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  • Puccini: Madama Butterfly -- Verona/Arena [1983] Puccini: Madama Butterfly -- Verona/Arena | DVD | (11/06/2001) from £7.99  |  Saving you £7.69 (42.70%)  |  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

  • Verdi: La Traviata -- Venice [1992] Verdi: La Traviata -- Venice | DVD | (10/04/2000) from £10.59  |  Saving you £7.40 (41.10%)  |  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

  • Verdi: Aida -- Metropolitan Opera Verdi: Aida -- Metropolitan Opera | DVD | (20/11/2000) from £9.58  |  Saving you £7.41 (43.60%)  |  RRP £16.99

    A star-studded production from New York's Metropolitan Opera with Aprile Millo and Placido Domingo in the lead roles supported by the Metropolitan Opera Chorus and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; conducted by James Levine. Please note: This is a NTSC disc please ensure the compatibility of your TV.

  • Don Giovanni - Mozart [1987] Don Giovanni - Mozart | DVD | (23/04/2004) from £8.85  |  Saving you £1.14 (11.40%)  |  RRP £9.99

    A performance of the Mozart opera Don Giovanni.

  • Pirates Of Penzance - Gilbert And Sullivan [1982] Pirates Of Penzance - Gilbert And Sullivan | DVD | (13/12/2004) from £7.92  |  Saving you £8.07 (50.50%)  |  RRP £15.99

    Having mistakenly been sent as an apprentice to pirates young Frederic is happy to leave his indentures on his 21st birthday. Falling in love with the beautiful Mabel one of the many daughters of Major-General Stanley he decides to marry. However the pirates are all to keen to marry the rest of Stanley's daughters! A spectacular interpretation of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic!

  • Conspiracy Theories Conspiracy Theories | DVD | (25/06/2007) from £52.20  |  Saving you £N/A (N/A%)  |  RRP £19.99

    Uncovering some of history's most intriguing mysteries

  • Madama Butterfly - Puccini [1974] Madama Butterfly - Puccini | DVD | (09/05/2005) from £11.49  |  Saving you £-1.40 (-10.00%)  |  RRP £13.99

    Of all Puccini's major operas, the intimate tragedy of Madama Butterfly is least in need of elaborate staging and might therefore benefit most from the close scrutiny of film. The story is domestic, the setting Spartan, the incidental characters kept to a minimum. This 1974 version, however, demonstrates that Butterfly still needs a healthy injection of proscenium arch melodrama. Director Jean-Pierre Ponelle's production strives for realism but remains unfortunately studio-bound, having neither the benefit of location filming nor the heightened reality of an opera stage. The exterior is a perpetually fog-shrouded heath of indeterminate locale; the interior is cramped and unadorned. The setting is just too prosaic to contain the epic emotions of grand opera. Thankfully, the cast is superb, headed by Placido Domingo's rakish Pinkerton and Mirella Freni's rubicund Butterfly. Their singing is incomparable, as is Herbert von Karajan's musical direction of the Vienna Phil. The singers mime to pre-recorded music, which is occasionally disconcerting since when film demands close-ups opera provides broad gestures. Musically, this Butterfly is impeccable. Visually it adds nothing that could not be seen to better effect in a stage version. On the DVD: Madama Butterfly is presented disappointingly on disc in a poor NTSC transfer full of distracting graininess that makes every scene, both inside and out, look like it takes place in an omnipresent drizzle. Sound is reasonable stereo and adequate 5.0 surround. There are subtitles in the major European languages as well as Chinese, and the booklet contains a background essay plus synopsis. --Mark Walker

  • Bizet - Les Pecheurs De Perles Bizet - Les Pecheurs De Perles | DVD | (04/04/2005) from £15.49  |  Saving you £4.50 (22.50%)  |  RRP £19.99

    Widely remembered as the composer of one of the most popular operas of all time CARMEN Georges Bizet was also responsible for this lesser-known gem. Written when he was only 25 the work was not well-recieved upon its initial performance in 1863 but has since come to be appreciated for its beauty and orchestral subtlety. The libretto deals with two men King Zurga of Ceylon and his friend Nadir who are both in love with a high priestess Lla. Though each claim to be over Leila when Nadir recognizes her in the temple he cannot deny his feelings which are returned; though she has vowed celibacy they meet in secret and are discovered. The jealous Zurga condemns Lla to death but when he realizes she intervened on his behalf years ago he changes his mind with catastophic results. This production of the only Bizet opera to remain in the repertoire was performed in Venice with an extraordinary Annick Massis as Lla while the staging was executed by Pier Luigi Pizzi. Highlights of the show include Leila's aria ""Comme autrefois dans la nuit sombre "" and the stunning duet between Lla and Nadir ""Ton coeur n'a pas compris le mien.""

  • Mozart: Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) -- Royal Opera House/Davis [2003] Mozart: Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) -- Royal Opera House/Davis | DVD | (22/08/2003) from £19.79  |  Saving you £5.20 (20.80%)  |  RRP £24.99

    A performance of the David McVicar production of Mozart's last opera. Colin Davis conducts the Royal Opera Chorus and Orchestra. Recorded at Covent Garden.

  • Fidelio - Beethoven [2000] Fidelio - Beethoven | DVD | (19/01/2004) from £14.50  |  Saving you £2.49 (14.70%)  |  RRP £16.99

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

  • Verdi: Un Ballo in Maschera -- Metropolitan Opera/Levine Verdi: Un Ballo in Maschera -- Metropolitan Opera/Levine | DVD | (09/09/2002) from £15.39  |  Saving you £1.60 (9.40%)  |  RRP £16.99

    A performance of Verdi's opera 'Un Ballo In Maschera' by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra And Chorus; conducted by James Levine. Singers include: Luciano Pavarotti and Aprile Millo. Directed by Brian Large.

  • Parsifal - Wagner/Stein Parsifal - Wagner/Stein | DVD | (16/07/2007) from £14.99  |  Saving you £0.00 (0.00%)  |  RRP £14.99

    Wolfgang Wagner's arrestingly beautiful production filmed live at Bayreuth in 1981 and directed by Brian Large features a stellar cast led by Eva Randova Bernd Weikl and Siegfried Jerusalem.

  • 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.

  • Offenbach: La Belle Helene -- Paris/Minkowski [2000] Offenbach: La Belle Helene -- Paris/Minkowski | DVD | (03/12/2001) from £N/A  |  Saving you £N/A (N/A%)  |  RRP £24.99

    Jacques Offenbach's 19th century parody of life under the yoke of Napoleon III, La Belle Hélène, has always seemed as tongue-in-cheek as the material could go. This new staging from the Théâtre Musical de Paris' 2000 season proves you can always go further. As if the social comment and knowing musical allusions (eg: Wagner's Tannhäuser) weren't enough, now via director Lauren Pelly's imagination Helen (Dame Felicity Lott) becomes a modern sexually frustrated woman dreaming the entire scenario. In her dream she is singled out as the most beautiful woman on Earth (prompting vain delusions to rival Snow White's wicked stepmother) as reward for Pâris (Yann Beuron) choosing Venus as most beautiful Goddess off Earth. Act 1 takes place in the bedroom and bed of Helen and ineffectual husband/king Ménélas (Michel Sénéchal). Here the fusion of costumes worn by High Priest Calchas (François Le Roux) seems incongruous until the archaeological dig setting of Act 2 turns everything into a dream. From then on, the analogy of bed as throne, the sheep costumes and male and female swimsuit parade followed by synchronised stage "swimming" of Act 3 all take on greater significance. Les Musicians du Louvre give a tremendous performance under Marc Minkowski's baton (which you often see popping into frame), particularly in the centrepiece duet between Lott and Beuron for their "Dream of Love". Contemporary makeovers of opera often lose sight of the original's intentions, but this update certainly preserves the spirit of Offenbach's vision. On the DVD: A choice of Stereo, Dolby 5.1 or DTS is a testament to the careful staging of this production, as is the video's multi-camera edit. In fact, the 25-minute behind-the-scenes documentary reveals the DVD was conceived as part of the staging. Four interviews make this a most welcome supplement, with Dame Lott having the most to say. --Paul Tonks

  • Monteverdi: L'Incoronazione di Poppea -- Glyndebourne [1984] Monteverdi: L'Incoronazione di Poppea -- Glyndebourne | DVD | (26/04/2004) from £10.59  |  Saving you £7.40 (41.10%)  |  RRP £17.99

    Peter Hall's lavishly staged L'Incoronazione di Poppea celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Glyndebourne in 1984 with a performance of Monteverdi's most celebrated and also most controversial opera. The score is conductor Raymond Leppard's "enhanced" edition, which he had premiered at Glyndebourne back in 1962, fully scored for a large orchestra. Much debate circles around the forces appropriate for performing Monteverdi's decidedly minimalist work, but one thing at least is certain: it didn't sound anything like this in the 17th century! Never mind, however inauthentic it may be, Leppard's big and beefy orchestral updating--including a fulsome continuo group with pairs of harpsichords, organs and cellos, as well as lute, guitar and harp--supports the weighty melodrama nicely. The singers, too, are full-bodied, led by a fruity Maria Ewing as Poppea (in various revealing outfits) sounding suitably seductive, and Dennis Bailey, oddly lovely of voice as Nero (one of the opera's controversial aspects is the heroic central role accorded to these two thoroughly wicked characters). Perhaps best of all is Robert Lloyd as Seneca, who not only boasts a profound, reverberant bass, but also looks the part under beard and toga. With an onstage chorus to lament him, Seneca's death scene is the most moving in the opera. Peter Hall's clever staging keeps the Olympians--Love, Fortune and Virtue--permanently watching from above as the venal humans below act out this tragedy of poisoned love. The no-frills DVD has subtitles in English, French, German and Spanish. --Mark Walker

  • Mozart In Turkey Mozart In Turkey | DVD | (22/12/2003) from £5.49  |  Saving you £14.50 (72.50%)  |  RRP £19.99

    Mozart in Turkey is a feature-length 88-minute hybrid BBC co-production which interleaves making-of documentary footage (24 minutes) and filmed highlights (64 minutes) from Mozart's opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail ("The Abduction from the Seraglio"). Working to their pre-recorded performance of the complete opera conducted by leading Mozartian Sir Charles Mackerras with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Choir, we see the cast mime to playback key arias, duets and quartets from Mozart's gorgeous work. The story of a Spanish noble woman, Konstanze (soprano Yelda Kodalli), her English maid, Blonde (soprano Désirée Rancatore), fiancé, Belmonte (tenor Paul Groves) and his servant, Pedrillo (tenor Lynton Atkinson) in the Turkish Harem of Pasha Selim (Oliver Tobias in a speaking role) is beautifully filmed in the famous Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The documentary sections offer a brief, rather superficial look at Mozart's writing of the opera and the ideas that influenced it and are expressed within the drama. The music-making is hardly to be faulted and the staging is ravishing. Unfortunately the whole seems like an over-length DVD extra that should accompany a complete film of the opera--the very thing that is mysteriously missing from this release. On the DVD Mozart in Turkey is presented anamorphically, enhanced at 16:9 for widescreen televisions, with a virtually flawless picture taken, presumably, from digital tape. If the programme is watched complete the sound is stereo only and the music sometimes sounds harsh. If music highlights are selected, sound is available in stereo or a much fuller and more rounded Dolby Digital 5.1. There are optional subtitles in English, German, Spanish, French and Dutch, but if any of these is selected it is imposed over the English-language documentary sections as well as the German-language opera scenes. When playing music highlights there are rather abrupt and unmusical fades in and out between scenes. The menu is awful, offering the option either to play all or select a given track, but not to play from a particular scene onwards. Switching subtitles on or off, or changing audio tracks, entails returning to the main menu then starting the programme afresh. There is no resume play facility and there are no extras. --Gary S Dalkin

  • Die Fledermaus [1985] Die Fledermaus | DVD | (22/09/2003) from £10.59  |  Saving you £7.40 (41.10%)  |  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

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

    Verdi - Nabucco

  • Puccini: Tosca -- 2002 Film Version Puccini: Tosca -- 2002 Film Version | DVD | (23/06/2003) from £11.35  |  Saving you £5.20 (20.80%)  |  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

  • You Can Be A Ballet Dancer You Can Be A Ballet Dancer | DVD | (11/04/2005) from £4.08  |  Saving you £1.91 (31.90%)  |  RRP £5.99

    An instructional film for children interested in beginning ballet The film follows the basic steps for absolute beginners and takes you right through to preparing for your 'presentation class'.

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