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Royal Opera House Orchestra

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  • Stravinsky: The Firebird & Les Noces -- Royal Ballet [1996] Stravinsky: The Firebird & Les Noces -- Royal Ballet | DVD | (12/09/2002) from £20.41  |  Saving you £4.58 (18.30%)  |  RRP £24.99

    Two very different Stravinsky ballets are here presented by The Royal Ballet: the traditional, colourful designs perfectly suit the opulence of The Firebird, contrasting with the later, more austere, ritualistic scoring and choreography of Les Noces ("The Wedding"). Firebird is a traditional fairytale: the Prince gets his girl (a princess, naturally), with a little help from a magical Firebird, by defeating the evil Kostchei, who's holding the Princess and her fellow maidens captive. The devil notoriously gets all the best tunes, and with the riveting presence of David Drew's Kostchei it's apparent that baddies get the best moves in dance, too. Leanne Benjamin is an immensely athletic Firebird and Jonathan Cope, as the Prince, dances with style and personality. Les Noces is, by contrast, a genuine ensemble piece, with the principals (the bride and groom) being almost less important than the corps de ballet itself. There are a few moments of less-than-perfect ensemble here, but these pale into insignificance in the face of the raw power of Stravinsky's angular music (scored for four pianos, percussion and chorus with solo voices). A third item finds Stravinsky conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra in his own Firebird Suite. The date was 1965 and he was a frail 83 at the time, but the concentration of the reading is compelling, as is his own stern visage, only breaking into a smile at the very end of the performance. This is an excellent filler for a first-rate ballet release. On the DVD: The Firebird & Les Noces on this disc are presented with terrific technical values, both visually and in sound quality (the Stravinsky archive performance is in mono, however, but it's perfectly respectable). This is a real feast for the eye, backed up by solid documentation in the booklet and excellent additional features--David Drew's arch and entertaining "Nijinska's World" and behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage--that will appeal to both seasoned ballet fans and those who are new to the art form. --Harriet Smith

  • Peter Grimes Peter Grimes | DVD | (22/09/2003) from £10.59  |  Saving you £7.40 (41.10%)  |  RRP £17.99

    Benjamin Britten's powerful opera 'Peter Grimes' is considered to be one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. In this famous production by Elijah Moshinsky for The Royal Opera Canadian tenor Jon Vickers stars as the complex and misunderstood fisherman. The conductor is Sir Colin Davis who worked for several years with the cast of this production resulting in a masterly interweaving of characters in this gripping drama. ""One of the most riveting operatic impersonations o

  • The Nutcracker The Nutcracker | DVD | (01/10/2001) from £18.99  |  Saving you £6.00 (24.00%)  |  RRP £24.99

    Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker ballet has had many facelifts over the years. Peter Wright's Royal Ballet production is among the most imaginative, bringing together the narrative and fantasy aspects with relish. The first half of Act 1 is made busy but low-key, moving up a gear with the majestic Christmas tree "Transformation Scene", and ending with a gorgeous "Waltz of the Snowflakes". Act 2 decks out the lengthy sequence of character dances with vivid stage sets, culminating in a moving reconciliation between the magician Drosselmeyer and his nephew. Anthony Dowell brings authority, Ivan Putrov enthusiasm to their respective roles; Alina Cojocaru is sympathetic as Clara, and Miyako Yoshida steals the show as the Sugar-Plum Fairy. The Royal Opera House Orchestra take time to adjust to Evgeny Svetlanov's spacious tempos, but the showpieces have real emotional force. A Nutcracker for today, and a Christmas treat for all ages. On the DVD: The 16:9 anamorphic picture reproduces superbly, though rapid switches of camera angles in the ensemble scenes causes some blurring of focus. The PCM Stereo sound is equally realistic in its reproducing of the orchestra from the pit. Special features include insightful interviews with Dowell and Wright--with trilingual subtitles--a behind-the-scenes look at the "Transformation Scene", and alternative fixed wide shots of both that and the "Snowflakes" scenes. The 28 access points are given in the booklet's detailed synopsis. --Richard Whitehouse

  • Verdi: Rigoletto [2002] Verdi: Rigoletto | DVD | (27/03/2002) from £12.00  |  Saving you £4.58 (18.30%)  |  RRP £24.99

    If there are doubts still lingering about the Royal Opera House's artistic renaissance after its mid-1990s doldrum years, David McVicar's gritty and sexy production of Rigoletto should blow them all away. One of the principal reasons is McVicar's decision to emphasise the tyrannical nature of the Duke (beautifully sung by Marcelo Alvarez), and the appalling social injustice that springs from a corrupt leader: his court is a place of physical and sexual abuse (graphically, but by no means gratuitously, depicted). This violence throws the dual nature of Rigoletto into relief, making his toadyism seem all the worse and his vengefulness all the more sympathetic. The singing and acting are first rate, with Paolo Gavanelli's energetic, insect-like Rigoletto worthy even to stand against Anthony Sher's Richard III. Christine Schafer has a gorgeous voice, an intelligent sense of phrasing, and plays Gilda as a frail, morbid creature whose ultimate self-sacrifice is as much an act of neurotic despair as of love. The production is also a visual and orchestral success. Michael Vale's set is a masterpiece of economy--both the Duke's palace and Rigoletto's home are surrounded by broken objects, wire fencing and gloomy shadows--and Edward Downes draws some stunning playing from the Royal Opera Orchestra. This is undoubtedly the best Rigoletto committed to DVD thus far. On the DVD Rigoletto comes with an entertaining 17-minute BBC biography of the composer, "Verdi Through the Looking Glass", presented by conductor Charles Hazlewood, as well as an illustrated synopsis of the opera, and a revealing 10-minute interview with the director. There are subtitles in English, French, German, Dutch and Spanish.--Warwick Thomson

  • Giordano: Andrea Chenier - Royal Opera House/Rudel [1985] Giordano: Andrea Chenier - Royal Opera House/Rudel | DVD | (23/02/2004) from £10.59  |  Saving you £7.40 (41.10%)  |  RRP £17.99

    Giordano's Andrea Chenier is one of the greatest of verismo operas, full of heart-stopping big tunes and powerful emotional situations. If it is not as well-known as it should be, it is because in summary it sounds a little too like Puccini's Tosca: there is a tussle between political opponents over a woman, an attempt to save a condemned man, a tenor aria about writing poetry on the eve of execution. The difference is that Gerard (Giorgio Zancanaro) is not a villain like Scarpia, he is an idealist whom the French Revolution has betrayed as much as it has his rival the poet Chenier (Placido Domingo). His temptation to abuse his power to seduce the virtuous Maddalena (Anna Tomowa-Sintow) is a momentary one, though its consequences are terrible. There is a streak of post-Wagnerian decadence in much of this--Maddalena is at least as much in love with death as she is with Chenier, and the final love duet has a deeply sinister aspect. Domingo is at his best in this Covent Garden Opera House performance from 1985; at once ardent and serious-minded, we believe in his Chenier as a poet and political figure. Conductor Julius Rudel gives the rich score all the weight and lyricism it demands and the Covent Garden chorus is at its occasional best in the scenes of revolutionary excess. On the DVD: Andrea Chenier is presented a little disappointingly in NTSC format and 4:3 picture ratio. At least the sound is sumptuous Dolby Digital 5.0. Subtitles are in English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese. --Roz Kaveney

  • Strauss: Die Fledermaus -- Royal Opera House [1977] Strauss: Die Fledermaus -- Royal Opera House | DVD | (16/01/2001) from £19.79  |  Saving you £5.20 (20.80%)  |  RRP £24.99

    Originally broadcast live by the BBC from the Royal Opera House on New Year's Eve 1990, this production of Die Fledermaus, Johann Strauss' masterpiece of comic operetta, was a truly historic occasion, marking the retirement from the stage of one of the greatest sopranos of the 20th century, Dame Joan Sutherland. Sung in English, in a version by John Mortimer, conducted by Sutherland's husband Richard Bonynge and directed for television by Humphrey Burton, this is an exceptional translation from stage to screen. The story, an elaborate farce with elements of satirical comedy set around a lavish masked ball in 19th-century Vienna comes to life through outstanding performances by a large, vivacious cast, including Judith Howarth, Nancy Gustason and Jochen Kowalski as Prince Orlofsky. Gorgeously designed, wonderfully costumed and enthusiastically played as it is, attention inevitably centres on the "special recital" by the "surprise guests": Sutherland herself, Marilyn Horne and Luciano Pavarotti. No finer, more exhilarating and touching a farewell could have been imagined. After the curtain there is a short, on-stage tribute to Sutherland by Jeremy Isaacs, bringing to a close a glorious, unforgettable evening of music-making for which the word "glittering" might have been invented. --Gary S. Dalkin On the DVD: By presenting the production on two discs the picture quality is maximised, and, by the standards of live-filmed opera, is very good indeed. The discs are presented with PCM stereo sound and a 4:3 TV ratio image. There are options for French and German subtitles, but unless trailers for two further Arthaus DVDs count, there are no extras. The booklet is well documented, though lacking the libretto. --Gary S. Dalkin

  • Verdi: Falstaff -- Royal Opera House [1999] Verdi: Falstaff -- Royal Opera House | DVD | (20/11/2000) from £N/A  |  Saving you £N/A (N/A%)  |  RRP £24.99

    This Graham Vicks production of Falstaff opened the new Covent Garden Royal Opera House, but was not to everybody's taste; the garish primary colours of the costumes, especially Falstaff's unusually hideous get-ups, go several steps beyond the Breughelian effect Vicks intended. The staging is effective--the complicated counterpoint of the ensembles is reflected in unobtrusive blocking that keeps the vocal lines clear and separate, especially in the final fugue. Bryn Terfel's Falstaff is a memorable creation, self-mocking and self-aggrandising at the same time--so much so, in fact, that he almost does not need the vast prosthetic body he has to wear for the part. Desiree Rancatore is an admirably sweet-toned Nanetta; Bernadette Manca di Nissa an appropriately sardonic Mistress Quickly; Roberto Frontali as Ford, in his Act 2 scena, perfectly distils and parodies every jealousy aria ever written, including Verdi's own. Haitink's conducting is exemplary in the lyrical passages, and gets almost everything out of the fast and furious comic sections. --Roz KaveneyOn the DVD: The disc comes with act introductions by James Naughtie, interviews with Haitink, Terfel and Graham Vicks and a documentary about the reaction of the stage-hands to the new building. It has scene selection and subtitles in English. --Roz Kaveney

  • Manon [1982] Manon | DVD | (01/07/2000) from £9.80  |  Saving you £8.19 (45.50%)  |  RRP £17.99

    Kenneth MacMillan's tragic lyric ballet to sumptuous music by Jules Massenet orchestrated for the ballet by Leighton Lucas is a Royal Opera House favourite returning season after season. The story of Manon Lescaut is a moving tale of corrupted innocence in early 18th century Paris in which the lovely girl finds both happiness and grief at the hands of men who love and abuse her. Manon is one of MacMillan's most highly regarded works featuring several passionate and moving pas

  • Verdi: Il Trovatore -- Royal Opera House [2002] Verdi: Il Trovatore -- Royal Opera House | DVD | (24/09/2002) from £21.25  |  Saving you £3.74 (15.00%)  |  RRP £24.99

    Carlo Rizzi conducts Verdi's Il Trovatore with the assistance of the Royal Opera House Orchestra.

  • Fidelio [1991] Fidelio | DVD | (21/06/2000) from £18.87  |  Saving you £4.94 (19.80%)  |  RRP £24.99

    A performance of the Beethoven's Fidelio. James Levine conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

  • The Nutcracker [1968] The Nutcracker | DVD | (22/04/2002) from £21.25  |  Saving you £13.74 (39.30%)  |  RRP £34.99

    A 1968 made for television version of The Nutcracker performed at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden choreographed and produced by as well as starring Rudolf Nureyev and the Royal Ballet. Music by Tchaikovsky.

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