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. 13, 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! 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:
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
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.
The Art of Ohad Naharin ballet double bill. Choreography by Ohad Naharin. Performed 2014 and 2017 by the Batsheva Dance Company at the Chaillot-Théâtre national de la Danse in Paris. Disc includes the following works:
1. Naharin’s Virus. Music by Karni Postel with various additional music; soundtrack design by Maxim Waratt; rehearsal direction and restaging by Luc Jacobs; costumes by Rakefet Levy; suit design by Zohar Shoef; lighting design by Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi); sound by Frankie Lievaart; recordings by Frankie Lievaart and Haim Laroz. Naharin’s Virus is based on a German-language play by Peter Handke. It appears text from this play, the title of which is rendered as “Offending the Audience”, appears in the dance work and is translated into English subtitles provided by Michael Roloff.
2. Last Work. Music by Grischa Lichtenberger with additional music; lighting by Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi); soundtrack design and editing by Maxim Waratt; stage design by Zohar Shoef; costume design by Eki Nakamura; choreography and soundtrack design assistance by Ariel Cohen and Guy Shomroni.
Daniel Cook plays the following selections on the grand organ of Westminster Abbey:
1. Purcell “Rondeau” from Abdelazer 2. Charles-Marie Widor “Toccata” from Organ Symphony No. 5 3. Howells Psalm-Preludes Set 1 No. 3 4. J. S. Bach Prelude & Fugue in E Flat 5. Prokofiev “Montagues And Capulets” from Romeo and Juliet 6. P. Whitlock “Dignity and Impudence” (March) 7. Parry “Eventide” from 7 Choral Preludes, Set 2 8. Walton Spitfire Prelude & Fugue 9. Hollins Concert Overture 10. Handel Variations on The Harmonious Blacksmith 11. L. VierneFinal Movement from Organ Symphony No. 6
Priory specializes in church and organ music. This package has a Blu-ray, a DVD, and a CD!
The Frederick Ashton Collection: Volume One Box Set released 2018. Below are the discs. Each of them has already been reported on this website, and you can get more details by using the links provided:
Ashton Celebration(with ballets La Valse, Meditation from Thaïs, Voices of Spring, Monotones I and II, and Marguerite and Armand). Grade: A.
Bernstein Celebration ballet collection. The Royal Ballet, for the centenary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, performed a triple bill of ballets set to different pieces by Bernstein. Directed 2018 by Kevin O’Hare. The performances are as follows:
Yugen. Set to Chichester Psalms. Choreographed by Wayne McGregor. Stars Federico Bonelli, William Bracewell, Harry Churches, Melissa Hamilton, Francesca Hayward, Chisato Katsura, Paul Kay, Sarah Lamb, Calvin Richardson, Joseph Sissens, and Akane Takada. Koen Kessels conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Co-Concert Master Sergey Levitin; Assistant Concert Master Melissa Carstairs) and Members of the Royal Opera Chorus and Extra Chorus (Chorus Director William Spaulding).