Here's news about high-definition video disc ("HDVD") recordings of opera, ballet, classical music, plays, performance art, and paintings. We've got hard-to-find critical reports on hundreds of HDVDs. Pick the best titles for your excelsisphere.
Jan. 16, 2019. Be sure to read our new review of the A+Alcina Handel opera directed by Katie Mitchell. We missed this in 2016, but Wonk Lewis Chang alerted us and even sent us his disc to review! Thanks Lewis! And to this we added a review of the traditional Alcina published in 2011 by the Weiner Staatsoper. We recently posted a review of a Bruckner Symphony No. 5 that we used to discuss anew the dread disease DVDitis. We also posted full reviews of the new A+ Turnadot by Stefano Poda, the original Cranko Onegin ballet, and the new grade-A Bernstein Celebrationdance disc.
In 2018 we finished the monumental (for us) task of converting all the stories on the website from Squarespace 5 (for desktop) to Squarespace 7 (for all form factors from the smartphone up). We also just worked our way through the Alphalist to clean up and standardize our descriptions of the publishers as well as the various performance groups and venues. A lot of inconsistencies had crept into the Alphalist over 10 years, but now that’s fixed!
On the new home page, you will see the beginnings of the most recent 17 stories. You reach the rest of the archives by using the Alphalist or our search tool. One problem is that the search tool doesn’t recognize all those tricky diacritical marks that we encounter in many languages. So if your search has unusual diacritical marks, try to figure out a search without the unusual marks.
It’s been about 10 years since we started this website. Since then, here’s what we have done:
Carl Orff Carmina Burana cantata and Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 concert. Recorded 2018 at the Imperial Ancestral Temple in the Forbidden City, Beijing. Features soloists Aida Garifullina (soprano), Toby Spence (tenor), Ludovic Tézier (baritone), Daniil Trifonov, and Mari Samuelsen (violin). Long Yu conducts the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the Wiener Singakademie. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA
Puccini Tosca opera to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Directed 2018 by Michael Sturminger at the Osterfestspiele Salzburg. Stars Anja Harteros (Floria Tosca), Aleksandrs Antonenko (Mario Cavaradossi), Ludovic Tézier (Baron Scarpia), Andrea Mastroni (Cesare Angelotti), Matteo Peirone (The Sacristan), Mikeldi Atxalandabaso (Spoletta), Luca Casalin (Sciarrone), Levente Páll (A Jailer), and Benjamin Aster (A Shepherd Boy). Christian Thielemann conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Salzburger Bachchor (Alois Glaßner), and the Salzburger Festpiele und Theater Kinderchor (Chorus Master Wolfgang Götz). Costume and set design by Renate Martin and Andreas Donhauser; lighting design by Urs Schönebaum; video direction by Tiziano Mancini. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA
Le Corsaire ballet. Choreographed by Manuel Legris to a libretto by Manuel Legris and Jean-François Vazelle. Music by Adolphe Adam. Staged 2016 at the Wiener Staatsoper. Stars Robert Gabdullin (Conrad); Maria Yakovleva (Médora); Liudmila Konovalova (Gulnare); Kirill Kourlaev (Lanquedem); Davide Dato (Birbanto); Alice Firenze (Zulméa); Mihail Sosnovschi (Seyd Pasha); Natascha Mair, Nina Tonoli and Prisca Zeisel (Odalisques); and dancers from the Wiener Staatsballet and the Balletakademie der Wiener Staatsoper. Valery Ovsianikov conducts the Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper. Set and costume design by Luisa Spinatelli; lighting design by Marion Hewlett; choreographic assistance by Albert Mirzoyan; film direction by François Roussillon. Released 2019, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA
Handel Alcina opera to a libretto by an unknown author. Directed 2015 by Katie Mitchell assisted by Dan Ayling and Robin Tebbutt at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Stars Patricia Petibon (Alcina, a sorceress), Philippe Jaroussky (Ruggiero, a warrior enchanted by Alcina), Anna Prohaska (Morgana, Alcina’s younger sister), Katarina Bradić (Bradamante, Ruggiero’s former sweetheart), Anthony Gregory (Oronte, Alcina’s general), Krzysztof Baczyk (Melisso, Ruggiero’s former comrade), and Elias Mädler (Oberto, a boy seeking his missing father). Actors are Juliet Alderdice (the real Alcina), Jane Thorne (the real Morgana), Ian Hallard (Oberto's father/servant), plus Zoé Aldrich, Josephine Arden, Sarah Northgraves, and Anna Martine (more servants of Alcina). Andrea Marcon conducts the Freiburger Barockorchester and Chœur MusicAeterna (Chœur de l'Opéra de Perm under Chorus Master Vitaly Polonsky). Continuo: theorbos Daniele Ciminiti and Maria Ferré; cello Guido Larisch; harpsichords Andrea Marcon and Johannes Keller. Set design by Chloe Lamford; costume design by Laura Hopkins assisted by Blanca Anon Garcia and Clémence Pernoud
Handel Alcina opera to a libretto by an unknown author. Directed 2010 by Adrian Noble at the Wiener Staatsoper. Stars Anja Harteros (Alcina), Vesselina Kasarova (Ruggiero), Veronica Cangemi (Morgana), Kristina Hammarström (Bradamante), Alois Mühlbacher (Oberto), Benjamin Bruns (Oronte), and Adam Plachetka (Melisso). Marc Minkowski conducts Les Musiciens du Louvre - Grenoble (Chorus Director Thomas Lang). Stage musicians are Thibault Noally (Violin), Nils Wieboldt (Cello), Florian Cousin (Flute), Gilberto Caserio (Recorder), Toshinori Ozaki (Theorbo), Francesco Corti and Johannes Maria Bogner (Harpsichord). Chorus members are Hannelore Auer, Gilles Combecave, Arina Holecek, Christian Jung, Jens Musger, Richard Neugebauer, Martina Reder, Barbara Reiter, Barbara Sommerbauer, Cornelia Sonnleithner, Ion Tibrea, and Oleg Zalytskiy. Dancers provided by the Wiener Staatsballett. Set and costumes by Anthony Ward; lighting by Jean Kalman; choreography by Sue Lefton. Directed for TV by Matthias Leutzendorff.
Bruckner Symphony No. 5. Claudio Abbado conducts the Lucerne Festival Orchestra at the 2011 Lucerne Festival. Unusual contemporary artwork on the package by Michael Triegel. Directed for TV by Michael Beyer; Andrej Nicolay was Director of Photography; produced by Paul Smaczny. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: C+
In its 2012 Awards Special Issue, Gramophone called this the year's best DVD (page 55). The awards article doesn't even mention that a Blu-ray was available, so we surmise that the Gramophone critic watched the DVD. We bought the Blu-ray to review long ago, but it never got to the top of our “to do” list. We always agreed that the musical performance and sound recording are excellent. But we had reservations about video content. Some time has passed since we last talked about DVDitis in symphony recordings, so we think it’s timely to bring this up again for our new readers.
Woolf Works ballet. Directed and choreographed by Wayne McGregor. Music by Max Richter. Staged 2017 at the Royal Opera House. Stars Alessandra Ferri, Gary Avis, Matthew Ball, Federico Bonelli, Francesca Hayward, Paul Kay, Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae, Natalia Osipova, Calvin Richardson, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Akane Takada, Eric Underwood, and Edward Watson. Features soprano Anush Hovhannisyan and speaker Gillian Anderson. Koen Kessels conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Concert Master Vasko Vassilev). Designed by Ciguë, We Not I, and Wayne McGregor; costume design by Moritz Junge; lighting design by Lucy Carter; film design by Ravi Deepres; sound design by Chris Ekers; make-up design by Kabuki; dramaturgy by Uzma Hameed; directed for the screen by Ross MacGibbon. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 concert in 2017 at the Concert Hall of KKL Luzen. Long Yu conducts the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. Features violinist Maxim Vengerov. The concert includes the following pieces:
Aaron Avshalamov Hutongs of Peking (A Symphonic Poem about the sounds and voices of Chinese streets.)
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
Shostakovich Symphony No. 5
Directed for TV by Michael Beyer. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA
The Cleveland Orchestra Centennial Celebration concert in 2018 at Severance Hall. Franz Welser-Möst conducts the Cleveland Orchestra. Features pianist Lang Lang. The concert includes the following pieces:
Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24
Richard Strauss “Symphonic Fantasy” from Die Frau ohne Schatten
Johann Strauss, Jr. Wiener Blut
Ravel La Valse
Directed for video by Michael Beyer. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA
Nino Rota opera double feature directed 2017 by Cesare Scarton at the Reate Festival.
La notte di un nevrastenico (The Night of a Neurotic) to a libretto by Riccardo Bacchelli. Stars Giorgio Celenza (The Neurotic); Carlo Feola (The Consierge); Daniele Adriani (The Commendatore); Sabrina Cortese (She); Antonio Sapio (He); Vincenzo Carni (A Floor Boy/Hotel Staff); Maria Rita Combatteli, Lucia Filaci, Siri Kval Ødegård; Mariangela De Vita, and Giacomo Nanni (Hotel Staff).
I due timidi (The Two Timid Ones)to a libretto by Suso Cecchi D’Amico. Stars Giorgio Celenza (Narrator), Sabrina Cortese (Mariuccia), Daniele Adriani (Raimondo), Chiara Osella (Mrs. Guidotti), Antonio Sapio
PPuccini Turandot opera to a libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni. Directed 2018 by Stefano Poda at the Teatro Regio Torino. Stars Rebeka Lokar (Turandot), Jorge de León (Calaf), Erika Grimaldi (Liù), In-Sung Sim (Timur), Antonello Ceron (The Emperor Altoum), Marco Filippo Romano (Ping, Lord Chancellor), Luca Casalin (Pang, Majordomo), Mikeldi Atxalandabaso (Pong, Head Chef of the Imperial Kitchen), Roberto Abbondanza (A Mandarin), Joshua Sanders (The Prince of Persia [silent role]), Sabrina Amè (First Handmaid), Manuela Giacomini (Second Handmaid), and Nicoletta Cabassi (Pu-Tin-Pao, the Executioner[silent role]). Gianandrea Noseda conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Regio Torino (Chorus Master Claudio Fenoglio). Sets, costumes, lighting, and choreography by Stefano Poda; collaborator director and assistant was Paolo Giani Cei. Directed for TV by Tiziano Mancini; Audio Producer Claudio Speranzini; Recording Engineer Antonio Martino; Audio Recording, Editing, and Mix by MASClassica. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio surround sound. Grade: A+
Verdi i due Foscari opera to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Directed by Alvis Hermanis in 2016 at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan. Stars Plácido Domingo (Francesco Foscari), Francesco Meli (Jacopo Foscari), Anna Pirozzi (Lucrezia Contarini), Andrea Concetti (Jacopo Loredano), Edoardo Miletti (Barbarigo), Chiara Isotton (Pisana), Azer Rza-Fade (Fante), and Modestas Sedlevičius (Servant of the Dodge). Michelle Mariotti conducts the Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala (Chorus Master Bruno Casoni). Frédéric Olivieri directs soloists of the Academy and students of the Ballet Academy of Teatro alla Scala. Stage and set designs by Alvis Hermanis; costume design by Kristīne Jurjāne; lighting by Gleb Filshtinksy; choreography by Alla Sigalova; video designs by Ineta Sipunova; dramatic advisor was Olivier Lexa. Directed for TV by Tiziano Manchini. A 2K standard Blu-ray was released in 2017. A 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray was released in 2019. Both discs have 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA
This John Neumeier Collection box set has four Neumeier ballets previously published by C Major. Each disc has already been reported on this website, and you can get more details by using the links provided:
All the titles in this box are magnificent dance productions from the finest story-telling choreographer working today. We graded two of these down some for what we consider to be excessive video pace (two many clips too fast). But don’t let this slow you down. With an appropriate price, this would be one of the very best Blu-ray ballet boxes on the market and a must buy for every ballet fan. We are so fortunate to have material of this quality coming out in a money-saving package.
Alfred Eschwé conducts the Vienna Johann Strauss Orchestra for its 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Golden Hall of the Musikverein, 2016. Directed for video by Karina Fibich. Released 2019, the Blu-ray disc has 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. Grade: NA
The concert is as follows:
1. Johann Strauss II “Ouvertüre” zur Operette Waldmeister (“Overture” to the operetta Waldmeister) 2. Johann Strauss II “Neues Leben” polka (“New Life”) 3. Johan Strauss II “Die Bajadere” polka (“The Bayadere”) 4. Josef Strauss “Dorfschwalben aus Österreich” waltz (“Village Swallows from Austria”) 5. Josef Strauss “Die tanzende Muse” polka (“The Dancing Muse”) 6. Josef Strauss “Vélocipède” polka (“Velocipide”) 7. Josef Strauss “Transactionen” waltz (“Transactions”)
Thomas Adès The Exterminating Angel opera to libretto by Tom Cairns. Directed 2017 by Tom Cairns at the Metropolitan Opera. Stars Audrey Luna (Leticia Maynar), Amanda Echalaz (Lucía de Nobile), Sally Matthews (Silvia de Ávila), Sophie Bevan (Beatriz), Alice Coote (Leonora Palma), Christine Rice (Blanca Delgado), Iestyn Davies (Francisco de Ávila), Joseph Kaiser (Edmundo de Nobile), Frédéric Antoun (Raúl Yebenes), David Portillo (Eduardo), David Adam Moore (Colonel Álvaro Gómez), Rod Gilfry (Alberto Roc), Kevin Burdette (Señor Russel), Christian Van Horn (Julio), and John Tomlinson (Doctor Carlos Conde). Thomas Adès conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Master Donald Palumbo). Set and costume design by Hildegard Bechtler; lighting design by Jon Clark; projection design by Tal Yarden; choreography by Amir Hosseinpour; music production by David Frost; recorded for TV by Gary Halvorson. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA
Onegin ballet. Music by Tchaikovsky arranged and orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze (various selections and not the music to Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin). Choreography by John Cranko. Filmed November 2017. Stars Friedemann Vogel (Onegin), Alicia Amatriain (Tatiana), David Moore (Lensky), Elisa Badenes (Olga), Jason Reilly (Prince Gremin), Melinda Witham (Madame Larina), and Marcia Haydée (Tatiana’s and Olga’s Nurse). James Tuggle conducts the State Orchestra Stuttgart. Set and costume design by Jürgen Rose; artistic supervision by Reid Anderson. Directed for TV by Michael Beyer. (It appears this was shot in 4K but published in 2K.) Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: C+
Cranko introduced today’s Onegin in Stuttgart in 1967 (after revising slightly the original 1965 version). It’s an extremely simplified, straight-forward telling of the lost-love story from Puskin’s poem with elaborate but easy-to-understand dancing and acting in a naturalistic style (no pantomime). It was an immediate hit and has been in the Stuttgart repertory ever since. It was quickly taken up by many dance companies around the world. With the exception of the great Tchaikovsky/Petipa works from the 19th century (Sleeping Beauty, etc.), Cranko’s Onegin may well have been seen by more people than any other ballet.