What's Up?

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.

August 1.  We just finished our review of the Khatia Buniatishvili recording of the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2 and the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 with Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. This recording is important because it has been published in both 2K Blu-ray and as a 4K title with High Dynamic Range ("HDR"). Our review may be the first on the Internet to focus on the fact that this record is now available in what we call 4K/HDR. So we moved this up to the top of the journal.

Three performance art works have been published as HDVDs: Adam's Passion, Einstein on the Beach, and Twin Spirits. We have given all three A+ grades! Only a few people have been able to see any of these works live, and it's possible none of them will be revived. So in each case the Blu-rays may become collectors items.  To remind you again about these remarkable recordings, we just updated our screenshots and grouped them near the top of the Journal.

We recently updated and moved up near the top of the Journal two reviews of videos in the modern Belgium dance style:  Babel 7.16 and C(H)ŒURS. The C(H)ŒURS  story has the entire show attached in a nice HD YouTube clip! Enjoy!

We continue to port the website from Squarespace5 (best on desktop) to SS7, which looks good on mobile devices and the desktop. On the new homepage, you see 17 large "tiles" with the most recent stories. These 17 stories are native SS7. To see earlier stories, go to the Alphalist or Search. Desktop users should find old stories look about the same. If you are using a mobile device, there may be some "fit and finish" issues until we complete the conversion.

We estimate we are about 65% finished with the raw conversion. This process takes time as there are many images and PDFs that have to be handled individually. But we are making process! We expect to be finished with "convert'n"  by late August. After that point, fit and finish will be our priority.

Read More

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

On July 4 and 6, 2015, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performed two concerts with Zubin Mehta conducting at the Charles Bronfman auditorium in Tel Aviv. On one night Khatia Buniatishvili performed the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2. On the next night she played the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1. Videographer Christophe Boula was there to film Khatia's performances for Panamax. He must have been frustrated as he was unable to set up cameras at the back of the hall to shoot the orchestra and Khatia from normal angles of 4:00 to 8:00 o'clock. Most of his cameras were consigned to the sides and back of the stage (he did have one camera, probably hanging from a boom, that could shoot Khatia at the keyboard from about 7:00.)

Boula was told to make a DVD-style recording. But he had the capability of shooting something far better. I wonder if Boula knew at the time that his work would eventually result in the first fine-art recording ever to be published in 4K with High Dynamic Range? And did Boula guess that this project would arguably turn into, from the viewpoint of PQ and SQ anyway, the best recording ever to be made a fine-art performance? And did he foresee that the wonderful images he would record would nevertheless be crippled by weak video content? Well, it's not likely that we well hear anything from Boula about all this, so we will have to try to explain it for you.

Read More

Billy Budd

Benjamin Britten Billy Budd opera to a libretto by E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier. Directed by Deborah Warner at the Teatro Real. Stars Jacques Imbrailo (Billy Budd), Toby Spence (Vere), Brindley Sherratt (Claggart), Thomas Oliemans (Redburn), David Soar (Flint), Torben Jürgens (Ratcliffe), Clive Bayley (Dansker), Duncan Rock (Donald), Francisco Vas (Squeak), Christopher Gillet (Red Whiskers), Sam Furness (Novice), and Borja Quiza (Novice's Friend). Ivor Bolton conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Real de Madrid. Released 2018. Grade: NA

Read More

Giovanna d'Arco

Verdi Giovanna d'Arco opera to a libretto by Temistocle Solera. Directed 2016 by Saskia Boddeke and Peter Greenaway at the Teatro Farnese during the Verdi Festival. Stars Luciano Ganci (Carlo VII), Vittorio Vitelli (Giacomo), Vittoria Yeo (Giovanna), Gabriele Mangione (Delil) & Luciano Leoni (Talbot). Ramón Tebar conducts I Virtuosi Italiani and the Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma (Chorus Master Martino Faggiani). Stage design by Annette Mosk; costume design by Cornelia Doornekamp; lighting design by Floriaan Ganzevoort; video design by Peter Wilms; choreography by Lara Guidett. Directed for video by Saskia Boddeke. Released 2018, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

Read More


Handel Agrippina opera to a libretto by Vincenzo Grimani. Directed 2016 by Robert Carsen at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna. Stars Patricia Bardon (Agrippina), Jake Arditti (Nerone), Danielle de Niese (Poppea), Filippo Mineccia (Ottone), Mika Kares (Claudio), Damien Pass (Pallante), Tom Verney (Narciso), and Christoph Seidl (Lesbo). Thomas Hengelbrock conducts the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble. Set and costume design by Gideon Davey; lighting design by Robert Carsen and Peter van Praet; video design by Ian Galloway; dramaturgy by Ian Burton; directed for film by François Roussillon. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

Read More

Bohème (Car)

Puccini La Bohème opera to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Directed 2017 by Richard Jones at the Royal Opera House. Stars Nicole Car (Mimì), Michael Fabiano (Rodolfo), Simona Mihai (Musetta), Mariusz Kwiecień (Marcello), Luca Tittoto (Colline), and Florian Sempey (Schaunard). Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Concert Master Vasko Vassilev) and Royal Opera Chorus (Chorus Master William Spaulding). Associate direction by Elaine Kidd; designs by Stewart Laing; lighting design by Mimi Jordan Sherin; movement direction by Sarah Fahie. Directed for the screen by Rhodri Huw. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

Read More

The Mumbai Concerts

The Mumbai Concerts. In 2018 Zubin Mehta conducts the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the National Center for Performing Arts in Mumbai, India. Features violinist Pinchas Zukerman, cellist Amanda Forsyth, and pianist Denis Matsuev. This disc presents two concerts that were performed on back-to-back nights.

The first night's program:

  1. Antonín Dvořák Carnival Overture

  2. Ludwig van Beethoven Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

  3. Maurice Ravel La Valse & Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No. 2

The second night's program:

  1. Johann Strauss Overture from Die Fledermaus

  2. Johannes Brahms Double Concerto in A minor, Op. 102

  3. Peter Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1

Directed by Michael Beyer; produced by Paul Smaczny. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

Read More

Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3 and Berg Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3 ("Scottish") and Berg Concerto for Violin and Orchestra ("To the Memory of an Angel"). Andris Nelsons in 2018 conducts the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig . Features violinist Baiba Skride. Here is the full program:

  1. Steffen Schleiermacher Relief for Orchestra (This is a world premiere performance of a piece commissioned for this concert.)

  2. Felix Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3 in A minor, op. 56

  3. Alban Berg Concerto for Violin and Orchestra "To the Memory of an Angel" (Baiba Skride on violin)

Directed by Ute Feudel; produced by Paul Smaczny. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

Read More


Massenet Cendrillon opera (Cinderalla) to a libretto by Henri Caïn . Directed 2017 by Barbara Mundel and Olga Motta at the Theater Freiburg. Stars Kim-Lillian Strebel (Cendrillon), Anja Jung (Madame de la Haltière), Anat Czarny (Le Prince Charmant), Katharina Melnikova (La Fée), Irina Jae Eun Park (Noémie), Silvia Regazzo (Dorothée), Juan Orozco (Pandolfe), Jongsoo Yang (Le Roi), Naoishi Sekiguchi (Le Surintendant des Plaisirs), Roberto Gionfriddo (La Doyen de la Faculté), and Pascal Hufschmid (Le Premier Ministre / La Voix du Hérault). Fabrice Bollon conducts the Philharmornisches Orchester Freiburg as well as the Opern und Extrachor des Theater Freiburg (Chorus Master Bernhard Moncado). Choreography by Graham Smith; set design and costumes by Olga Motta; lighting by Dorothee Hoff; dramaturgy by Heiko Voss. Directed for TV by Tiziano Mancini. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

Read More

Ashton Triple Bill

Triple bill of ballets choreographed by Frederick Ashton---each ballet is quite different and unrelated to the others.

1. The Dream. Music by Felix Mendelssohn. Stars Akane Takada and Steven McRae.

2. Symphonic Variations. Music by César Franck. Stars Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov.

3. Marguerite and Armand. Music by Franz Liszt. Stars Zenaida Yanowsky and Roberto Bolle.

Emmanuel Plasson conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Released 2018. Grade: NA

Read More

Adam's Passion

Adam's Passion performance art event performed in 2015. Music by Arvo Pärt. Stage direction, set design, and lighting concept by Robert Wilson. Choreography by Lucinda Childs, who also performs as Woman. Other dancers:  Michalis Theophanous (Man or Adam); Trevor Mattias Sakias (Boy); Endro Roosimäe and Erki Laur (Cain and Able); Tatejana Kosmõnina (A woman); Triin Marts (Another woman); Evelin Tanis (Girl); and Madis Kolk (Old Man), Lui Laur (Another boy), Kätrin Kärsna (Another girl), and Indrek Hirsrnik (Tall boy). Tõnu Kaljuste conducts the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. Instrumental soloists are Harry Traksmann, violin; Robert Traksmann, violin; Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann, prepared piano. Choruses sung in Latin and Russian with subtitles in English, German, French, Korean, and Japanese.  Disc sports an especially nice booklet. Directed for TV by Andy Sommer; produced by Paul Smaczny. Released 2015, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A+

Read More

Einstein on the Beach

Einstein on the Beach performance art piece performed January 6-7, 2014 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Music by Philip Glass. Directed for stage by Robert Wilson. Choreography by Lucinda Childs. Random number and solfège lyrics called for by the composer. Actual texts used were from Christopher Knowles (a neurologically impaired teenager and poet whom Wilson helped as special ed teacher), Samuel M. Johnson (an elderly black performer who was a friend of Wilson), and choreographer Lucinda Childs (who contributed the monologue "I was in this prematurely air-conditioned supermarket"). Released 2016, title has 2 Blu-ray discs with 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio surround sound. Grade: A+ withdesignation.

Read More

Twin Spirits

Twin Spirits, a poly-discipline performance art concert, portrays the lives of and love between composer Robert Schumann and his pianist wife, Clara Wieck. It appears this was the brainstorm of June Chichester, a member in 2005 of the Board of Directors of the Royal Opera, who wanted a special program to raise charitable donations for the opera and other causes. Chichester recruited John Caird, a director at the Royal Shakespeare Company, to create a play with a narrator, actors to speak the roles of Robert and Clara based on their actual words in letters and other surviving documents, and musicians to perform excerpts from their music.

The words and music of Clara Wieck are portrayed by Trudie Styler (actress), Rebecca Evans (soprano), Natalie Clein (cello), and Natasha Paremski (piano). The words and music of Robert Schumann are portrayed by Sting (actor), Sir Simon Keenlyside (baritone), Sergej Krylov (violin), and Iain Burnside (piano). Special arrangements of various musical selections are by Martin Ward. Recorded in 2007 and released 2009, disc has 5.0 PCM sound. Grade A+

Read More

Che originali! & Pigmalione

Che originali! and Pigmalione opera double feature directed and staged 2017 by Roberto Catalano at the Fondazione Donizetti.

  1. Giovanni Simone Mayr Che originali! to libretto by Gaetano Rossi. Stars Bruno de Simone (Don Febeo), Chiara Amarù (Donna Aristea), Leonardo Cortellazzi (Don Carolino), Angela Nisi (Donna Rosina), Omar Montanari (Biscroma), Gioia Crepaldi (Celestina), and Pietro Di Bianco (Carluccio).

  2. Gaetano Donizetti Pigmalione to libretto by Simeone Antonio Sografi. Stars Antonio Siragusa (Pigmalione), and Aya Wakizono (Galatea).

Gianluca Capuano conducts the Orchestra dell'Accademia Teatro alla Scala (assistant conductor Roberto Frattini). Set design by Emanuele Sinisi; costume design by Ilaria Ariemme; lighting design by Alessandro Ariemme; directed for the screen by Matteo Ricchetti. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

Read More