Swan Lake

Swan Lake ballet, or rather, Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake. Music by Tchaikovsky. Traditional story reinterpreted, choreographed, and directed by Matthew Bourne. The original show was premiered at Sadler's Wells Theatre in 1995; the recording presented here was apparently shot, for the first time in high-definition, at Sadler's Wells in 2011.  Stars Richard Winsor (The Swan/Stranger), Dominic North (The Prince), Nina Goldman (The Queen), Madelaine Brennan (The Girlfriend), Steve Kirkham (The Private Secretary), and Joseph Vaughan (The Young Prince). David Lloyd-Jones conducts the New London Orchestra. Set and costume design by Lez Brotherston; lighting by Rick Fisher; screen direction by Ross MacGibbon; sound post production by Mike Hatch; executive production by Robert Noble, Fiona Morris, and Todd Austin. Unlike some Kultur titles, this disc plays in all regions. Released 2012, it has 5.1 Dolby sound. Grade: B

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Giselle ballet. Music by Adolphe Adam to libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges & Théophile Gautier. Choreography by Marius Petipa. Staging and additional choreography 2009 by Rachel Beaujean and Ricardo Bustamante at the Amsterdam Muziektheater. This is the first prodution of Giselle by the Dutch National Ballet. Stars Anna Tsygankova, Jozef Varga, Igone de Jongh, Jan Zerer, Michele Jimenez, Maia Makhateli, Mathieu Gremillet, Arthur Shesterikov, Anu Viheriäranta, Emanouela Merdjanova, Natasja Lucassen, Jeanette Vondersaar, Francis Sinceretti, Dario Mealli, and artists of Het Nationale Ballet. Boris Gruzin conducts the Holland Sinfonia. Sets and costumes by Toer van Schayk; lighting by James F. Ingalls; television direction and production by Jeff Tudor & Adrienne Liron. Released  2010, disc has 5.1 Dolby sound. Our disc purchased from Amazon in the U.S. is restricted to region A. Caution:  there are 2 "flavors" of this disc out now. In October 2014, the Region A disc is Amazon ASIN B002VR9QXW which is cheap in the US and Canada but expensive in Europe. At the same time, the  All Regions disc is Amazon ASIN B003D8O8G8 which is reasonably priced in Europe but expensive in the US and Canada.  This is, of course, the fault of suits and lawyers. Things could change--- be wary to get the disc you need at the best price. Grade: B+

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Cinderella ballet. Music by Sergei Prokofiev. The Birmingham Royal Ballet is directed and choreographed in 2010 by David Bintley in a new production. Stars Elisha Willis, Iain Mackay, Gaylene Cummerfield, Carol-Anne Millar, Marion Tait, Victoria Marr, Momoko Hirata, Lei Zhao, Angela Paul, Delia Mathews, Jamie Bond, Joseph Caley, Alexander Campbell, and Mathias Dingman. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia is conducted by Koen Kessels. Set and costume design by John F. Macfarlane; lighting by David A. Finn; video direction by Ross MacGibbon. Released 2011, disc has 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. Grade: B+

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The Nutcracker

Nutcracker ballet. Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (died 1893) to libretto by Marius Petipa (died 1910). Choreography by Vasily Vainonen (died 1964); production design by Simon Virsaladze (died 1989). Performed 2011 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Peterburg. Stars Alina Somova (Masha the Princess), Vladimir Shklyarov (Nutcracker Prince), Alexandra Korshunova (Masha), Vladimir Ponomaryov (Stahlbaum), Alexandra Gronskaya (Madam Stahlbaum), Alena Mashintseva (Luisa), Pavel Miheyev (Franz), Fyodor Lopukhov (Drosselmeyer), Lira Khuslamova (Grandma), Stanislav Burov (Grandpa), and Valeria Karpina (The Nanny). Valery Gergiev conducts the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre; directed by Andreas Morell; photography directed by Axel Rothenburg. No credits seem available for living persons who worked on the sets, costumes, or lighting. Producers were Jan Bremme and Isabel Iturriagagoitia Bueno; Executive Producers were Bernd Hellthaler and Torsten Boenoff. Released 2012, stereo music was recorded a 48kHz/24-bit and surround sound at  48kHz; disc has 5.1 dts sound output. Grade: D+

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Alan Berg Lulu opera to libretto by the composer (3-act version completed by Friedrich Cerha). Directed 2010 by Vera Nemirova at the Salzburg Festival (Haus für Mozart). Stars Patricia Petibon (Lulu), Michael Volle (Dr. Schön/Jack the Ripper), Thomas Piffka (Alwa), Tanja Ariane Baumgartner (Countess Geschwitz), Cora Burggraaf (Theatrical Dresser/High-school Boy/Groom), Pavol Breslik (Painter/Negro), Franz Grundheber (Schigolch), Thomas Johannes Mayer (Animal Taimer/Rodrigo, an Athlete), Heinz Zednik (Prince/Manservant), Andreas Conrad (Marquis), Martin Tzonev (Theater Manager/Banker), Emilie Pictet (Fifteen-year-old Girl), and Cornelia Wulkopf (Mother of Girl). Marc Albrecht conducts the Vienna Philharmonic.  Sets by Daniel Richter; costumes by Klaus Noack; video direction by Brian Large. Sung in German; subtitles in English only because this title was intended to be  limited to Region A. No keepcase booklet. Released 2012, has Dolby 5.0 sound. Grade: B

A EuroArts version of this title also came out in 2012. It was for discs that can be played on Region B and C players, although many have been able to play it in Region A also. The EuroArts version has a nice keepcase booklet, better sound than the Kultur disc, and more subtitles, including a track in German. See the EuroArts version for a  full review and screenshots of this production.

Matthew Gurewitsch reviewed the Kultur Lulu disc. He praised Nemirova's production and gave it his "Critic's Choice" award in the June 2012 issue of Opera News (page 58). He especially liked the acting stating that "individually and as an ensemble, the players are riveting. Among them, the drama crackles." Opera News is a US magazine, so it's no mystery why Gurewitsch would view the Kultur product. His review is a good example how inadequate magazine reviews of HDVDs can be. Gurewitsch probably didn't know about the better version available from EuroArts. He doesn't mention the lack of a keepcase booklet, the lack of German subtitles, or the cheaper sound specification in the Kultur product. In fact, you can't tell if Gurewitsch watched the DVD or the Blu-ray version from Kultur.


Puccini Tosca opera to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Directed 2010 by Renzo Giacchieri at the Teatro Carlo Felice di Genoa in Italy. Stars Daniela Dessì (Tosca), Fabio Armiliato (Cavarodossi), Claudio Sgura (Scarpia), Nikolay Bikov (Angelotti), Paolo Maria Orecchia (Sacristan), Max De Angelis (Spoletta), Angelo Nardinocchi (Sciarrone), Roberto Conti (Jailer), and Luca Arrigo (Shepherd). Marco Boemi conducts the Orchestra, Chorus (Chorus Master Franco Sebastiani) and Boys' Chorus (Chorus Master Gino Tanasini) of the Teatro Carlos Felice. Set design by Adolf Hohenstein as recreated by Ettore Rondelli; also sets by the Fondazione Teatro dell'Opera di Roma; lighting design by Renzo Giacchieri. Directed for TV by Andrea Dorigo. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A

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La Bohème (Moore)

Puccini La Bohème opera to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. English libretto by Amanda Holden based on the Italian version. Directed 2009 by Jonathan Miller at the English National Opera. Stars Roland Wood (Marcello), Alfie Boe (Rodolfo), Pauls Putinš (Colline), David Stout (Schaunard), Simon Butteriss (Benoit), Melody Moore (Mimì), Philip Daggett (Parpignol), Hanan Alattar (Musetta), Richard Angas (Alcindoro), Christoper Ross (Policeman), and Andrew Tinkler (Official). Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducts the chorus & orchestra of the English National Opera. Set designs by Isabella Bywater; lighting by Jean Kalman; directed for TV by Robin Lough.  Released 2010, disc has 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. Grade: C+

This new Jonathan Miller English language production of La Bohème was first staged in 2009 at the English National Opera Coliseum.

We love Amanda Holden's fresh new English transliteration. To make the words easy to follow  she comes up with tons of new thoughts and images that sound natural to contemporary English speakers while remaining faithful to the spirit of Giacosa and Illica. If you are a native English speaker and just getting into opera, you might prefer the ENO version for this reason alone. Kultur kindly provided English language subtitles. With the subtitles on we could follow almost all the singing perfectly.

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La Bohème (Netrebko)

Giacomo Puccini La Bohème opera to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. This is a motion picture version of the opera directed by Robert Dornhelm. Stars Anna Netrebko (Mimì), Rolando Villazón (Rodolfo), Nicole Cabell (Musetta), George von Bergen [voice by Boaz Daniel] (Marcello), Adrian Eröd [voice by Stéphane Degout] (Schaunard) , and Vitaly Kovalyou (Colline). Bertrand de Billy conducts the Baravian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Chorus of the Bayerischer Rundfunk, and the Children's Chorus of the Staatstheatre am Gärtnerplatz, Munich. Released in 2009, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Alert: this item may be restricted to Blu-ray Region A. (If Region A is a problem, consider the region-free Axiom version of this title.) Released 2008, disc has Dolby 5.1 sound.  Grade: B+

Here we have Kultur's release of Dornhelm's movie.  Earlier, Axiom released their own version  that is  region free. 

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