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 Sony (37)

Tuesday
Jun272017

Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2 & Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1

The top of this story is about the old-fashion 2K Blu-ray version which we now have (July 1, '17). See information on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version, which is still not widely available, at the bottom. All entries for this concert on the Alphalist link to this story.

The back of the package is white:

Piano Concerto No. 2 & Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 concert. Khatia Buniatishvili performs in July 2015 with the Israel Philhamonica Orchestra under Zubin Mehta (the Liszt was 1st and the Beethoven several nights later). This is an old-fashion 2K Blu-ray video even though there is no 1080i format spec printed on the package. Disc has 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. I think this is the first fine-arts Blu-ray recording with a sound track for the new Dolby Atmos sound system. (Dolby Atmos is not bound to 4K---it can be played on a 2K disc if you have the right gear and speakers). Directed for TV by Christophe Boula; sound engineers were Jiri Heger and Rafi Eshel; Dolby Atmos mix by Eric Chevallier; Atmos mix artistic director was Mireille Faure (Soundways); produced by Amos Rozenberg. Package claims running time is 57 minutes; actual music on the disc runs about 49 minutes, 42 seconds.  [This title is also available in a DVD version --- so there are 3 versions of this concert in 3 different video form factors: (1) DVD, (2) 2K Blu-ray, and (3) 4K Blu-ray.] Grade: C for the 2K title.

Jeremy Nicholas reviewed this in the 2K version in the March 2017 Gramophone at page 29. He says watching Khatia is as thrilling as hearing her, and neither the lipstick nor the hair with a life of its own deters him. But the visual content causes problems for Nicholas. He states, "Khatia is the only thing worth watching. I lost count of the times the director cut away [from Khatia] at an inappropriate moment, losing the tension, focusing on the wrong section while the piano part was the musical centre of attention." Oh dear, this sounds like DVDitis, doesn't it! Nicholas also complains of weak video resolution.

I just ran a Wonk Worksheet on the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2 in 2K to see if I would arrive at the same conclusion as Nicholas as to Christophe Boula's video content. Well, the video content flunks the pace test badly with only 6 seconds per chip. It also flunks the soloist test badly because there are so many unrealistic shots of Khatia. Further, there is not a single shot in the Liszt of the whole orchestra playing. On the other hand, it passes the conductor test and the supershot test, which is usually not too hard to do with a soloist star playing a concerto. If you are not familiar with the jargon in the last few sentences, see our Wonk Worksheet Instructions which explains how we analyze video content on this website.

But before I go further, I have to warn you about a disc authorship problem with this title. If your TV display is set on "vivid" or "bright" mode, you probably will not be able to use the disc menu to navigate! The menu titles are in white. The selected item on the menu changes color to a light gray-blue. If your TV is set in vivid mode, you will not be able to see the slight change in color. To see the menu well, you may have to be in "dark" mode. I took my disc to John Fort in Dallas and played it on a new LG OLED display that had been calibrated at the factory. With that set I was able to read the menu, but the picture seemed rather dark in the Liszt performance. 

Now let's move to some screenshots from the Liszt performance. Screen shots captured from video on a PC always lose luminance and look darker than the image on the TV. So these shots will doubtless look better on your display than here.

The 1st obligation of the video director is to show the home audience the whole orchestra as soon as possible. It appears Christophe Boula did not have a camera in a location where this could be done! So the best he could do was this inane opening shot of much of the orchestra from behind. Note the soft resolution and dim lighting complained of by Jeremy Nicholas:

Below next is a decent realistic shot of Khatia in an early, dramatic solo passage. She develops tremendous power, here, I think, by grasping the piano with her right hand to undergird her core and give her a solid foundation for hammer blows with the left hand:

Here are only 11 decent part-orchestra shots in the video like the one below:

A face shot like the next below is unrealistic since no audience member can see this. A few shots like this are fine; unfortunatey, the video has too many of these views:

Here below is one of the better realistic shots of Khatia as soloist:

This next view pops up often. Is it a conductor-over-backs shot or an unrealistic shot of the soloist? I made a gut call on each of these weak shots---probably coming down about 50/50:

This next one below is clearly a conductor-over-backs shot because Khatia is resting:

Here below is a great shot of Marcel Bergman in a gorgeous solo cello passage:

 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jun162017

Sommernachts Konzert 2017

Sommernachts Konzert 2017 (2017 Summer Night Concert). In May 2017 Christoph Eschenbach conducted the Wiener Philharmoniker in the annual Summer Night Concert at the Baroque Park of the Schönbrunn palace in Vienna. Features soprano Renée Fleming. Video by Henning Kasten. Released 2017, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Here is the program, in alphabetical order by composers, that we got from Sony PR. This title was rushed from the May performance to publication in just weeks, so the information with the package and in Sony PR may not be fully accurate.  For examples, you can't tell from the back art on the keepcase in which numbers Fleming sang and the list below doesn't include the Wiener Blut encore. This is a fun package, we don't sweat the details.

1. Dvorak: Carnival Overture
2. Dvorak: "Za tihlou Gazelou" from Armida --- Renée Fleming
3. Dvorak:  "Song to the Moon" from Rusalka --- with Renée Fleming
4. Humperdinck: Hänsel & Gretel Overture
5. Rachmaninov:  Twilight, Op.21 No. 3 --- Renée Fleming
6. Rachmaninov: Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne, Op. 4 No. 4 --- Renée Fleming
7. Rachmaninov: Spring torrents, Op. 14 No.11 --- Renée Fleming
8. Stravinsky: The Firebird, "Danse infernale du roi Kastchei"
9. Stravinsky: The Firebird, "Berceuse"
10. Stravinsky: The Firebird Finale
11 Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty --- Pas d'action
12. Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty "Waltz"
13. John Williams Hedwig's Theme --- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

This concert is shot outdoors on a temporary stage, which makes it tough to get decent video and sound recordings of the orchestra and the soloists. Macht nichts! This is always a pleasant show, and you get to see some of the Schönbrunn palace and grounds. Schönbrunn remains my favorite palace visit---there's plenty of pomp and grandeur, but the place somehow also has the cozy feel of a home where many families lived out their days.

There's a ton of bootleg video about this concert, but I couldn't find an official Sony clip. Please help us by writing a comment that we can place here as a mini-review of this title.

 

Tuesday
Jun062017

Les Contes d'Hoffmann

Offenbach Les Contes d'Hoffmann opera to a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. Direction by John Schlesinger. Stars Vittorio Grigòlo (Hoffmann), Thomas Hampson (Lindorf/Coppélius/Dapertutto/Miracle), Sofia Fomina (Olympia), Christine Rice (Giulietta), Sonya Yoncheva (Antonia), Kate Lindsey (Nicklausse/Muse), Christophe Mortagne (Spalanzani), Eric Halfvarson (Crespel), Vincent Ordanneau (Andrès/Cochenille/Pittichinaccio/Frantz), Catherine Carby (Spirit of Antonia's Mother), David Junghoon Kim (Nathanaël), Charles Rice (Hermann), Yuriy Yurchuk (Schlémil), Jeremy White (Luther), and Olga Sabadoch (Stella). Evelino Pidò conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Co-Concert Master Sergey Levitin) and the Royal Opera Chorus (Chorus Director Wiliam Spaulding). Sets by William Dudley; costumes by Maria Björnson; lighting by David Hersey; choreography by Eleanor Fazan; fight direction by William Hobbs; directed for the screen by Johathan Haswell. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

This title appears to have a fine cast for time-honored traditional production of Les Contes. Here is the official YouTube clip:

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


Thursday
Jun012017

Macbeth

Verdi Macbeth opera to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Directed 2016 by Darko Tresnjak at the LA Opera House. Stars Plácido Domingo (Macbeth), Ekaterina Semenchuk (Lady Macbeth), Ildebrando D’Arcangelo (Banquo), Joshua Guerrero (Macduff), Joshua Wheeker (Malcolm), Summer Hassan (Lady-in-Waiting), Theo Hoffmann, (Doctor/ First Apparition), Liv Redpath (Second Apparition), Isaiah Morgan (Third Apparition), Reid Bruton (Servant), and James Martin Schaefer (Assassin). James Conlon conducts LA Opera Orchestra and Choir (Chorus Director Grant Gershon). Scenic design by Darko Tresnjak and Colin McGurk; costume design by Suttirat Anne Larlarb; lighting design by Matthew Richards; projection design by Sean Nieuwenhuis; fight director by Steve Rankin; climbing consultant was Daniel Lyons. Executive Producers Christopher Koelsch and Rupert Hemmings; Screen Producers Anthea Bhargava and Eric White; directed for screen by Matthew Diamond. 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.

There are several YouTube clips about this production, but I can't find a trailer for this Sony disc.

 

Sunday
Feb262017

2017 New Year's Concert

2017 New Year's Concert by the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic) conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Recorded January 1, 2017 at the Goldener Saal des Wiener Musikvereins. Bonus features are (1) The Rhythm of Vienna and (2) a complete ballet sequence to "Hereinspaziert" by the Vienna State Ballet choreographed by Renate Zanella. Directed for video by Michael Beyer.  Released 2017, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

Features the following numbers (listed below in alphabetical order---see artwork above for performance order):

1. Franz Lehár "Nechledil Marsch" from Wiener Frauen ("Nechledil March" from Vienna Women)
2. Carl Otto Nicolai "Montaufgang" ("Moonrise") from Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windor)
3. Johann Strauss I "Indianer-Galopp" ("Indian Galop")
4. Johann Strauss II "Es gibt nur a Kaiserstadt" ("There's Just One Emperial City")
5. Johann Strauss II "Mephisto's Hollenrufe" ("Mephisto's Cries from Hell")
6. Johann Strauss II "So ängstlich sind wir nicht!" ("So Scared We're Not")
7. Johann Strauss II "Pepita Polka"
8. Johann Strauss II "Rotunde-Quadrille"
9. Johann Strauss II "Die Extravaganten" ("The Extravagants")
10. Johann Strauss II "Auf zum Tanze!" ("Up and Dance!")
11. Johann Strauss II "Tausendundeine Nacht" ("Thousand and One Night")
12. Johann Strauss II "Tik-Tak Polka"
13. Josef Strauss "Winterlust" ("Joy of Winter")
14. Josef Strauss "Die Nasswalderin" (The Girl from Nasswald)
15. Franz von Suppe Pique Dame Overture
16. Waldteufel "Les Patineurs" ("The Iceskaters")
17. Karl Michael Ziehrer "Hereinspaziert" ("Walk Right In")

In addition, here are the encores (in performance order):
1. Eduard Strauss "Mit Vergnügen!" ("With Pleasure")
2. Johann Strauss II "The Blue Danube"
3. Johann Strauss I "Radetzky-Marsch"

Wednesday
Jan252017

Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci

"Cav and Pag" opera double feature directed and staged 2015 by Philipp Stölzl at the Salzburg Easter Festival (Osterfestspiele).

1. First plays the Pietro Mascagni Cavalleria rusticana to libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzeti and Guido Menasci. Stars Jonas Kaufmann (Turiddu), Liudmyla Monastyrska (Santuzza), Stefania Toczyska ( Lucia), Ambrogio Maestri (Alfio), Annalisa Stroppa (Lola), and Paul Clementi (Turiddu's Son).

2. Then follows the Ruggero Leoncavallo Pagliacci to libretto by the composer. Stars Jonas Kaufmann (Canio), Maria Agresta (Nedda), Dimitri Platanias (Tonio), Tansel Akzeybek (Beppe), and Alessio Arduini (Silvio).

Christian Thielemann conducts the (1) Staatskapelle Dresden and the Sächsischer Staatsopernchor (Chorus Master Jörn Hinnerk Andresen), (2) the Salzburger Bachchor (Chorus Master Alois Glassner), and (3) the Salzburger Festspiele und Theater Kinderchor (Chorus Master Wolfgang Götz).  Stage music by members of the Staatskappelle Dresden. Sets designed by Philipp Stölzl; costumes by Ursula Kudrna; lighting by Heinz Ilsanker; dramatury by Jan Dvořák; director of photography Nyika Jancsó; video direction by Brian Large. Released 2016, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A-

This is the first time Kaufmann has played either Turiddu (in Cav) or Canio (in Pag). For him to sing both roles on the same night was considered a personal triumph.

Cavalleria rusticana

The Philipp Stölzl set is clever with 6 mini-stages that quickly can be changed independently of each other.  First below we see all 6 in action: 4 with actors, and 2 with scenery:

Stölzl set with 6 mini-stages

Next below we see only the top tier of 3 mini-stages. The stage on the left is showing a video. Individual screens were lowered to blackout the lower tier of mini-stages:

 Top tier of 3 mini-stages

Next below are the 3 lower mini-stages with three matching mini-sets that together form a street scene:

3 lower mini-stages form a street scene

The live audience was forced, of course, to consider all the stages all the time. The videographer has the additional flexibility of zooming in on a single stage and giving the HT audience views like the next below:

Expressionist urban landscape

And, as always, the videographer can get in really close - here we see Turiddu (Jonas Kaufmann) cheating on his wife by visiting his old flame Lola (Annalisa Stroppa). It was fun having her again, but already the thrill has worn off:

Kaufmann and Stroppa

Turiddu has reason to be worried. Lola is now married to the gangster Alfio, played by Ambrogio Maestri seen below center. I'm so used to seeing Maestri as a silly, fat Falstaff - it's fascinating to see him here portraying a brutal criminal. Seated center is Lucia (Stefania Toczyiska), Turiddu's mother. She's paying Alfio protection money. On the right is Turiddu's wife, Santuzza (Liudmyla Monastyrska). What she hears now confirms her suspicion that Turiddu spent the night with Lola:

Alfio and Turiddu's mother

 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan192017

Jonas Kaufmann - Du bist die Welt für mich

Jonas Kaufmann - Du bist die Welt für mich concert. Features guest star Julia Kleiter (Soprano).  Jochen Rieder conducts the Rundfunksinfonieorchester Berlin (The Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra). Released 2014, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

This appears to be the Tracklist for the live performance in Berlin:

  1. Introduktion
  2. Franz Lehár - Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert! from Giuditta
  3. Emmerich Kálmán -  Grüß mir mein Wien from Gräfin Mariza
  4. Robert Stolz -  Frag nicht, warum ich gehe from Das Lied ist aus
  5. Hans May - Ein Lied geht um die Welt
  6. Robert Stolz -  Im Traum hast du mir alles erlaubt from Liebeskommando
  7. Ralph Benatzky Es muss was Wunderbares sein from Im weißen Rössl
  8. Richard Tauber -  Du bist die Welt für mich from Der singende Traum
  9. Mischa Spoliansky - Heute Nacht oder nie from Das Lied einer Nacht
  10. Werner Richard Heymann - Irgendwo auf der Welt from Ein Blonder Traum
  11. Franz Lehár - Hab' ein blaues Himmelbett from Frasquita
  12. Franz Lehár - Gern hab' ich die Frau'n geküsst from Paganini
  13. Franz Lehár - Dein ist mein ganzes Herz! from Das Land des Lächelns
  14. Erich Wolfgang Korngord -  Glück, das mir verblieb from Die tote Stadt
  15. Paul Abraham - Reich mir zum Abschied noch einmal die Hände from Viktoria und ihr Husar
  16. Paul Abraham - Diwanpüppchen from Die Blume von Hawaii

The Berlin 1930 TV documentary has this similar list of songs:

  1. Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert!
  2. Gern hab' ich die Frauen geküsst
  3. Hab' ein blaues Himmelbett
  4. Dein ist mein ganzes Herz!
  5. Grüss mir mein Wien
  6. Frag nicht, warum ich gehe
  7. Im Traum hast Du mir alles erlaubt
  8. Ob blond, ob braun, Heute Nacht oder nie, Irgendwo auf der Welt (Traumfabrik Berlin, Jan Kiepura)
  9. Ein Lied geht um die Welt
  10. Du bist die Welt für mich
  11. Das Lied vom Leben des Schrenk, Im weissen Rössl, Es muss was Wunderbares sein (Eduard Künneke)
  12. Glück, das mir verblieb
  13. Reich mir zum Abschied noch einmal die Hände
  14. Diwanpüppchen

Kaufmann is now in a class of 1 as the world's leading opera tenor. And he can move over into operetta and high-class show songs big-time without sounding stilted. This is out now in a CD, DVD, and Blu-ray. ArkivMusic has given the CD version its Recommended designation, so the Blu-ray stands to be pretty good.

I can't explain why it has taken so long for us to notice this. Kaufmann has so many titles out now it's hard to keep track of them. It appears even the big players like Sony and Amazon are overwhelmed by Kaufmann and find themselves unable to coherently and accurately market his recordings. For example, I looked hard to find the right keepcase artwork for this title. What you see above is fairly clear, but it's not the right shape. And I could not find any photos of the rear of the package that are legible. Why do the distribution folk go the trouble to publish rear-of-the-package artwork in thumbnail versions that noboby can read?

The songlist information above comes from disc PR and needs to be confirmed by someone who buys the disc and can check out what in fact in on it.

Tuesday
Nov152016

Dolce Vita

Dolce Vita concert. Jonas Kaufmann performs songs in Italian. Jochen Rieder conducts the RAI National Symphony Orchestra Torino at Teatro Carignano. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Video is directed by Andy Sommer.  Grade: Help!

The setlist is:

1. Mattinata (Ruggero Leoncavallo)
2. Parla più piano (Nino Rota, Gianni Boncompagni)
3. Torna a Surriento (Ernesto de Curtis, Giambattista de Curtis)
4. Musica proibita (Stanislao Gastaldon)
5. Ti voglio tanto bene (Ernesto de Curtis, Domenico Furnò)
6. Fenesta ca lucive (Guillaume Louis Cottrau)
7. Rondine al nido (Vincenzo de Crescenzo, Luigi Sica)
8. Il canto (Romano Musumarra, Luca Barbarossa)
9. Catari', Catari' (Core 'ngrato) (Salvatore Cardillo, Riccardo Cordiferro)
10. Caruso (Lucio Dalla)
11. Passione (Ernesto Tagliaferri, Nicola Valente, Libero Bovio)
12. Voglio vivere così (Giovanni d'Anzi, Tito Manlio)

I haven't seen any review of the video version of Dolce Vita. But there is also a CD. Comments I've seen on the CD range from "too sweet", to "about perfect", to "no German can sing this stuff." There are a lot of video clips on YouTube of Kaufmann singing Italian music in concert, and it's tricky to figure out exactly what you are seeing. I think the video clip below is from sudject title. It explains why Kaufmann isn't slumming with this program and suggests to me that this would be a most charming video to enjoy. If you have seen this, please tell us what you think:

 

Tuesday
Nov082016

Opera Gala 2016

The 2016 Opera Gala recital concert from Baden-Baden. Anja Harteros (soprano), Ekaterina Gubanova (mezzo-soprano), Jonas Kaufmann (tenor), and Bryn Terfel (base-baritone) sing opera favorites. Marco Armiliato conducts the Badisische Staatskapelle.  Released 2016, disc has 5.1 PCM and 5.1 dts-HD sound. Grade: Help!

The program includes:

1. Wagner Tannhäuser: "Dich, teure Halle, grüß’ ich wieder"   Anja Harteros
2. Gounod Faust: "Le veau d’or est toujours debout"  Bryn Terfel
3. Mascagni Cavalleria rusticana: "Voi lo sapete, o mamma" Ekaterina Gubanova
4. Puccini Tosca: "E lucevan la stelle"  Jonas Kaufmann
5. Boito Mefistofele: "Son lo spirito che nega"  Bryn Terfel
6. Verdi Un ballo in maschera: "Morrò, ma prima in grazia"  Anja Harteros
7. Mascagni Cavalleria rusticana: "Tu qui, Santuzza?"  Ekaterina Gubanova and Jonas Kaufmann
8. Cilea Adriana Lecouvreur: "Acerba voluttà … L’anima ho stanca"   Ekaterina Gubanova and Jonas Kaufmann
9. Puccini Tosca: "Vissi d’arte"   Anja Harteros and Bryn Terfel
10. Verdi Don Carlo: "Ella giammai m’amò"  Bryn Terfel
11. Verdi Don Carlo: "Ah! Più mai non vedrò la regina ... O don fatale"  Ekaterina Gubanova
12. Verdi Don Carlo: "Tu che le vanità conoscesti del mondo"  Anja Harteros
13. Verdi Otello: "Già nella notte densa"   Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros
14. Bizet Carmen: "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" (Habanera)  Ekaterina Gubanova
15. Mascagni L'amico Fritz: "Son pochi fiori"  Anja Harteros
16. Bock Fiddler on the Roof: "If I were a rich man"  Bryn Terfel
17. Rota: "Parla più piano"  Jonas Kaufmann
18. Lehár Das Land des Lächelns: "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz"  Quartet

The Badisische Staatskapelle also plays several popular selections to give the singers breathing room.

Hugo Shirley finds enough to praise in this title (February 2017 Gramophone at page 92.) But Shirley warns that the event is more "Oscar " than "Tosca." There was a nice YouTube clip about this, but Oscar's lawyer got upset and the clip was taken down.

If you have seen this title, please share your thoughts with our readers.

Thursday
Sep012016

Mission Mozart

Mission Mozart documentary. This 53-minute film, produced by Bernhard Fleischer, explores the collaboration between conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, pianist Lang Lang, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra as they prepare to record Mozart's Piano Concertos Nos. 17 and 24. Original languages are English and German; subtitles in English, German, French, and Japanese. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

I  suspect this is mostly a  case of scraping the bottom of the Sony archives: there's no finished music for you here---just 53 minutes of recording taken during rehearsal. The finished product was the CD shown below:

This will probably be of little interest to most fans of classical music, but it is in HD video with high-quality surround sound, so it qualifies for a story here.

If you have seen this obscure title, please help us with a comment or mini-review. That's probably the only way we I'll ever be able to pass on more information about this item.

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