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Opera

  • Wagner: Das Rheingold -- Metropolitan/Levine Wagner: Das Rheingold -- Metropolitan/Levine | DVD | (14/10/2002) from £16.99  |  Saving you £0.00 (0.00%)  |  RRP £16.99

    It takes a certain amount of forethought if Das Rheingold is to be more than a series of special effects scenes, though moments like the appearance of the giants through the mist or Alberich's transformations need to be as thrilling as they are here. As always in his Wagner, and perhaps especially in this very traditional 1990 Metropolitan Opera production of the Ring cycle, James Levine keeps to the forefront the underlying humanity of Wagner's gods and monsters. In the first scene, for example, he brings out the thoughtless, callous frivolity of the Rhine maidens as they precipitate the events of the four operas by taunting the gnome Alberich: it helps that they swirl around, green and gold, in a convincing representation of the bottom of the Rhine, but the emotions are the point. Ekkehaard Wlaschiha is a convincingly menacing Alberich partly because Levine brings out his vulnerability as well as his evil temper. James Morris is splendid as the younger less care-worn Wotan and Siegfried Jerusalem as Loge enjoys the sarcasm of his cynical commentary on Wotan's aspirations. The smaller parts have luxury casting: Matti Salminen as Fafner and Christa Ludwig as Fricka, for example. On the DVD: Das Rheingold comes with a photo gallery of the Metropolitan Opera production and with menus and subtitles in German, French, English, Spanish and Chinese. Disappointingly though it is presented in American NTSC format with standard TV 4:3 visual ratio. But it does have an excellent clear acoustic in all three of its audio options: PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. --Roz Kaveney

  • Luciano Pavarotti - Verdi - Un Ballo In Machera Luciano Pavarotti - Verdi - Un Ballo In Machera | DVD | (26/02/2008) from £18.65  |  Saving you £3.34 (15.20%)  |  RRP £21.99

    Giuseppe Verdi - Un Ballo In Maschera.Live At The Metropolitan Opera on 16 February 1980.

  • Berg: Lulu - Glyndebourne Festival Opera [1996] Berg: Lulu - Glyndebourne Festival Opera | DVD | (23/02/2004) from £11.42  |  Saving you £6.57 (36.50%)  |  RRP £17.99

    Alban Berg's second and last opera Lulu is one of the monuments of modernism, constructed around serial technique and containing scenes conceived of as Sonata-form, Suite and so on. The bliss of Andrew Davis's conducting in this classic Glyndebourne production is that we forget all of this--Davis doesn't gloss over the music's intellectual content, but that's not what we think about as we watch and listen. Part of the production's strength is the prodigious performance by Christine Schafer as Lulu--for once we believe in the character's sexual energy and power; and Schafer makes her real enough as a person that we largely forget the work's intrinsic misogyny. The rest of the cast are admirable too: Norman Bailey brings something perversely sweet to the disreputable painter Schigolch; Kathryn Harries makes the dying words of Lulu's lesbian lover Geschwitz one of the work's lyric high points; David Kuebler is equally powerful as Alwa. The final duet between Lulu and her destroyer Jack the Ripper is one of Wolfgang Schone's great moments, but he is equally good as Dr Schon, the man Lulu marries and kills. This is a performance of energy and beauty, matched by a simple but effective production. On the DVD Lulu on disc is presented in disappointingly in NTSC format with a 4:3 picture ratio. Fortunately, the Dolby 2.0 digital sound is ideal for the fine detail of this complex score and these nuanced performances. There are subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese. --Roz Kaveney

  • Wagner-Der Ring Des Nibelunge Wagner-Der Ring Des Nibelunge | DVD | (02/07/2007) from £32.67  |  Saving you £27.32 (45.50%)  |  RRP £59.99

    This legendary Bayreuth Festival production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen directed by Harry Kupfer with designs by Hans Schavernoch and conducted by Daniel Barenboim is considered perhaps the finest video recording of these four operas ever made. For their innovative modernist staging Kupfer and his team turned away from the work's time of origin and located The Ring at a road of history a meeting-place of past present and future which sets the scene for the story's struggles of power and love. Barenboim's authoritative yet highly responsive reading of the immense score and the extraordinary performances of the cast help to make this a truly memorable Ring.

  • Andrea Bocelli - Sacred Arias [1999] Andrea Bocelli - Sacred Arias | DVD | (03/12/2007) from £11.09  |  Saving you £3.90 (26.00%)  |  RRP £14.99

    In reflecting on this DVD of sacred arias it is significant that Andrea Bocelli refers to the dawn of 'a new millennium' and it is appropriate that this concert was taped in Rome. In no other city of the world did the millennium have such immediate resonance and what better place for the recording of a universal jubilee celebrating the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of Christ?

  • Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin -- film version/Solti [1988] Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin -- film version/Solti | DVD | (03/06/2002) from £8.99  |  Saving you £2.24 (13.20%)  |  RRP £16.99

    It's a common complaint that opera singers can't act, and actors can't sing opera. In this handsome 1988 film of Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin, director Petr Weigl attempts to solve the problem by letting each group of performers do what they do best. Thus the music is a studio recording with some great voices in the principal roles, and the film is a lip-synched performance shot in stunning locations by a good-looking cast of players. On the positive side this means that the whole thing looks gorgeous, and sun-drenched dachas, glittering ballrooms and snowy steppes are all captured with painterly verve. The musical performances are also splendid, with Bernd Weikl making a passionate, tortured Onegin, Teresa Kubiak a honeyed, fresh-sounding Tatyana, and Solti conducting with driven intensity. But realism and opera rarely make happy bed-fellows, and the down-side of this film is that the naturalistic "speaking-style" lip-synching and understated acting are entirely at odds with the grand musical gestures, and occasionally give rise to a somewhat absurd alienation effect. Thus while Kubiak's voice is at full blast, Magdalena Vasaryova looks like she's making polite chit-chat at a cocktail party. But the project feels like a brave experiment, nonetheless, and if the whole isn't quite the sum of its different elements, those elements are still jolly good. On the DVD: Eugene Onegin on disc has excellent picture quality (which is fortunate in such a visually exquisite film), though the sound is a little distant and muffled. The film starts with the entry of the peasants in Act 1, but the DVD includes the Prologue and music before this point as an audio bonus. There are subtitles in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese, and a series of trailers for other Decca DVDs. --Warwick Thompson

  • Ghost Club Ghost Club | DVD | (28/04/2008) from £2.95  |  Saving you £2.74 (45.70%)  |  RRP £5.99

    Ghost Club

  • The Three Tenors Christmas [1999] The Three Tenors Christmas | DVD | (29/10/2007) from £8.99  |  Saving you £-1.00 (-12.50%)  |  RRP £7.99

    1. Medley: White Christmas - Let It Snow - Oh Tannenbaum - Ay! Para - Navidad2. Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle3. Carol Of The Drum4. Medley: Ave Maria, Dolce Maria- Brahms' Wiegenlied5. Jingle Bells6. Medley: Children of Christmas - La Virgen Lava Panales - I'll Be Home for Christmas7. Adeste Fideles8. Cantique de Noel (O Holy Night)9. Amazing Grace10. Feliz Navidad11. Silent Night12. Pregaria (El Cant de L'Anima a la Verge)13. Medley: Winter Wonderland - Strauss's Wiegenlied - Sleigh Ride - Susani14. Un Nuevo Siglo15. Medley: Dormi, O Bambino - Happy Christmas/ War Is Over

  • Verdi: Il Trovatore Verdi: Il Trovatore | DVD | (20/11/2000) from £15.39  |  Saving you £1.60 (9.40%)  |  RRP £16.99

    A performance of Verdi's opera 'Il Trovatore' by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus; conducted by James Levine. Singers include: Eva Marton Luciano Pavarotti Sherril Milnes and Dolora Zajick; directed by Brian Large.

  • Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) -- Paris/Gardiner Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) -- Paris/Gardiner | DVD | (15/10/2001) from £15.99  |  Saving you £1.00 (5.90%)  |  RRP £16.99

    It is an oft-repeated saw, about life in the heavenly spheres, that the angels revere Bach but listen to Mozart. If they have DVD players, you can bet theyre now watching this stunning production of Le Nozze di Figaro ("The Marriage of Figaro"), which comes about as close to Mozartian perfection as one could possibly hope to get. The faultlessly cast youthful performers bubble with infectious energy. Alison Hagley is a sprightly Susanna with a voice as clear as a bell, and brilliantly matched by a 28-year-old Bryn Terfel both acting and sounding in fine form. Hillevi Martinpelto demonstrates why she is one of the worlds favourite Mozart singers with her melting tones, richly coloured voice and generous stage presence, and Rodney Gilfry gives a muscular, wonderfully controlled performance as the Count. Olivier Milles direction mixes knockabout comedy and restrained pathos with fluid inventiveness, and there are even--heavens, can this really be an opera?--quite a few belly laughs, and deliciously amusing details. (Susannas guitar playing during Cherubinos "Voi che sapete" is a comic delight, and Figaros hidden sneers at Count Almaviva are hilarious.) John Eliot Gardiner draws exquisite playing from his authentic-instrument orchestra and employs tempos that are ideal. Add to that gorgeous 18th-century costumes and effective sets--it doesnt get much better than this. On the DVD: the production is beautifully realised for home viewing, with clear sound (the sets are simple wooden panels, which continually and flatteringly push the sound to the front) and great camera direction. There are subtitles in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Chinese but no other special features.--Warwick Thompson

  • Berg: Wozzeck Berg: Wozzeck | DVD | (15/11/2001) from £21.55  |  Saving you £3.44 (13.80%)  |  RRP £24.99

    The bleakness of Berg's operatic masterpiece Wozzeck is relatively easy to bring off: the plot, after all, tells of a man who is bullied, cuckolded and mocked by the society around him. What are harder to realise are the gallows humour and pitch-black comedy--and it's those qualities, along with the brilliant acting and edge-of-seat orchestral playing, that make this 1987 Vienna Staatsoper staging a stunning televisual operatic production. Everything works: the simple yet evocative sets translate effortlessly to the small screen, the pacing of the 15 short scenes is worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster and the singing is beautifully focussed. Baritone Franz Grundheber is vocally and dramatically outstanding as Wozzeck, cringing and shuffling around the stage in a bewildered hang-dog manner and yet never losing sight of the character's humanity. Hildegard Behrens (Marie) has rarely sounded better, and switches between Straussian lushness and spiky sluttishness with ease. The direction is also full of wonderful touches, such as Wozzeck squeezing the Captain's nose while he's shaving him (and making his voice sound like a kazoo), and the musicians of the on-stage band being fully integrated into the tavern scene. Ironic, emotionally rich, musically faultless--this one's got it all. On the DVD: the production works beautifully on DVD, and bar one or two moments in the second tavern scene (Act 3, Scene 3) the voices rarely move out of microphone range. There are subtitles in English, German, French and Spanish and four trailers for other Arthaus DVD operas, but no other special features. --Warwick Thomson

  • Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades) [1992] Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades) | DVD | (21/01/2002) from £19.09  |  Saving you £4.94 (19.80%)  |  RRP £24.99

    This Glyndebourne production of Pique Dame ("The Queen of Spades") received rave reviews when it appeared in 1992 due to its claustrophobic intensity and powerful acting, and these qualities help it to transfer to DVD with great success. Graham Vick's direction ensures that the story is told clearly and simply but includes a wealth of telling details: the pastoral scene from Act 2, for example, uses the boys from the opening chorus as comical sheep and the effect is enchanting. But there are much darker undertones too: Richard Hudson's slanting, angular designs produce a disorientating atmosphere which mirrors Herman's increasing mental deterioration with uncanny precision. There is a brilliant stroke of visual assonance when the Countess returns to haunt Herman and all the furniture from her death scene appears on the roof. The singing is generally good, though Yuri Marusin's voice may not be to everyone's taste; sometimes he sounds like he's shouting, and his frequent lack of vibrato produces a piercing, uncomfortable effect. Nancy Gustafson is a fine Lisa, however, and Dimitri Kharitonov (Yeletsky) is heartbreaking in the famous "Ya vas lyublyu" ("I love you") aria. For overall better singing but a more plodding production, try the 1992 Kirov recording, but for spine-tingling drama this is the one to go for. On the DVD: Pique Dame on disc has subtitles in English, German, French and Spanish. The camerawork captures the odd angularity of the designs and gives an excellent account of a fast-paced, powerful production.--Warwick Thomson

  • Puccini: Madama Butterfly -- Verona/Arena [1983] Puccini: Madama Butterfly -- Verona/Arena | DVD | (11/06/2001) from £10.41  |  Saving you £7.58 (42.10%)  |  RRP £17.99

    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

  • Luciano Pavarotti In Concert At The Gran Teatre Del Liceu [2007] Luciano Pavarotti In Concert At The Gran Teatre Del Liceu | DVD | (29/10/2007) from £6.48  |  Saving you £-1.49 (-29.90%)  |  RRP £4.99

    On 8th June 1989 Pavarotti gave one of his finest performances at Gran Teatre Del Lieceu in Barcelona. This beautifully ornate theatre mysteriously burned to the ground literally hours after Pavarotti's performance. Tracklisting 1. Un' Aura Amorosa (Mozart) 2. La Promessa (Rossini) 3. La Danza (Rossini) 4. Dolente Immagine Di Fille Mia (Bellini) 5. Malinconia Ninfa Gentile (Bellini) 6. Vanne O Rosa Fortuna (Bellini) 7. Bella Nice Che D'Amore (Bellini) 8. Ma Rendi Pur Contento (Bellini) 9. La Mia Letizia Infondere (Verdi) 10. Pourquoi Me Reviller (Massenet) 11. Nevicata (Respighi) 12. Pioggia (Respighi) 13. Nebbie (Respighi) 14. M' Appari' Tutt' Amor (Flotow) 15. Serenata (Mascagni) 16. La Girometta (Sibella) 17. Occhi Di Fata (Denza) 18. Recondita Armonia (Puccini) 19. A'Vucchella (Tosti/D'Annunzio) 20. Marechiare (Tosti/D'Annunzio) 21. Donna Non Vidi Mai (Puccini) 22. O Sole Mio (Capua) 23. Una Furtiva Lagrima (Donizetti)

  • La Cenerentola La Cenerentola | DVD | (24/05/2004) from £12.09  |  Saving you £5.90 (32.80%)  |  RRP £17.99

    La Cenerentola is Rossini's version of the popular Cinderella story an entertaining mixture of comedy pathos coloratura fireworks and masquerade.

  • Orphee Et Eurydice Orphee Et Eurydice | DVD | (03/04/2006) from £4.49  |  Saving you £10.50 (70.00%)  |  RRP £14.99

    Gluck: Orphee Et Eurydice (Guidarini)

  • Die Fledermaus [1985] Die Fledermaus | DVD | (22/09/2003) from £12.09  |  Saving you £5.90 (32.80%)  |  RRP £17.99

    The operetta 'Die Fledermaus' is Johann Strauss' most brilliant and best-known stage work. It's a glittering comedy packed with Viennese music that has become a firm favourite in opera houses all over the world. A top international cast really have a ball in this highly-acclaimed 1983 New Years Eve performance from The Royal Opera Covent Garden in which Placido Domingo makes a very stylish British conducting debut. Kiri Te Kanawa stars with her celebrated performance as Rosalinde

  • Giuseppe Verdi - Aida [1992] Giuseppe Verdi - Aida | DVD | (01/02/2010) from £84.85  |  Saving you £26.14 (23.60%)  |  RRP £110.99

    Concerts By Art Blakey/Dizzy Gillespie/Louis Armstrong Etc

  • Mozart: La Clemenza di Tito -- Glyndebourne Mozart: La Clemenza di Tito -- Glyndebourne | DVD | (29/04/2002) from £18.31  |  Saving you £6.68 (26.70%)  |  RRP £24.99

    Mozart's Clemenza di Tito ("The Clemency of Titus") makes for riveting viewing in this Glyndebourne performance directed by Nicholas Hytner and conducted by Andrew Davis staged in the composer's bicentenary in 1991. Mozart's last opera, Clemenza was for some time considered below par by his own exalted standards. He composed it in a rush, the recitatives are by a pupil and it had to be on an appropriate theme to please the new Hapsburg monarch, for whose enthronement it was designed. There's little character development and the musical style harks back to operatic conventions Mozart had done so much to overthrow. Watching this production one would scarcely credit that such reservations once held sway. Hytner and his team have put a contemporary angle on a story set in Rome AD 78 in which sets, props and the stage itself are constructed to different dimensions offering alternate perspectives on a static tale. A slanting pillar and a sloping corridor allude to the unhinged mind of the scheming Vitellia, the central character, who puts her confidant Sesto on an emotional roller coaster ride as she ensnares him to plot the downfall of Titus. The principals use their eyes to communicate to one another as well as the audience and in the imaginatively staged entrances and exits of the ensembles one senses Hytner's choreographic instincts coming to the fore. The superb cast sing magnificently and look stunning. Philip Langridge is an eloquent Titus, Diana Monatgue a sincere Sesto and Ashley Putnam brings a touch of Alexis Colby to her portrayal of Vitellia. The London Philharmonic are all fired up under conductor Andrew Davis' fervent direction. The performance (the "Overture" accompanied by a visual montage of artefacts of Ancient Rome) is played on modern instruments yet articulated and reproduced with the clarity and definition associated with period ones. On the DVD: La Clemenza di Tito has no special features save for the obligatory subtitles. The picture quality is outstanding with the imaginative and colourful production design caught, like the music, with exceptional fidelity. The high drama at the conclusion of Act 1 justifies running on without a break into Act 2. This is a must for all lovers of opera. --Adrian Edwards

  • Philomena Begley - Live in Concert Philomena Begley - Live in Concert | DVD | (03/03/2008) from £7.99  |  Saving you £-1.12 (-14.00%)  |  RRP £7.99

    Recorded at The Whitehall Theatre, Dundee 1990

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