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Opera

  • 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 £7.45  |  Saving you £1.50 (8.80%)  |  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

  • Ariadne Auf Naxos [1988] Ariadne Auf Naxos | DVD | (02/09/2002) from £17.79  |  Saving you £2.20 (11.00%)  |  RRP £19.99

    Strauss's opera 'Ariadne Auf Naxos' performed by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Artists include: Jessye Norman Kathleen Battle Tatania Troyanos and James King. Conducted by James Levine.

  • Massenet - Manon [2008] Massenet - Manon | DVD | (07/01/2008) from £13.69  |  Saving you £6.30 (31.50%)  |  RRP £19.99

    For their first-ever encounter in a staged opera Natalie Dessay as Manon and Rolando Villazn as des Grieux were the much-awaited highlight of Barcelona's Liceu season in June 2007 in David McVicar's beautiful stage production of Massenet's Manon. The DVD captures this outstanding production of Massenet's most popular and enduring opera which has since its creation in Paris in 1884 maintained an important place in the repertory.

  • Albert Herring - Glyndebourne Festival Opera Albert Herring - Glyndebourne Festival Opera | DVD | (05/09/2005) from £11.09  |  Saving you £6.90 (38.40%)  |  RRP £17.99

    Set in an English market town at the turn of 20th century a gangling greengrocer's lad is crowded May King. The break with the tradition of choosing a girl is virtuous enough to May Queen... The comic opera at Glyndebourne was conducted by Bernard Haitink. 'A Vintage production with a vintage cast.' - Sunday Times.

  • Verdi - Otello [1992] Verdi - Otello | DVD | (31/03/2008) from £6.50  |  Saving you £2.74 (18.30%)  |  RRP £14.99

    Giuseppe Verdi - The Royal Opera Otello - At the Royal Opera House.

  • Puccini: Tosca -- 2002 Film Version Puccini: Tosca -- 2002 Film Version | DVD | (23/06/2003) from £10.99  |  Saving you £9.01 (36.10%)  |  RRP £24.99

    Benoit Jacquot's filmed Tosca treads a fine line between operatic staginess and cinematic contrivance. As per the libretto, each act takes place in a single setting, but with the singers here miming to a pre-recorded soundtrack. Jacquot freely reminds us of the conceit with cutaways to the recording session itself--revealing conductor, orchestra and soloists at work--thus a bridge is made between the on-screen action and the music-making itself, and the inherent duality of any opera production is laid refreshingly bare. The same cannot be said for the director's decision to interpolate spoken dialogue over the music in key places--a distraction not an enhancement. Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna are glamorous and attractive enough to make the most of their Hollywood-style close-ups; their singing easily bears similar close scrutiny--as anyone who owns the CD soundtrack album will surely already know. If Alagna lacks a little power as Cavaradossi on record, his charismatic screen presence happily compensates; Gheorghiu is both vocally and physically almost ideal as Tosca. Ruggero Raimondi's Scarpia completes an outstanding trio, and in the pit (or, rather, in the studio) conductor Antonio Pappano handles the drama of Puccini's score without missing a single nuance. Both musically and visually, then, this is a Tosca to treasure. On the DVD: Tosca on disc looks vibrant in this warm, widescreen picture accompanied by a DTS 5.1 soundtrack. Three filmed interviews--with Gheorghiu, Pappano and Jacquot--provide some insight into the making of this production. --Mark Walker

  • Mozart: Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) -- Ludwigsburg/Gonnenwein Mozart: Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) -- Ludwigsburg/Gonnenwein | DVD | (20/04/2001) from £3.19  |  Saving you £21.80 (87.20%)  |  RRP £24.99

    In Die Zauberflöte, Mozart and his librettist Schikaneder brought off an extraordinary feat, uniting two seemingly unrelated theatrical genres--pantomime and straight play. The first is represented by the comic antics of the birdcatcher, Papageno, the second in a series of rituals through which a Prince and his lady pass in search of true love. This production from the Ludwigsburger Festspiele in 1992 in a minimalist staging by Axel Manthey with sets and costumes by him and Alexander Lintl, offers a clearly delineated path through a sophisticated and worldly plot that can be bewildering on first acquaintance. Claps of thunder herald evil in the presence of the Queen of the Night and Monostatos, while a white dove introduces Papageno and a larger one carries the three boys who lead the couple on their journey of enlightenment. Their departure in silhouette makes a touching finale to Act One. But no opera production in recent years seems to eschew some whim or trendy idea of the producer: here we have Sarastro's priests with shaved heads, the three boys dressed for a school sports day and a Papageno kitted out in knickerbockers who one fears might break into "I love to go a-wandering a knapsack on my back". Much more stylish are the Three Ladies, emissaries of the Queen of the Night, shapely figures in their striking royal blue and red dresses. The musical direction is in the safe hands of Wolfgang Gonnenwein who favours the occasional swift tempo as in the "March" to Act Two. The cast includes one exceptional singer, the soprano Ulrike Sonntag as Pamina, happily partnered by Deon Van Der Walt as Tamino. Thomas Mohr is the characterful Papageno and Andrea Frei as the Queen of the Night makes good the coloratura runs of her fiendishly difficult arias, though sounds less secure in her slow music. As Sarastro, Cornelius Hauptmann makes up for some wooden acting with his sonorous bass. One takes away from watching this production a renewed admiration for Mozart and his librettist for an opera that, in its mixture of spoken dialogue and musical numbers, anticipates by 150 years the musical shows of Rodgers and Hammerstein. --Adrian Edwards

  • Verdi: Aida -- San Francisco/Navarro [1981] Verdi: Aida -- San Francisco/Navarro | DVD | (11/05/1998) from £12.41  |  Saving you £5.30 (29.50%)  |  RRP £17.99

    This spectacular 1981 San Francisco production of Aida, directed by Sam Wanamaker, boasts production values more commonly associated with Hollywood to portray scenes from the time of the Pharaohs, notably a striking interior for the temple of Vulcan from where Radames is sent forth on his mission to conquer the invading Ethiopian army. With Margaret Price in the title role and Luciano Pavarotti as Radames, there is much going for this version, both musically and visually. Price and Pavarotti are in superb voice throughout. Pavarotti sings his initial aria, "Celeste Aida", very much as a showpiece, ignoring Verdi's quadruple pianissimo ending for the very opposite, milking (dare one say it) the audience for a thunderous round of applause which he duly receives! Initial doubts about his commitment to the drama, however, are dispelled in Act 3 when he denies Amneris his hand and bids farewell to life entombed in the same temple from where he'd once been sent forth as conqueror. Margaret Price may not be a natural actress but her singing throughout, particularly in the concluding farewell with Pavarotti ("O terra, addio"), is very touching. Stefania Toczyska is a compelling Amneris and no more so than when she's offering Radames a lifeline at the start of the last act. With assured conducting from Garcia Navarro, this Aida is a very desirable acquisition. On the DVD Aida on disc has both subtitles and surtitles, depending on the picture image, in the main European languages. Brian Large's direction for video homes in on the salient points of the drama and also picks up on an uncomfortable looking extra or two in the "Grand March" where space on stage seems at a premium. The picture quality and sound are satisfactory.--Adrian Edwards

  • 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.

  • Lo Frate Nnamorato - Pergolesi Lo Frate Nnamorato - Pergolesi | DVD | (18/06/2004) from £4.95  |  Saving you £1.40 (14.00%)  |  RRP £9.99

    A rare 1989 recording of Pergolesi's second opera a comic and colourful tale of tangled love in which three girls resist their arranged marriages in pursuit of the same young man.

  • Giacomo Puccini - Puccini - Turandot Giacomo Puccini - Puccini - Turandot | DVD | (21/07/2008) from £7.66  |  Saving you £3.90 (26.00%)  |  RRP £14.99

    Turandot: Puccini - Arena di Verona

  • Salome Salome | DVD | (03/03/2003) from £15.49  |  Saving you £1.50 (8.80%)  |  RRP £16.99

    A performance of Strauss's biblical 'Salome' at the Royal Opera House.

  • Ballet Class - Intermediate And Advanced With David Howard [1986] Ballet Class - Intermediate And Advanced With David Howard | DVD | (07/07/2008) from £11.69  |  Saving you £N/A (N/A%)  |  RRP £16.99

  • Orphee Aux Enfers - Offenbach [1997] Orphee Aux Enfers - Offenbach | DVD | (15/04/2002) from £19.99  |  Saving you £3.64 (14.60%)  |  RRP £24.99

    Orphée aux Enfers, Offenbach's riotous parody of the dissipations of French life in the Second Empire, fairly gallops past in this 1997 Herbert Wernicke production staged at the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels. Based on Offenbach's meatier second version (1874) of the Orpheus legend, it features nicely judged performances across the board and some stunning special effects, notably the explosive locomotive crash signalling the breach of the divide between Heaven and Hell. Satire reigns, not least in the reactionary figure of Public Opinion, a pinny-clad bossy boots with a hint of Dame Edna Everage about her. Olympus is a moribund salon full of bored Gods, sick of the Ambrosian diet. The casting is excellent, with Jacqueline van Quaille's chain-smoking dowager Juno heading the field. Alexandru Badea’s Orpheus subverts the legend in his purely pragmatic pursuit of Eurydice (the thrush-voiced soprano Elizabeth Vidal) that has nothing to do with love. Dale Duesing's Jupiter is louche and sexy, particularly in the very funny fly scene in the second act. From first to last, Wernicke's production offers something to catch the eye and ear, culminating in the well-loved, frantic can-can finale. Overall this is not only well-sung but very entertaining. On the DVD: Orphée aux Enfers gets the standard stage-to-video treatment. The picture quality (16:9) is OK but often dark so you strain to catch some of the production's design subtleties. Excellent sound (PCM stereo) brings Offenbach's vibrant score to the forefront, well matched by the strong performances of the principal singers.--Piers Ford

  • Wagner: Siegfried -- Metropolitan/Levine Wagner: Siegfried -- Metropolitan/Levine | DVD | (14/10/2002) from £18.23  |  Saving you £3.76 (17.10%)  |  RRP £21.99

    James Levine makes Siegfried, sometimes the problem child among the four operas of Wagner's Ring cycle, attractive and interesting. He is aware of the darker side of some of the comic scenes--the seemingly benevolent dwarf Mime carries the weight of Wagner's many prejudices--but manages to keep them uneasy rather than positively sinister thanks to the finally judged performance of Heinz Zednik. Siegfried Jerusalem is admirable as Siegfried, full of boyish enthusiasm during the reforging of the sword, and of authority in his confrontations with the dragon and with Wotan. (The dragon itself is, as so often, an unfortunate compromise between realism and stylisation.) James Morris is extraordinary in Wotan's scenes here, his combination of injured pride and relieved joy when Siegfried demonstrates, by shattering his spear, that Wotan has entirely lost control of events is exemplary. This is an opera whose many and various scenes are all preludes to its emotional core: the love duet which comes when Siegfried awakens Brunnhilde. Jerusalem and Hildegard Behrens convey both the innocence and the ardor of this duet; while Levine gets extraordinary playing from the Metropolitan Opera orchestra throughout, but especially here, where a chamber-like delicacy applies to much of the music. On the DVD Siegfried on this disc is a recording of the 1990 Metropolitan Opera production and comes with both menus and subtitles in German, French, English, Spanish and Chinese as well as a picture gallery. Awkwardly it is presented in (American) NTSC format not PAL, and the visual ratio is standard TV 4:3. Better is the choice of sound formats--PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital and DTS digital--which provide a spacious acoustic that gives proper weight to the climaxes, and an appropriate delicacy to Wagner's subtler passages. --Roz Kaveney

  • Die Zauberflote [1978] Die Zauberflote | DVD | (14/06/2004) from £11.57  |  Saving you £3.42 (22.80%)  |  RRP £14.99

    Opera in two acts from the Glyndebourne Festival Opera 1978. Sung in German.

  • Mozart: Don Giovanni -- Glyndebourne [1995] Mozart: Don Giovanni -- Glyndebourne | DVD | (21/08/2000) from £12.75  |  Saving you £7.24 (36.20%)  |  RRP £19.99

    Deborah Warner's 1995 production of Don Giovanni for Glyndebourne is characterised by a central portrayal of the Don as at once evil and sexually magnetic. Gilles Cachemille has at one at the same time a raffish charm and a deep mean-spiritedness--many Don Giovannis don't bully his servant nearly as much as this one, and Warner pushes his sinfulness all the way into sacrilege--apart from mocking the Commendatore's grave effigy, this Giovanni also has his way with a statue of the Madonna. Pieczonka's Elvira is at once stately and sensual--there is no sense of hysteria here, rather more of a deep sadness and sense of a ruined life. Page's Leporello is a wonderful long-faced clown; his catalogue aria is at once genuinely funny and a rather sadistic tease of Elvira. Though Kreizberg is working with authentic forces, the feel of his performance has a passionate gloominess that teeters on the brink of Romanticism without ever exceeding the work's adventurousness. The DVD comes with subtitles in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, as well as a full printable text of the libretto. --Roz Kaveney

  • The Art Of Singing - Golden Voices Of The Century [1996] The Art Of Singing - Golden Voices Of The Century | DVD | (01/07/2000) from £16.25  |  Saving you £1.74 (9.70%)  |  RRP £17.99

    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.

  • Cosi Fan Tutte - Mozart Cosi Fan Tutte - Mozart | DVD | (23/07/2004) from £8.95  |  Saving you £1.04 (10.40%)  |  RRP £9.99

    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.

  • Charlie and Lola - 2 Charlie and Lola - 2 | DVD | (15/05/2006) from £4.20  |  Saving you £3.20 (40.10%)  |  RRP £7.99

    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.

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