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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.

Jan. 30, 2019. We just posted a review of the A+ Berg Wozzeck opera. (Thanks to Wonk Lewis Chang for his loan of the disc!) We also posted Handel’s favorite oratorio Theodora in a semi-staged version. Also, be sure to read our new review of the A+ Alcina Handel opera directed by Katie Mitchell. 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 Celebration dance 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:

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Giselle

Giselle ballet. Choreographed and directed by Akram Khan. Modern musical composition and sound design by Vincenzo Lamagna after themes from Adolphe Adam. Staged 2018 at the English National Ballet. Stars Tamara Rojo (Giselle), James Streeter (Albrecht), Jeffrey Cirio (Hilarion), Stina Quagebeur (Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis), Begoña Cao (Bathilde), and Fabian Reimair (Landlord). Gavin Sutherland directs the English National Ballet Philharmonic. Visual and costume design by Tim Yip; orchestration by Gavin Sutherland; lighting design by Mark Henderson; dramaturgy by Ruth Little; assistant choreography by Andrej Petrović; rehearsal direction by Mavin Khoo; sound design by Yvonne Gilbert. Directed for TV by Ross MacGibbon. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Tchaikovsky Complete Symphonies

Tchaikovsky The Complete Symphonies box set. This is not a collection of titles previously published separately. This box includes six symphonies performed on three separate days. Philippe Jordan conducts the Paris Opera Orchestra for each performance. The symphonies are split across three discs as follows:

  1. Symphony No. 1 “Winter Dreams,” Symphony No. 5. Performed at the Opera Bastille, October 12, 2017.

  2. Symphony No. 2 “Little Russia,” Symphony No. 4. Performed at the Philharmonie de Paris, March 27, 2018.

  3. Symphony No. 3 “Polish,” Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique.” Performed at the Philharmonie de Paris, May 15, 2018.

Released 2019, the 3 discs have 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Le Comte Ory

Rossini Le comte Ory opera to libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson. Directed 2017 by Denis Podalydès at the Opéra Comique. Stars Philippe Talbot (Le Comte Ory); Julie Fuchs (La Comtesse); Gaëlle Arquez (Isolier); Éve-Maud Hubeaux (Dame Ragonde); Patrick Bolleire (Le Gourverneur); Jean-Sébastien Bou (Raimbaud); Jodie Devos (Alice); and Laurent Podalydès and Léo Reynaud (Actors). Louis Langrée conducts the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées and Choir les éléments (Chorus Master Joël Suhubiette). Set design by Eric Ruf; costume design by Christian Lacroix; lighting design by Stéphanie Daniel; choreography by Cécile Bon; assistant stage direction by Laurent Delvert and Laurent Podalydès. Directed for TV by Vincent Massip. Released 2019, disc appears to have 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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I Puritani

Bellini I Puritani opera to libretto by Carlo Pepoli. Directed 2018 by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito at the Staatsoper Stuttgart. Stars Roland Bracht (Lord Gualtiero Valton), Adam Palka (Sir Giorgio Valton), Ana Durlovski (Elvira), Réne Barbera (Lord Arturo Talbo), Gezim Myshketa (Sir Riccardo Forth), and Heinz Göhrig (Sir Bruno Robertson). Manlio Benzi conducts the Staatsorchester Stuttgart and the Staatsopernchor Stuttgart (Chorus Master Christoph Heil). Dramaturgy by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito; set and costume design by Anna Viebrock; lighting design by Reinhard Traub; video direction by Marcus Richardt. Released 2019, disc has 5.0 dts HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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L'Étoile

Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile opera to libretto by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo. Directed 2014 by Laurent Pelly at the Dutch National Opera & Ballet. Stars Stéphanie d’Oustrac (Lazuli), Christophe Mortagne (Le Roi Ouf I), Hélène Guilmette (La Princesse Laoula), Jérôme Varnier (Siroco), Elliot Madore (Hérisson de Porc-Épic), Julie Boulianne (Aloès), François Piolino (Tapioca), François Soons (Patacha), Harry Teeuwen (Zalzal), Jeroen van Glabbeek (Le Maître), and Richard Prada (Le Chef de la Police). Patrick Fournillier conducts the Residentie Orkest The Hague and the Chorus of the Dutch National Opera (Chorus Master Nicholas Jenkins). Set design by Laurent Pelly; costume design by Laurent Pelly in collaboration with Jean-Jacques Delmotte; lighting design by Joël Adam; dialogue adaptation and dramaturgy by Agathe Mélinand; flim direction by François Roussillon. Released 2019, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Wozzeck

Alban Berg Wozzeck opera to libretto by the composer (as inspired by the play Woyzeck by Georg Büchner). Directed 2015 by Andreas Homoki at the Opernhaus Zürich. Stars Christian Gerhaher (Wozzeck), Brandon Jovanovich (Drum Major), Mauro Peter (Andres), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Captain), Lars Woldt (Doctor), Gun-Brit Barkmin (Marie), Pavel Daniluk (First Apprentice), Cheyne Davidson (Second Apprentice), Martin Zysset (Madman), Irène Friedli (Margret), and Alessandro Reinhart (Marie’s Child). Fabio Luisi conducts the Philharmonia Zürich and the Chor der Oper Zürich (Chorus Master Jürg Hämmerli). Set and costume design by Michael Levine; costume assistance by Meta Bronski; lighting design by Franck Evin; dramaturgy by Kathrin Brunner. Directed for TV by Michael Beyer; produced by Paul Smaczny. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A+

Georg Büchner died in 1837 when he was only 24! He was a member of the Young Germany movement and an active revolutionary who literally risked his neck and had to flee arrest by the secret police. He had published several well-regarded Sturm und Drang plays and a novella. He was a contemporary of Heinrich Heine; Nietszche was born about 7 years later. Büchner left behind 4 batches of barely legible fragments of a play called Woyzeck. It took specialists years of work to figure out that the fragments together formed a complete play.

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Theodora

Handel Theodora oratorio to libretto by Thomas Morell. Directed 2009 by Christof Loy at the Salzburg Festival. Stars Christine Schäfer (Theodora), Bejun Mehta (Didymus), Joseph Kaiser (Septimius), Johannes Martin Kränzle (Valens), Bernarda Fink (Irene), and Ryland Davies (Messenger). Ivor Bolton conducts the Freiburger Barockorchester and the Salzburger Bachchor (Chorus Master Alois Glaßner). Organ solo by James McVinnie. Sets by Annette Kurz; costumes by Ursula Renzenbrink; lighting by Stefan Bolliger; dramatic advice by Thomas Jonigk; choreographic assistance by Thomas Wilhelm. Directed for TV by Hannes Rossacher. Released  2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B

Handel wrote Theodora as an oratorio that would normally be formed by a large chorus standing in rows with the soloists in front and all singers using sheet music. Opera director Christof Loy was hired to semi-stage the oratorio. Loy was a good choice for this since his style as opera director generally is to vastly simplify sets, props, and dramaturgy to the point that even operas become semi-staged. With Loy on board you can save money on the frills and pay bigger fees to get the best singers.

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Carmina Burana and Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2

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 (piano), and Mari Samuelsen (violin). Long Yu conducts the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, the Shanghai Spring Children’s Choir, and the Wiener Singakademie (Chorus Master Heinz Ferlesch). Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Tosca

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 (Chorus Master Alois Glaßner), and the Salzburger Festspiele und Theater Kinderchor (Chorus Master Wolfgang Götz). Costume and set design by Renate Martin and Andreas Donhauser; lighting design by Urs Schönebaum. Directed for TV by Tiziano Mancini. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Le Corsaire

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); as well as 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. Directed for TV by François Roussillon. Released 2019, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Alcina

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

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Alcina

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.

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Bruckner Symphony No. 5

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.

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