma opera to libretto by Felice Romani. Directed 2016 by Àlex Ollé at the Royal Opera House. Stars Sonya Yoncheva (Norma), Joseph Calleja (Pollione), Sonia Ganassi (Adalgisa), Brindley Sherratt (Oroveso), David Junghoon Kim (Flavio), and Vlada Borovko (Clotilde). Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Opera Chorus (Concert Master Peter Manning). Set design by Alfons Flores; costume design by Lluc Castells, lighting design by Marco Filibeck. Directed for screen by Jonathan Haswell. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Here the official trailer:

And here's a long (83 min.) and well-done explanation of this production from Pappano, director Àlex Ollé, and others:

Thursday
Sep072017

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker ballet. Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Choreographed by Peter Wright after Lev Ivanov. Performed and filmed 2016. Stars Francesca Hayward (Clara),  Alexander Campbell (Nutcracker), Gary Avis (Drosselmeyer), Lauren Cuthbertson (Sugar Plum Fairy), and Federico Bonelli (The Prince). Boris Gruzin conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Designs by  Julia Trevelyan Oman; lighting by Mark Henderson. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. Grade: Help!

Limited preliminary information is confusing and needs confirmation and completion.

We did a detailed review of this same production (with an earlier set of star dancers) in 2013. I gave it a B and declared it not competitive with stronger competition. I went on to say, "The Peter Wright production could be competitive again if the Royal Ballet would revive it with new sets and costumes, drill the female corps more thoroughly, write new comedy dances, and make a clean, bright video." Now we get opportunity to see if the Royal Ballet has updated this show and improved the video.

If you have seen this 2016 show, please help us by writing a comment.

Monday
Aug142017

The Royal Opera Collection

The Royal Opera Collection Box Set released 2017. Below are the discs for 15 productions of The Royal Opera. Each of them has already been reported on this website, and you can get more details by using the links provided:

1. Le nozze di Figaro. Mozart. 2009. (Grade: A+)
2. Don Giovanni. Mozart. 2014. (Grade: A)
3. Die Zauberflöte. Mozart. 2008. (Grade A)
4. Macbeth. Verdi. 2012. (Grade A-)
5. La traviata. Verdi. 2011. (Grade A)
6. Carmen. Bizet. 2008. (Grade A+)
7. Parsifal. Wagner. 2014. (Grade N/A)
8. Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci. Mascagni/Leoncavallo. 2016. (Grade N/A)
9. La Bohème. Puccini. 2010. (Grade C+)
10. Turandot. Puccini. 2014. (Grade N/A)
11. Il trittico (Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi). Puccini. 2012. (Grade A)
12. Salome. Strauss. 2010. (Grade A+)
13. Król Roger. Syzmanowski. 2015. (Grade N/A)
14. Gloriana. Britten. 2013. (Grade N/A)
15. Written on Skin. Benjamin. 2014. (Grade B+)

There are 17 operas here (Il trittico has three 1-Act operas rolled into one). This Le nozze is considered by some to be the best opera video ever. The Salome is, per the traffic on this website, one of the most popular Blu-ray opera recordings. The Carmen and Zauberflöte are still the best available recordings in Blu-ray. The Written on Skin is the authoritative recording of this remarkable new opera. We haven't graded all of the titles in this box, but we have given 9 of the titles a B+ or better. So if the price drops below, say $200, you are probably getting at a good discount 10 titles you will really admire plus 5 bonus recordings that likely will unearth for you some buried treasure. If you are new to opera on video, this looks like a great place to start.

Tuesday
Aug082017

Cymbeline

Shakespeare Cymbeline play. Directed 2016 by Melly Still at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Stars (in alphabetical order) Hiran Abeysekera (Posthumus), Romayne Andrews (First Lord/Dutchman), Gillian Bevan (Cymbeline), Doreene Blackstock (Cornelia/Soldier), Eke Chukwu (Caius Lucius/Spaniard), James Clyde (The Duke), James Cooney (Arviragus), Bethan Cullinane (Innogen), Marième Diouf (Helen/British Officer), Jenny Fennessy (Gentlewoman/Jailer), Kevin N. Golding (British Officer/Messenger), Marcus Griffiths (Cloten), Oliver Johnstone (Iachimo), Byron Mondahl (Philario/Soldier), Theo Ogundipe (Second Lord/Frenchman/Roman Captain), Natalie Simpson (Guideria), Graham Turner (Belarius), Temi Wilkey (Philharmonia), and Kelly Williams (Pisania). Designs by Anna Fleischle; lighting design by Philip Gladwell; music by Dave Price; sound by Jonathan Ruddick; movement by Emily Mytton; fights by Terry King; video by Dick Straker. Directed for screen  by Matthew Woodward; produced by John Wyver. Has a director's commentary. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Cymbeline is one of the most problematical and rarely produced Shakespeare plays. That the RSC and Opus Arte would produce this now is evidence of something I heard from the grapevine: that RSC and Opus Arte plan to publish Blu-rays of all of the Shakespeare canon.

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

Monday
Jul312017

Christopher Wheeldon Double Feature

Two Ballet Favourites by Christopher Wheeldon--- a two disc set released in 2017. Below are links to both shows, which have already been reported on this website:

1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Talbot. 2011. (Grade: A+)

2. Cinderella. Prokofiev. 2013. (Grade: A)

A beautiful paring of very fine performances---a real bargain at a reduced price.

Friday
Jul282017

Anastasia


Anastasia ballet. Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Bohuslav Martinů. Choreography by Kenneth MacMillan. Staged 2016 at the Royal Ballet. Stars Natalia Osipova (Anastasia/Anna Anderson), Marianela Nuñez (Mathilde Kschessinska), Federico Bonelli (Kschessinska’s Partner), Edward Watson (Anna Anderson's husband), Thiago Soares (Rasputin), Christina Arestis (Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna), and Christopher Saunders (Tsar Nicholas II). Simon Hewett conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Concert Master Sergey Levitin). Electronic music provided by the studio of The Technical University of West Berlin (Fritz Winckel and Rüdiger Rüfer); production realized by Deborah MacMillan; designed by Bob Crowley; lighting design by John B. Read; staging by Gary Harris; directed for the screen by Ross MacGibbon. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

This is from the October/November 2016 revival at the RHO. Both Laura Morera and Natalia Osipova were well received in the lead, but Osipova is the more famous and got the star berth in the video. Preliminary information needs confirmation and is incomplete.

Here's a clip about this performance with Osipova:

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


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