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Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen -- Metropolitan/Levine | DVD | (14/10/2002)
from £45.99 | Saving you £0.00 (0.00%) | RRP
The James Levine cycle of Wagners Der Ring des Nibelungen is humane and emotionally powerful rather than monumental or spiritual; Levine is more interested in finding our sympathy for the characters than inspiring pity or terror. These are very traditional productions in which you see a rock where you need to see a rock, a dragon where the libretto says a dragon (the Metropolitan Opera has never been a place for experiment). What Levine and the Met can and do offer is excellent orchestral playing and some of the best singers in these roles in the world. Siegfried Jerusalem is boyish and naive and touching as Siegfried, and he is also surprisingly good as the detached mischievous Loge of Das Rheingold. James Morris is uniformly impressive as Wotan and makes the character evolve from the young ruthless god of the first opera to the tired old god of Siegfried, who seeks nothing more than his own necessary defeat and death. As Brunnhilde, Hildegard Behrens makes a convincing shift from goddess to woman, from callousness to tenderness and on to vindictiveness and self-sacrificing wisdom. Overall, this is an attractive Ring cycle, well-cast and beautifully played; others have greater strengths in some areas, but Levine is reliable across the board. On the DVD: Der Ring des Nibelungen has all four operas, which are also available individually, contained in a single box. All the DVDs come with a photo gallery of the Metropolitan Opera productions and with menus and subtitles in German, French, English, Spanish and Chinese. Its a little disappointing, though, that they are presented in American NTSC format, not European PAL, and the picture ratio is standard TV 4:3. On the plus side, they all have an excellent clear acoustic in the three audio options: PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. --Roz Kaveney
Carmen - Glyndebourne Festival Opera | DVD | (24/10/2005)
from £14.28 | Saving you £3.71 (20.60%) | RRP
Bernard Haitink conducts Maria Ewing and Barry McCauley in an interpretation of Bizet's Carmen. Maria Ewing's electric portrayal of the gypsy Carmen is one of the finest in recent memory. Her dark alluring looks and feline grace are exactly suited to playing the hot-blooded Spanish temptress who charms men with her sensuous wild spirit. Peter Hall's production filmed in 1985 reveals Bizet's opera as a torid drama of passion blood and squalor with sets by John Bury that capture the earthy warmth of Spain in an unglamorised view of the factory girls of Seville. Barry McCauley is a thrilling Don Jose Micaela is sung by Marie McLaughlin with Bernard Haitink conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Tancredi | DVD | (01/08/2005)
from £9.97 | Saving you £15.02 (60.10%) | RRP
Bizet: Carmen -- film version | DVD | (13/03/2000)
from £9.10 | Saving you £N/A (N/A%) | RRP
This movie version of Bizet's popular opera Carmen was filmed on location, conveying a kind of atmosphere, a sense of space, movement, and presence that's hard to achieve in a staged performance. It takes the action out of doors for many scenes, with the opening titles superimposed on the bloody conclusion of a bullfight. Elsewhere the changing of the guard, the crowd scenes, the dance number that opens Act 2, and the panoramic scenery of the smugglers' mountain hideout all benefit from the freedom granted by movie cameras. It's an exciting Carmen, too, with a young-looking Placido Domingo in top form for a role he has sung hundreds of times. For Julia Migenes, though, it was her first performance in a role she would have trouble performing in an opera house. Her voice does not fit easily into Carmen's range, and she spent months training it, very successfully, before singing the role in a recording studio where the soundtrack was taped before the film was shot. Casting her in the role was a gamble, but it worked; she is a convincing actress. Unlike most opera-house performances this movie version uses the opera's original opera comique form with some spoken dialogue rather than recitatives.--Joe McLellan, Amazon.com
Verdi: Rigoletto | DVD | (27/03/2002)
from £20.41 | Saving you £4.58 (18.30%) | RRP
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
Puccini: Madama Butterfly -- Verona/Arena | DVD | (11/06/2001)
from £12.55 | Saving you £5.44 (30.20%) | RRP
This traditional production of Puccini's enduringly popular opera Madama Butterfly should give much pleasure. It was recorded at the open-air theatre in Verona in 1983 with the local orchestra and chorus under the aptly named Maurizio Arena. The video direction is by an expert in the field, Brian Large, who brings home all the intimate moments of Puccini's drama from an open set that ascends and sprawls across rows of seating. His camera draws the viewer into scenes that the audience cannot witness at their distance--most movingly when Sharpless, the American consul in Nagasaki, gives up his attempt to read Pinkerton's letter to Butterfly saying he has no intention of seeing her again (set to that magical melody which will recur as the humming chorus). It's of little matter that there are no operatic stars in the cast for this ensemble consists of experienced singers who fill the night air with lungs to match Puccini's heaviest demands. The audience, many of them evidently on holiday, greet the show-stopping moments with waves of applause. Their enthusiasm may drown a few bars of orchestral continuity but the orchestra itself is always at the service of the singers on a soundtrack that captures the atmosphere of an open-air performance with astonishing verisimilitude. Butterfly, sung by the statuesque Raina Kabaivanska, may not see Cio-Cio San (to give "butterfly" her real name) 16 years again and some of her arm movements are overdone but her big number "Un bel di" and its reprise when she's holding her child by Pinkerton are touchingly conveyed. Neither does she overplay the final scene where she prepares to follow her father's example using the Mikado's dagger to commit suicide--a moment that sends a shiver down the spine in its economy. Nazzareno Antinori as her Pinkerton, with his matinée idol looks and resonant voice, complements her well; their singing of Puccini's spacious love duet at the close of Act One goes down a treat with the crowd. --Adrian Edwards
Die Verkaufte Braut - Smetana/Adam Fischer/Orchester Der Wiener Staatsoper | DVD | (10/09/2007)
from £14.43 | Saving you £1.60 (9.40%) | RRP
Smetana: Die Verkaufte Braut (Aka: The Bartered Bridge)
Verdi: Nabucco -- La Scala/Muti | DVD | (26/04/2004)
from £12.55 | Saving you £5.44 (30.20%) | RRP
This magnificent production of Verdi's biblical epic Nabucco marked the return of Riccardo Muti as Musical Director of La Scala Milan Italy's greatest opera house. Nabucco was Verdi's first real success. This vast opera has great scenes for the chorus most famously in 'Va pensiero' the hymn of longing sung by the Hebrew slaves on the banks of the Euphrates. This DVD is a marvellous opportunity to hear La Scala's famous Chrous on top form.
Rossini: La Cenerentola (Cinderella) -- Houston | DVD | (25/06/2001)
from £15.39 | Saving you £1.60 (9.40%) | RRP
Rossini's opera recorded live in Houston in November 1995. Bruno Campanella conducts the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the Houston Grand Opera Chorus.
Boris Godunov - Mussorgsky | DVD | (05/08/2002)
from £13.20 | Saving you £1.79 (11.90%) | RRP
The legendary Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky helmed his one and only opera in 1983 with this famed production of Mussorgsky's 'Boris Godunov'. Staged at London's famed Royal Opera House the staging features Robert Lloyd giving a masterful performance in the title role. Conductor Valery Gergiev known primarily for his fine work leading St. Petersburg's Kirov Opera takes the baton.
Charlie and Lola - 2 | DVD | (15/05/2006)
from £4.99 | Saving you £3.00 (37.50%) | RRP
Charlie And Lola is a fun-filled and imaginative animated series for young children. It focuses on the relationship between brother and sister Charlie and Lola and tells the story of how they handle the little issues that they as young children encounter everyday.
Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) -- Glyndebourne | DVD | (25/10/1999)
from £11.19 | Saving you £6.80 (37.80%) | RRP
Mozart's immortal adaptation of Beaumarchais' satirical tale has always been a Glyndebourne staple, so it was appropriate that this delightfully traditional production of Le Nozze di Figaro was chosen to reopen a refurbished Gyndebourne in May, 1994. Here, John Gunter's set design is airy and uncluttered, leaving the actors plenty of breathing space, while director Stephen Medcalf likewise allows the characters to speak (and sing) for themselves. Gerald Finley's Figaro and Alison Hagley's Susanna make a charming central pairing; Renee Fleming and Andreas Schmidt are a formidable aristocratic duo, while Marie-Ange Todorovitch fills Cherubino's trousers with pleasing playfulness. Haitink and the London Philharmonic sparkle, as of course they should. Unfussily filmed, this is as close to the real thing as you are likely to get without a Glyndebourne season ticket.On the DVD: This is a double-sided disc requiring a changeover between Acts 2 and 3. With a running-time of 189 minutes, the disc is no longer than some epic Hollywood movies, so such flipping is hard to justify. But at least opera lends itself to natural breaks like this. The sound options are Dolby stereo or 5.1 and the picture is in 4:3 ratio. Subtitles are provided in English, French or German and the booklet contains a plot synopsis. --Mark Walker
Aria | DVD | (15/06/2009)
from £6.49 | Saving you £13.50 (67.50%) | RRP
Conceived developed and produced by Don Boyd Aria is a completely unique film both structurally and also in the sheer scale of the production itself. Ten of the world's most creative and celebrated directors were each given the same brief; to choose a piece of opera music and then present a visual interpretation of that music. The result is by turns erotic violent funny and poignant. The stills photographers assigned to each were equally celebrated among them David Bailey Annie Leibovitz Lord Snowdon Terry O'Neill and John Swannell. The impressive cast list includes John Hurt Tilda Swinton Bridget Fonda and Elizabeth Hurley Teresa Russell. A remarkable collective achievement Aria is a cinematic experience like no other.
Strauss: Die Fledermaus -- Royal Opera House | DVD | (16/01/2001)
from £19.79 | Saving you £5.20 (20.80%) | RRP
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
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Britten | DVD | (09/01/2006)
from £11.19 | Saving you £4.80 (30.00%) | RRP
Britten's opera recorded live at the Teatro Del Liceu in April 2004.
The Art Of Singing - Golden Voices Of The Century | DVD | (01/07/2000)
from £16.25 | Saving you £1.74 (9.70%) | RRP
Many illustrious stars of the twentieth century are featured in sound and vision in rare footage much of it previously unavailable. The accompanying booklet includes comprehensive notes by John Steane. Includes rare footage much of it previously unseen. Based on an original BBC TV series.
Great Voices Of Today | DVD | (12/12/2005)
from £5.87 | Saving you £0.12 (2.00%) | RRP
This DVD features a fantastic array of classical and operatic performances from some of the most revered performers including Roberto Alagna singing Quanto E Bella Quanto E Cara' and 'Una Furtiva Lagrima' from 'Donizetti' David Daniels sings 'Cara Sposa' from Handel's opera 'Rinaldo' and much much more... Tracklist: 1.Roberto Alagna - 'Quanto E Bella' & 'Una Furtiva Lagrima' 2.Angela Gheorghiu - 'Prendi Per Me Sei Libero' 3.Thomas Hampson - Mi Si Affaccia Un Pugnal & Piet
Cosi Fan Tutte - Mozart | DVD | (23/07/2004)
from £8.85 | Saving you £1.14 (11.40%) | RRP
Daniela Dessi and Delores Ziegler lead the cast in Mozart's brilliant and witty opera as the two women whose faithfulness in the face of romantic love is ruthlessly tested in Da Ponte's comic tale. Mozart lavishes some of the finest music ever written on the unfolding story of the two sisters' chaotic and fickle love affairs with their two Italian army officers. Unlocked from the archives of RAI television this 1989 recording is a classic from one of the world's great opera houses.
Gaetano Donizetti - La Fille du régiment / Dessay, Florez, Palmer, Corbelli, French, Campanella, Pelly (Royal Opera House 2007) | DVD | (21/04/2008)
from £11.19 | Saving you £2.80 (20.00%) | RRP
Laurent Pelly staged this new production and how the singers were perfectly cast. They gave Donizetti's opera a new life at the Royal Opera House
Canterbury Tales - the Wife of Bath | DVD | (29/09/2008)
from £5.13 | Saving you £-0.14 (-2.80%) | RRP
Beth Craddock is a TV actress who still believes in Mr. Right even after a number of failed marriages. But is her dashing co-star Jerome her soulmate despite their large age difference.