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Opera

  • Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier -- Vienna/Kleiber Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier -- Vienna/Kleiber | DVD | (03/09/2004) from £9.99  |  Saving you £-3.66 (-24.40%)  |  RRP £14.99

    The epic grandeur of Der Rosenkavalier stems not just from its immense length (over three hours) but from the all-too-human complexity of its characters--each of whom is smitten with someone else--and the endless stream of graceful melodies the composer conjures. After the tonality-stretching dissonance of Salome and especially Elektra, Strauss moved onto a different musical path here: the music's sheer gorgeousness has given this most heartbreaking of 20th-century operas its pride of place in the repertory. For this 1994 performance at the Vienna Opera House, conductor Carlos Kleiber leads a committed reading of the buoyant score that savours every note. The three leads are superb singer-actresses who get full marks for embodying Strauss's most richly romantic creations: Felicity Lott (the Marschallin), Anne Sophie von Otter (Octavian) and Barbara Bonney (Sophie) also offer a truly entrancing final trio, one of the great scenes in all opera. The stereo sound mix is solid, as is the video transfer. --Kevin Filipski, Amazon.com

  • Tosca - Puccini [1976] Tosca - Puccini | DVD | (09/05/2005) from £15.39  |  Saving you £1.60 (9.40%)  |  RRP £16.99

    Opera is an inherently theatrical medium that does not lend itself readily to the realism of film treatment. The shining exception is Puccini's Tosca, an action-packed melodrama that unfolds in three taut and gripping acts, like the meatiest of Hollywood films noir. And unlike most operas, these three acts are set in three very specific Roman locales. Thus this 1976 film takes place in the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle (Act 1), the Palazzo Farnese (Act 2) and the Castel Sant'Angelo (Act 3). The evocative settings, however, would be mere window-dressing if the cast wasn't just right; fortunately here Placido Domingo is at his virile peak in the heroic tenor role of Cavaradossi; Raina Kabaivanska is a sultry, vocally beautiful Tosca; while a more infamous and domineering Scarpia than that of Sherrill Milnes can hardly be imagined. Bruno Bartoletti and the New Philharmonia Orchestra give lustily dramatic support. Here the music and vocals are pre-recorded and the singers mime to the playback. Occasionally the result is a little unnatural, but overall the cast are good enough actors to bring off the conceit even in the close-ups. It all pays off triumphantly with the gripping realism of the rooftop finale, the one place where film can improve on stage. With the authenticity of the settings assured and such distinguished leads singing so well, this is an almost ideal filmed Tosca. On the DVD: Tosca on disc is presented in 4:3 ratio with a choice of Dolby 5.1 or LPCM Stereo. The picture is adequate but a little flat (possibly because the format is NTSC not PAL) and the same can be said for the sound, which does what it should but is never revelatory. Subtitles are provided in the main European languages and Chinese. --Mark Walker

  • Theodora - Glyndebourne Festival Opera [1996] Theodora - Glyndebourne Festival Opera | DVD | (05/07/2004) from £12.09  |  Saving you £5.90 (32.80%)  |  RRP £17.99

    This production of Handel's tragic and moving oratorio took Glyndebourne by storm when it was first staged in 1996. Sellars took Handel's tale of self-sacrificial love between a Christian virgin and a Roman imperial bodyguard in fourth century enemy occupied Antioch and by resetting it in modern-day America transformed it into a timeless parable of spiritual resistance to tyranny and persecution.

  • Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades) Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades) | DVD | (24/03/2003) from £15.39  |  Saving you £1.60 (9.40%)  |  RRP £16.99

    In terms of vocal power, lyrical beauty and idiomatic authenticity, the casting for this 1992 live recording of the Kirov production of Pique Dame ("The Queen of Spades") could hardly be bettered. Gegam Grigorian (Herman) hits his fearsome, anguished high notes with the accuracy of a laser and Maria Gulegina (Liza) has a voice the size of the QEII but uses it with great subtlety--her opening duet with Pauline floats like gossamer, and her declarations of love for Herman at the end of Act 1 are spine-tingling. Kirov superstars Sergei Leiferkus (Tomsky) and rich-toned Olga Borodina (Pauline) also sound divine. In the pit Valery Gergiev renders every nuance of Tchaikovsky's score with clarity, and drives the strings to produce an almost unbearably tense atmosphere of foreboding; Herman's manslaughter of the Countess is preceded by shallow, haunted phrases which rise and fall like a beating heart. It isn't all rosy, however. The production comes from the traditional old Kirov "stand-and-sing" tradition and is somewhat static. The characters don't interact with much detail or generate much chemistry, and the chorus moves in unwieldy blocks. For a more gripping production (though not quite as well sung) try the Glyndebourne performance. But for sheer musical pleasure, you won't find anything to beat this. On the DVD: Pique Dame doesn't feature particularly inventive camerawork, though it does give a good solid account of the production. The sound recording captures all the most important moments with clarity, though just occasionally singers stray away from the microphones. There are subtitles in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese, and some trailers for other Universal Music DVDs. --Warwick Thomson

  • Il Ritorno D'Ulisse In Patria - Monteverdi [2005] Il Ritorno D'Ulisse In Patria - Monteverdi | DVD | (29/08/2005) from £6.09  |  Saving you £23.90 (79.70%)  |  RRP £29.99

  • Strauss: Arabella [1995] Strauss: Arabella | DVD | (16/04/2001) from £13.99  |  Saving you £0.00 (0.00%)  |  RRP £13.99

    Like most of his later operas, Richard Strauss' Arabella ends with a meltingly lovely duet. But then criticising Strauss for composing melodically enduring operas is as pointless as lambasting Vermeer for painting only exquisite interior scenes. Those who say Strauss never improved on Rosenkavalier may be right but when such beguiling sounds kept coming from his music for the next 30 years of his life, there shouldn't be any quibbles. Arabella is, in a nutshell, the story of a woman who cannot make up her mind about a suitor. Taped at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1994 under the baton of conductor Christian Thielemann, this production features Kiri Te Kanawa in the title role; her acting is mediocre but vocally she never forces anything and at least sounds like the perfect Arabella. Wolfgang Brendel does well with Mandryka, who finally ends up with Arabella and Marie McLaughlin makes a sympathetic younger sister to the heroine as Zdenka. Otto Schenk's production is sturdily conservative, the video transfer is acceptable if unspectacular and the sound mix is CD-quality. --Kevin Filipski, Amazon.com

  • Prince Igor [1998] Prince Igor | DVD | (06/10/2003) from £16.77  |  Saving you £-1.78 (-11.90%)  |  RRP £14.99

    Borodin's opera 'Prince Igor' performed by the Kirov Opera and Ballet. Tracklisting; Act 1 No. 2 Chorus of the Polovstan Maidens no. 3 Dance of the Polovtsian Maidens No. 4 Cavatina No. 6 recitative & Cavatina No. 7 Duet no. 8 Aria No. 9 Scena No.10 Aria No. 11 Recitative No. 12 Polovstian Dances & Chorus. Act 2 - No. 13a-c Chorus & Song No.13d-e Maidens Chorus & Scena No. 13f-g Song in Honour of Prince Galitsky Act 2 - No. 14 Arioso No. 15 Scena No.16 Scene No. 17 Fin

  • I Lombardi [1984] I Lombardi | DVD | (06/09/2004) from £12.09  |  Saving you £5.90 (32.80%)  |  RRP £17.99

    The magnificent cast of this production of I Lombardi is headed by Ghena Dimitrova Jose Carreras Silvano Carroli and Carlo Bini. The haunting designs of Spartan grandeur are by Giovanni Agostinucci who uses the motif of a blood-red cross as a double-edged symbol throughout the opera which is set at the time of the first crusade. The performance is conducted by a La Scala conductor of long-standing repute Gianandrea Gavazzeni.

  • Rusalka - Dvorak [1975] Rusalka - Dvorak | DVD | (14/03/2005) from £16.19  |  Saving you £0.00 (0.00%)  |  RRP £17.99

    Antonin Dvorak's most famous opera has the distinction of the largest attendance of any ever shown in the Czech Republic and has been performed in distinguished opera houses worldwide since its 1901 premier. Dvorak has assumed his place in the canon of great composers and with RUSALKA he produced the great Czech national opera.

  • 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

  • Mazeppa - Tchaikovsky [1996] Mazeppa - Tchaikovsky | DVD | (08/03/2004) from £11.90  |  Saving you £5.09 (30.00%)  |  RRP £16.99

    The first-ever release on any video format of the Kirov's 1996 production of Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa. Valery Gergiev directs the Kirov Opera and Ballet in this dramatic staging of Tchaikovsky's historical opera based on Pushkin's verse tale of the legendary Cossack chieftain. Tchaikovsky's dark musical setting intertwines the political drama of Mazeppa's ill-fated betrayal of the Tsar with the personal tragedy of his love for Maria the young daughter of his hapless opponent Koc

  • L'Africaine - Meyerbeer [1988] L'Africaine - Meyerbeer | DVD | (02/08/2006) from £14.03  |  Saving you £6.84 (22.80%)  |  RRP £29.99

    Meyerbeer - L'Africaine (Arena Orch/Chorus/Ballet SFO)

  • Verdi - Simon Boccanegra Verdi - Simon Boccanegra | DVD | (10/09/2007) from £15.99  |  Saving you £1.00 (5.90%)  |  RRP £16.99

    Sir Georg Solti - Verdi: Simon Boccanegra

  • Verdi: La Traviata -- Venice [1992] Verdi: La Traviata -- Venice | DVD | (10/04/2000) from £12.09  |  Saving you £5.90 (32.80%)  |  RRP £17.99

    This performance of Verdi's La Traviata comes from the Gran Teatro La Fenice, Venice in 1992. The intimacy and social realism of the story make it one of the most dramatically successful of all operas, while the score contains some of the finest music of the 19th century. Despite the strong production values and well-staged party scenes, any production of La Traviata stands or falls on the performers in the vital roles of the lovers Violetta and Alfredo, and that of Alfredo's father, Giorgio. Here Giorgio Zancanaro is suitably decent and morally serious as Giorgio, and Neil Shicoff makes a strong impression as an ordinary man suddenly overwhelmed by love. The drawback is that--and there is no polite way to say this--Edita Gruberova is not only too old to play the sparkling young society girl, Violetta, but she is a much better singer than she is an actress. She comes into her own in the tragic last act, but is otherwise awkward and uncomfortable when the part requires her to demonstrate confidence and sensuality. This remains a production with considerable merits, but overall a more dramatically, not to say visually, compelling version is that originally broadcast world-wide live from Paris in 2000 starring Eteri Gvazava and José Cura.On the DVD: The production is presented at 4:3 with above average picture quality for a live opera DVD, and with excellent PCM stereo sound. The disc and booklet both offer a synopsis, but other than the option to watch with or without subtitles there are no special features. --Gary S. Dalkin

  • Adriana Lecouvreur - Cilea Adriana Lecouvreur - Cilea | DVD | (22/10/2004) from £8.59  |  Saving you £1.40 (14.00%)  |  RRP £9.99

    Adriana LecouvreurFrancesco Cilea (1866-1950)Cilea's four-act opera of jealousy and tangled love first performed in Milan in 1902 is based on the true story of Adriana Lecouvreur an 18th-Century actress at the Comedie Francaise whose rival for the love of Maurizio count of Saxony is the married Principessa di Bouillon. Unlocked from the archives of RAI television this 1989 classic recording comes from one of the world's great opera houses.

  • Suns of Arqa - Hindu Pict Suns of Arqa - Hindu Pict | DVD | (19/01/2007) from £6.98  |  Saving you £5.01 (41.80%)  |  RRP £11.99

  • Rosenkavalier - Strauss [1979] Rosenkavalier - Strauss | DVD | (15/08/2005) from £18.65  |  Saving you £-3.66 (-24.40%)  |  RRP £14.99

    Comedy for music in three acts.

  • Nabucco - Verdi Nabucco - Verdi | DVD | (07/02/2005) from £13.99  |  Saving you £3.00 (17.70%)  |  RRP £16.99

    Verdi - Nabucco

  • The Flying Dutchman - Wagner The Flying Dutchman - Wagner | DVD | (09/05/2005) from £13.87  |  Saving you £3.12 (18.40%)  |  RRP £16.99

    One of the most acclaimed Wagner productions of the postwar period this electrifying revolutionary Bayreuth staging of The Flying Dutchman catapulted the German director Harry Kupfer to international fame. Kupfer's psychologically acute production presents the entire story as a hallucination in which Senta's yearning for the eternally wandering Dutchman sends her into a trance-like state. Senta is sung by Danish soprano Lisbeth Balslev the American bass-baritone Simon Estes portrays the Dutchman while the Finnish bass Matti Salminen is Daland.

  • Le Nozze Di Figaro [1973] Le Nozze Di Figaro | DVD | (23/07/2004) from £12.95  |  Saving you £2.04 (13.60%)  |  RRP £14.99

    Recorded at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera 1973.

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