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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.

Dec. 7 We just posted a full review (3 reviews actually) of the grade A Bernstein Celebration disc from the Royal Opera. Recently we were surprised by a flock of new Blu-rays (late for the holiday season), and we have been working hard on getting the correct information up.

We have just 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:

  • We screened about 1400 Blu-ray titles of fine-arts recordings that might meet our standards for hi-fi sound and HD video. We excluded over 20% of these titles as impostors mostly for (1) legacy material of poor artistic quality, (2) obsolete sound, and/or (3) video resolution too poor to benefit from modern TV displays.

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The Frederick Ashton Collection: Volume One

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:

  1. Ashton Celebration (with ballets La Valse, Meditation from Thaïs, Voices of Spring, Monotones I and II, and Marguerite and Armand). Grade: A.

  2. Ashton Rhapsody and The Two Pigeons. Grade: B for Rhapsody, C+ for The Two Pigeons)

  3. Ashton Triple Bill (with ballets Symphonic Variations, Marguerite and Armand, and The Dream). Grade: A for Symphonic Variations; A- for Marguerite and Armand; C+ for Dream.

Total Grade: B+.

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Bernstein Celebration

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:

  1. 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).

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The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker ballet. Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to a libretto by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann and Marius Petipa. Choreographed by Valery Kovtun. Stars Oleksiy Kovalenko (Stahlbaurn), Liudmyla Melnyk (His Wife), Iuliia Moskalenko (Clara, their Daughter), Ielizaveta Gogidze (Fritz, Clara’s Brother), Iaroslav Tkachuk (Drosselmeyer), Ielizaveta Cherniak (The Nutcracker Doll), Mykyta Sukhorukov (The Nutcracker/The Prince), Ruslan Avramenko (Mouse King), Sergii Kliachin (Harlequin), Ganna Muromtseva (Columbine), Marjia Nelen (She-Devil), Volodymyr Kutuzov (Devil), and dancers from the Ballet Company of the National Opera of Ukraine. Oleksiy Baklan conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the National Opera of Ukraine. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. Grade: NA

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Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet ballet. Music by Sergei Prokofiev. Choreography by John Cranko. Filmed 2017. Stars Elisa Badenes (Juliet), David Moore (Romeo), Reid Anderson (Lord Capulet), Melinda Witham (Lady Capulet), Robert Robinson (Tybalt), Roman Novitzky (Count Pairs), Marcia Haydée (Juliet’s Nurse), Matteo Crockard-Villa (Lord Montague), Julia Bergua Orero (Lady Montague), Martí Fernández Paixà (Mercutio), Adhonay Soares da Silva (Benvolio), Rolando D’Alesio (Duke of Verona), Egon Madsen (Friar Laurence), and Rocio Aleman (Rosaline). James Tuggle conducts the State Orchestra Stuttgart. Set and costume design by Jürgen Rose. 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: NA

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Orphée et Eurydice

Christoph Gluck Orphée et Eurydice opera to libretto by Pierre-Louis Moline (sung in French). Directed 2018 by Hofesh Shechter & John Fulljames at the Teatro alla Scala. Stars Juan Diego Florez (Orphée), Christiane Karg (Eurydice), and Fatma Said (L’Amour). Michelle Mariotti conducts the Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala (Chorus Master Bruno Casoni). Set and costume design by Conor Murphy; lighting by Lee Curran (revived by Andrea Giretti); choreography by Hofesh Shechter; video direction by Tiziano Mancini. Released 2018, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Verdi Stiffelio opera to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Directed by Graham Vick in 2017 at the Teatro Farnese. Stars Luciano Ganci (Stiffelio), Maria Katzarava (Lina), Francesco Landolfi (Stankar), Giovanni Sala (Raffaele), Emanuele Cordaro (Jorg), Blagoj Nacoski (Federico di Frengel), and Cecilia Bernini (Dorotea). Guillermo García Calvo conducts the Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Comunale di Bologna (Chorus Master Andrea Faidutti). Scene and costume design by Mauro Tinti; lighting design by Giuseppe di Iorio; choreography by Ronald Howell. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Alma Deutscher Cinderella opera to a libretto by the composer. Directed by Brad Dalton at the Opera San José in 2017. Stars Vanessa Becerra (Cinderella), Jonas Hacker (Prince), Nathan Stark (The King), Stacey Tappan (Griselda), Karin Mushegain (Zibaldona), Mary Dunleavy (Stepmother), Claudia Chapa (Emeline), Brian Games Myer (Minister), and Helen Deutscher (Flower Girl). Features the composer Alma Deutscher on violin, piano, and organ. Jane Glover conducts the Orchestra of The Royal Opera House and the Opera San José Orchestra and Chorus. Released 2018. Grade: NA

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Lessons in Love and Violence

Lessons in Love and Violence opera by Brittish composer George Benjamin to a libretto by Martin Crimp, a Brittish playright. Directed 2018 by Katie Mitchell at the Royal Opera House. Stars Stéphane Degout (King), Barbara Hannigan (Isabel), Gyula Orendt (Gaveston/Stranger), Peter Hoare (Mortimer), Samuel Boden (Boy/Young King), Jennifer France (Witness 1/Singer 1/Woman 1), Krisztina Szabó (Witness 2/Singer 2/Woman 2), and Andri Björn Róbertsson (Witness 3/Madman). The composer himself conducted the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Designs by Vicki Mortimer; lighting by James Farncombe; movement direction by Joseph Alford. Released 2018. Grade NA

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Stravinksy Petrushka concert. Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker for the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden. Features Mezzo-Soprano Elīna Garanča. The entire concert is as follows:

  1. Strauss Don Juan

  2. Berg Sieben frühe Lieder

  3. Ravel Shéhérazade

  4. Stravinsky Petrushka

Released 2018, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Prokofiev Complete Symphonies and Concertos

Prokofiev Complete Symphonies and Concertos box set. Valery Gergiev conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre (Principal Chorus Master Andrei Petrenko) at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow and the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, April 2016. Features soloists Denis Kozhukhin (Piano), Denis Matsuev (Piano), Leonidas Kavakos (Violin), Daniil Trifonov (Piano), Igor Morozov (Tenor), Sergei Redkin (Piano), Vadym Kholodenko (Piano), Kristof Barati (Violin), Olga Borodina (Mezzo-soprano), Yulia Matochkina (Mezzo-soprano), Mikhail Petrenko (Bass), Alexei Petrenko (Narrator), and Alexander Ramm (Cello). The symphonic and choral works included in this box set are spread over three Blu-ray discs.

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Madama Butterfly

Puccini Madama Butterfly opera to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Directed by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier at the Royal Opera House in 2017. Stars Ermonela Jaho (Cio-Cio San), Marcelo Puente (Pinkerton), Scott Hendricks (Sharpless), Carlo Bosi (Goro), Elizabeth DeShong (Suzuki), Jeremy White (Bonze), Emily Edmonds (Kate Pinkerton), Gyula Nagy (Imperial Commissioner), and Yuriy Yurchuk (Prince Yamadori). Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra of The Royal Opera House and the Royal Opera Chorus (Chorus Master William Spaulding; Co-Concert Master Sergey Levitin). Set design by Christian Fenouillat; costume design by Agostino Cavalca; lighting design by Christophe Forey; directed for video by Matthew Woodward. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Ashton Triple Bill

Triple bill of shorter ballets choreographed by Frederick Ashton---each work is quite different and unrelated to the others. All were recorded on the same day in June 2017 at a revival in honor of Ashton. Because the works are so different, we grade each separately:

  • Symphonic Variations. Music by César Franck. Features Marianela Nuñez, Vadim Muntagirov, Yasmine Haghdi, James Hay, Yuhui Choe, and Tristan Dyer. Solo piano by Paul Stobart. Designs by Sophie Fedorovitch; lighting by John B. Read, staging by Wendy Ellis Somes and Malin Thoors.

  • Marguerite and Armand. Music by Franz Liszt. Stars Zenaida Yanowsky (Marguerite), guest Roberto Bolle (Armand), Christopher Saunders (Armand’s father), Gary Avis (Duke), Mica Bradbury (Maid) and the following as admirers of Margarite:

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Mahler Symphony No. 6

Mahler Symphony No. 6 "Tragic”. Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berliner Philharmonker in 1987 and 2018. This is a commemorative release celebrating Sir Simon Rattle’s final performance as chief conductor for the Berliner Philharmoniker. Title includes two recordings of Mahler Symphony No. 6: an early recording from 1987 and Rattle’s final concert from 2018. The package also includes a CD version for each recording and a bonus documentary. Released 2018. Grade: NA

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I Lombardi alla prima crociata

Verdi I Lombardi alla prima crociata opera to a libretto by Temistocle Solera. Directed 2018 by Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera at the Teatro Regio Torino. Stars Giuseppe Gipali (Arvino), Alex Esposito (Pagano), Lavinia Bini (Viclinda), Angela Meade (Giselda), Antonio Di Matteo (Pirro), Joshua Sanders (Prior of Milan), Giuseppe Capoferri (Acciano), Francesco Meli (Oronte), and Alexandra Zabala (Sofia). Michele Mariotti conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Regio Torino (Chorus Master Andrea Secchi). Set design by Jean-Guy Lecat, costume design by Fernand Ruiz, light design by Franco Marri; assistant direction by Gianni Santucci; recorded by Rino Trasi and Giuseppe Famularo; directed for video by Matteo Ricchetti and Adriano Figari. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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