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 Teatro Real (6)



Fuenteovejuna flamenco dance piece. Directed and choreographed by Antonio Gades to a script by José Manuel Caballero Bonald and Antonio Gades. Stars Cristina Carnero, Ángel Gil, Joaquín Mulero, and Alberto Ferrero. Additional women dancers are Carolina Pozuelo, Conchi Maya, Luisa Serrano, Mª José López, Maite Chico, María Nadal, Merche Recio, Vanesa Vento, Virginia Domíguez, Virginia Guiñales, and Yolanda Rodríguez. Additional men dancers are Ángel Bleda, Antonio Mulero, David Martín, Elías Morales, Jairo Rodríguez, Miguel Lara, Miguel Vallés, and Pepe Vento. The flamenco woman singer is Ángela Núñez "La Bronce". Flamenco men singers are Alfredo Tejado, Enrique Pantoja, Gabriel Cortés, and Joni Cortés. Guitarists are Antonio Solera and Camarón de Pitita. Music by Antón García Abril, Modest Mussorgsky (Cuadros de una exposición), Antonio Gades, Faustino Núñez, and Juan Antonio Zafra. Set and costumes by Pedro Moreno; folk ballet instruction by Juanjo Linares; television direction by Ángel Luis Ramírez; produced by Ángel Álvarez Rilla. Released 2012, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+

This was Antonio Gades' last and artistically most ambitious work. The name means the "Sheepwell," which was also the name of a Spanish village. In 1476, the people of Fuenteovejuna rose up and killed an abusive government official. The King send investigators to catch the murderers. When questioned and tortured, all the villagers replied "Fuenteovejuna did it." Realizing the villagers had acted in self-defense, the King pardoned them. This event possibly would have been lost to history had not Lope de Vega written the play Fuenteovejuna in about 1614.

The Gades Fuenteovejuna is possibly the most expansive flamenco work ever because it contains strong elements of theater drama, remarkable sets and lighting, spoken parts, dancers singing as a chorus, dances from all over Spain (not just the Andalusian flamenco style), folklore, and recorded European classical music---all in addition to the traditional guitarists and and flamenco singers. The breadth of resources used by Gades suggests that Fuenteovejuna might be considered a "flamenco opera."

There is a lot of language used in this work. My wife, a native Spanish speaker, understands it well. But my Spanish comes from reading newspapers, and I understand very little of the words in Fuenteovejuna. In ordinary flamenco, you don't really care what the singers are wailing about---it's something desperately sad, and that's all you need to know. So flamenco pieces usually don't have subtitles in other languages. But I think Teatro Real made a big mistake in not providing Fuenteovejuna with subtitles in Spanish, other European languages, and Asian languages. I should also warn you that the English background material in the keepcase booklet is very poorly written. There are 26 chapters on the disc that have Spanish names listed in the keepcase booklet, and this can be big help in learning the story.

Time now for screenshots. It's harvest time, and Laurencia (Christina Carnero) is working in the fields with her sweetheart Frondoso (Ángel Gil):

The Comendador (Joaquín Mulero) visits in his red cloak of office at the same time Laurencia and Frondoso ask the Mayor (Alberto Ferrero) for permission to marry:

The peasants celebrate the harvest with many dances from all over Spain including this "bottle dance" where the men engage in elaborate footwork all around the bottle without knocking it over:

The Comendador has decided to exercise sovereign rights over Laurencia's virginity before she is allowed to marry:


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Carmen (Vento)

Carmen in flamenco dance version, based on the novella Carmen by Prosper Mérimée. Performed 2011 at the Teatro Real. Script, choreography, and lighting by Antonio Gades and Carlos Saura.  Stars Vanesa Vento, Ángel Gil, Joaquín Mulero, and Jairo Rodríguez. Additional  women dancers are Conchi Maya, Cristina Carnero, Luisa Serrano, Mª José López, Maite Chico, María Nadal, Merche Recio, Virginia Guiñales, and Yolanda Rodriguez. Additional men dancers are Alberto Ferrero, Ángel Bleda, Antonio Mulero, David Martín, Elías Morales, Miguel Lara, Miguel Vallés, and Pepe Vento. The woman flamenco singer is Ángela Núñez "La Bronce"; flamenco men singers are Alfredo Tejado, Enrique Pantoja, Gabriel Cortés, and Joni Cortés. Guitarists are Antonio Solera and Camarón de Pitita. Music and poetry by Antonio Gades, Antonio Solera, Ricardo Freire González, Georges Bizet (Carmen), Manuel Penella (El Gato Montés), José Ortega Heredia, and Federico García Lorca (Verde que te quiero verde). Stage setting by Antonio Saura. Released 2012, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio. Grade: B

According to the survivors of Antonio Gades who appears in the extra feature, the story of Carmen is a Spanish legend. The legend was highjacked by the Frenchmen Prosper Mérimée for his book and Bizet for his opera. Now the Spaniards want it back. Still, they give credit to both Frenchmen for making the legend famous. Nor do the Spaniards mind using Bizet's famous music. In fact, the Gades/Saura dance production was the first time flamenco dancing and elements of opera were used together.

But the Gades/Saura libretto differs a lot from the libretto of the Bizet opera. In the dance libretto Carmen is married but not living with her husband. Carmen is Spanish, and not a Gypsy. Carmen assaults another girl, and the basic story of the soldier, the bullfighter, and Carmen's death is similar. But none of the other colorful singing characters of the Bizet opera are found in the dance version. With Gades/Saura, we are back to a very simple story of a legend. It will take some fleshing-out to make this substantial enough for an evening at the theater.

The fleshing-out begins with a "dance class." This shows you a bit of what life is like in a flamenco dance company. Once you realize this is not part of the actual show, you can sit back and enjoy. The leader in the white shirt is Ángel Gil, who also plays the role of Don José later: 

After the class and some images of the dancers conducting individual warm-ups, the show begins. Here we see Carmen (Vanesa Vento) in red contending with another girl named Manolita:

All the girls rush in to support one or the other fighters:

But Manolita was not expecting a knife slash across the cheek:

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Bodas de sangre & Suite flamenca

Bogas de sangre (Blood Wedding) flamenco dance piece and Suite flamenca. Choreography and light design are both by Antonio Gades.

1. Bodas de sangre is based on the theatre play by Federico García Lorca. Stars Cristina Carnero, Ángel Gil, Vanesa Vento, Joaquín Mulero, and Maite Chico. Also stars Alberto Ferrero, Alfredo Tejada, Antonio Mulero, Antonio Solera, Camarón de Pitita, Carolina Pozuelo, Conchi Gómez, David Martín, Elías Morales, Enrique Pantoja, Jairo Rodríguez, Joni Cortés, Mª José López, María Nadal, Merche Recio, Miguel Lara, and Virginia Guiñales. Adaptation for ballet by Alfreho Mañas; set and costume designs by Francisco Nieva. Music by Emilio de Diego, Perelló y Monreal (¡Ay, mi Sombrero!), and Felipe Campuzano (Rumba).

2. Suite flamenca features Stella Arauzo and Miguel Lara. Also features women dancers Carolina Pozuelo, Conchi Gómez, Cristina Carnero, Maite Chico, María José López, María Nadal, Merche Recio, Vanesa Vento, and Virginia Guiñales. Men dancers are Alberto Ferrero, Ángel Gil, Antonio Mulero, David Martín, Elías Morales, Jairo Rodríguez, and Jaoquín Mulero.  Flamenco dancers are Alfredo Tejada, Enrique Pantoja, Gabriel Cortés, and Joni Cortés. Guitarists are Antonio Solerá and Camarón de Pitita. Music by Antonio Gades, Ricardo Freire, and Juan Antonio Zafra. Choreography for Soleá por bulerías and Tanguillos by Cristina Hoyos.

Television producer was Ángela Álvarez Rilla. Released 2012, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound.  For both titles Grade: A

These works appear to be the two most important and successful "classic" flamenco productions, and they are performed in the most important theater in the Spanish-language world. They are long, formal, and theatrical when compared to the collection of short numbers we saw in the HDVD title Flamenco-Flamenco. Trying to describe flamenco is like trying to describe the sound, say, of a cello. You can't do it very well in words, so let's see if we can make a little progress with screenshots. We start with Bodas de sangre.

Here we meet an old mother (Vanesa Vento) and her son the groom (Joaquín Mulero). They joyfully contemplating his wedding:

Now we meet a new and jilted mother (Maite Chico). Leonardo (Ángel Gil) is the father standing behind. (Leonardo is the only character in the libretto with a given name.)

The jilted mother begs Leonardo to marry her, but he rejects her yet again:


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C(H)ŒURS Choirs/Hearts: A Contemporary Ballet

C(H)ŒURS ("Choirs/Hearts"), a contemporary ballet. Music by Verdi and Wagner; additional music by Steven Prengels; short spoken part with words of Desmond Tutu. Choreographed and directed 2012 by Alan Platel at the Teatro Real with dancers from Patel's dance company, les ballets C de la B: Bérengère Bodin, Daisy Ransom Phillips, Ido Batash, Juliana Neves, Lisi Estaras, Quan Bui Ngoc, Roman Guion, Rumeu Runa, Rosalba Torres Guerrero, and Serge Aimé Coulibaly. The other star of this show is the Chorus of the Teatro Real (and individual members thereof).  Consuelo Garres is a chorus member who signs solo. Two boys, Martin López Malgesini and Nicolás Del Real Sasaki, join the Chorus for special roles. Marc Piollet conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Real (Madrid Symphony Orchestra and Chorus) with Choirmaster Andrés Máspero. Dramaturgy by Hildegard De Vuyst; musical dramaturgy by Jan Vandenhouwe; costume design by Dorine Demuynck; lighting design by Carlo Bourguignon; sound design by Bart Uyttersprot. TV Director was Andreas Morell; Sound Producers were Julian Schwenkner and Tobias Lehmann;  Blu-ray Producer was by Ángela Állvarez Rilla. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+

The world premiere of C(H)ŒURS (always spelled in caps) was on March 12, 2012. This show was recorded on March 16 and 17. The disc just came out, so this review is almost a current event story.  According to the press release, this is "a new musical drama set against the backdrop of contemporary economic crisis and national protests and the ensuing changes in society." H'm. I also read somewhere that les ballets C de la B (originally called "Les Ballets Contemporains de la Belgique") is a well-established, avant-garde, multi-discipline corps that does political and philosophical stuff.  (Is it possible for an arts organization to be both "well-established" and "avant-garde"?) It might be said that les ballets C de la B is a French analog to the German Tanztheater of Pina Bausch.

So anything by les ballets C de la B will be interesting if you can figure it out. To help you with this, Hildegard De Vuyst wrote 4 pages in the keepcase booklet explaining C(H)ŒURS. This might be the most elaborate exercise in fuzzy thinking I've ever forced myself to read several times. Executive briefing: the choreographer is unhappy about the way things are going. Well, that's all you really need to know if you find the dancing interesting.

Everything I wrote above was based on the keepcase and it's booklet plus a brief surf on the Internet. Then I watched the show cold. Quick report: This trenchant and absorbing work is the easily the most provocative and challenging dance title to be published so far in Blu-ray. I'm again grateful for the technology that makes this available---if I waited for something like this to be done live in Dallas, Texas, I would probably be 200 years old.

The videography comes from Andreas Morell, whom I have praised to the moon for his work in the Alonzo King LINES title and the gorgeous Caravaggio recording from Unter den Linden, Berlin. The PQ, SQ, and picture content in subject title are all super.

This title is a modern dance with 9 stars plus the special twist of adding an excellent opera choir, the members of which are coached to act and do strange stuff as well as sing. So this is probably a unique combination of talent: the result might best be called a work of performance art. If that is apt, then this would be the first performance art title published in HDVD.

Of the 9 dancers,  I've been able to match up the bodies and names for Daisy, Lisi, and Rosalba. But despite several hours of surfing the Internet, I still can't accurately name the other 6. They are all so weird and wonderful. I would like to name them correctly in the screenshots.  If you know the European contemporary dance scene well enough to ID all the dancers, please let me know. I think they all should get better credit than they do on the disc keepcase.

Since this show is so far out of normal boundaries,  there would be no way to describe it in text. So let's get going with some screenshots. The dancers are introduced first, one by one, and each in a unique way:

Most of the dancers have their underpants folded in a neat bundle, and they carry the bundle between their teeth:

Eventually they gather and there is a terrible commotion as they try to put their underpants on while shaking violently as if afflicted by some physical or mental illness. This dimension of the scene can't be appreciated from a still photo:

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Tchaikovsky Iolanta and Stravinsky Perséphone

This title has two shorter operas, both directed by Peter Sellers and connected by the same stage setting at Teatro Real:

1. Tchaikovsky Iolanta opera to a libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky. Stars Ekaterina Scherbachenko, Alexej Markov, Pavel Cernoch, Dmitry Ulianov, Willard White, Vasily Efimov, Pavel Kudinov, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Irina Churilova, and Letitia Singleton. Sung in Russian.

2. Stravinsky Perséphone to a libretto by André Gide. Stars Dominique Blanc, Paul Groves, the Cambodian dance group Amrita, and the Pequeños Cantores chorus. Sung in French.

For both productions: Teodor Currentzis conducts the Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real; set designs by George Tsypin; costume design by Martin Pakledinaz & Helen Siebrits; lighting design by James F. Ingalls. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

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Le nozze di Figaro

Mozart Le nozze di Figaro opera to libretto by Lorenza da Ponte. Directed 2009 by Emilio Sagi at the Teatro Real. Stars singers Ludovic Tézier (Count Almaviva), Barbara Frittoli (Countess Almaviva), Luca Pisaroni (Figaro), Isabel Rey (Susanna), Marina Comparato (Cherubino), Jeannette Fischer (Marcellina), Carlos Chausson (Bartolo), Raúl Giménez (Basilio), Enrique Viana (Don Curzio), Soledad Cardoso (Barbarina), and Miguel Sola (Antonio). Stars dancers Remei Domingo, Damián Donado, Mª Ángeles Fernández, Pedro Fernández, Francisco Guerrero, Antonio Hidalgo, Olivia Juberías, Silvia Martín, Pedro Navarro, Susana Serrano, Jorge Vicedo, and Rosa Zaragoza. Also features extras Ana Urbano and Candela Valentín-Gamazo. Jesús López Cobos conducts the Corus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real and the Madrid Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Master Peter Burian). Harpsichord continuo: Patricia Barton; cello continuo: John Paul Friedhoff. Set design by Daniel Bianco; costume design by Renata Schussheim; lighting design by Eduardo Bravo; choreography by Nuria Castejón; produced by Ángela Álvarez Rilla. Released in 2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: Help!

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