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Aria | DVD | (15/06/2009)
from £6.69 | Saving you £13.30 (66.50%) | 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.
Carmen - Bizet | DVD | (27/02/2006)
from £4.49 | Saving you £10.50 (70.00%) | RRP
Carmen is a timeless tragedy never more relevant than today. It is a tale of desire seduction jealousy and betrayal. And in this Ted Brandsen's minimalist production the devastating finale is heightened by the complete lack of artifice. Rodion Shchedrin's fluid and muscular musical adaptation fits this raw and original performance by the West Australian Ballet like Carmen's red dress - tight revealing and like the production impossible to ignore.
Mozart: Cosi fan tutte | DVD | (30/06/2001)
from £N/A | Saving you £N/A (N/A%) | RRP
Mozart's third and final opera with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, the hugely ambitious dramatic comedy Così fan Tutte (roughly translated as: "They're All Like That"), is brought passionately to life in a first-class production conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and featuring one of the great starring roles for Cecilia Bartoli. Filmed live at the Zurich Opera House in February 2000 on a set which visualises the subtitle "The School for Lovers", the plot revolves around two army officers arguing about the fidelity of their brides, then setting out to test their chastity. Despite the often playful humour, this is not only psychologically telling music-making, but reveals Mozart exploring the structure of opera, discarding convention to mix large ensemble sections with arias for as many different combinations of singers as possible. With Liliana Nikiteanu attractively contrasted with Bartoli, and thoroughly convincing performances by Roberto Sacca (Ferrando) and Oliver Widmer (Guilelmo), this Così has a freshness and flow which, coupled with the timeless romantic themes, feels very contemporary. On the DVD: the presentation, which includes an interesting 22-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, is spread over two DVDs. There is a multi-language booklet minus libretto, though there is the option to watch with English subtitles. Given the difficult live stage lighting conditions the 16:9 anamorphically enhanced picture is as good as can be expected. There are both stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, though the latter gives the voices a disconcertingly disembodied character, leaving the former to be preferred. The total running time is approximately 213 minutes, not 275 minutes stated on the packaging. --Gary S Dalkin
La Traviata - Verdi | DVD | (13/06/2005)
from £16.84 | Saving you £4.14 (16.60%) | RRP
The famous performance of Verdi's romantic tragedy captures one of the most sensational debuts in operatic history. Singing Violetta for the first time was the young Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu whose remarkable interpretation reached the front pages of the world's press and led the BBC immediately to film the production. Equally notable was the masterly conducting of Sir Georg Solti and director Richard Eyre's stylish staging. This DVD and highlights CD present the definitive record of a momentous occasion.
Madama Butterfly - Puccini | DVD | (09/05/2005)
from £13.33 | Saving you £0.66 (4.70%) | RRP
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
Patience - Gilbert And Sullivan | DVD | (29/05/2006)
from £12.15 | Saving you £2.84 (18.90%) | RRP
Gilvert And Sullivan: Patience (Stanhope Elizabethan Philharmonic Orchestra)
Tosca - Puccini | DVD | (09/05/2005)
from £15.39 | Saving you £1.60 (9.40%) | RRP
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
Cavalleria Rusticana - Mascagni / Pagliacci - Leoncavallo | DVD | (09/05/2005)
from £14.15 | Saving you £-1.10 (-7.90%) | RRP
The great Italian stage and screen director Franco Zeffirelli made these widely acclaimed films both starring Placido Domingo with Georges Pretre conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala. Pagliacci which co-stars the great singing actress Teresa Stratas brought Zeffirelli the coveted Emmy as Best Director in the category of Classical Music Programming. Cavalleria was filmed on location in Sicily which adds immeasurably to the power and atmosphere of this timeless story of love honour justice and violence.
Carmen | DVD | (12/02/2003)
from £21.99 | Saving you £8.00 (26.70%) | RRP
All too often Bizet's great comic opera Carmen has been pared down to its basic bodice-ripping components, leaving its adored melodies with only torrid clichés to cling on to. Nothing of the sort happens here. David McVicar's 2002 production for Glyndebourne restores it to its rightful place as a stupendous musical entertainment. Bold, lusty, tightly directed and designed in sanguine shades of red and black, this Carmen spills and bustles across the stage and out of the screen like a living painting. At first glance, Anne Sofie von Otter is not an obvious choice for the title role, but just look at how she seizes and inhabits the character, wrenching her from the jaws of dark, sultry stereotype and rendering a complex modern woman. Her Carmen both revels in and is tormented by the ripe sexuality that fascinates her lovers and sets her apart from the other women. Von Otter's interpretation suggests it has its roots in a hinterland of wretched, bitter experience; the "Habanera", the "Gypsy Song" and the "Seguidilla" become multi-layered expressions of hope and desire: we never forget that for all its gusto, Carmen ends up a tragedy. And the men aren't ciphers. Laurent Naouri's proud Escamillo and Marcus Haddock's immature, damaged Don José are rounded, richly sung characters. So too, is Lisa Milne's touching Micaëla. All told, this Carmen is full-length, fibrous and, with conductor Philippe Jordan at the helm, a triumph. On the DVD: Carmen is spread over two discs, presented in anamorphic widescreen format that opens up the stage and capitalises on some refreshingly brisk camerawork. The sound quality (Digital Surround sound) is finely balanced. A rich set of extras includes fascinating short documentaries on various aspects of the production, from stage fights to characterisation and costume design. There's also a useful spoken synopsis and a stroll through the famous Glyndebourne Gardens. --Piers Ford
Beethoven - Missa Solemnis | DVD | (04/02/2008)
from £10.85 | Saving you £6.14 (36.10%) | RRP
Beethoven's Missa Solemnis from the 1979 Salzburg Easter Festival.
Mozart: Cosi fan tutte -- Berlin/Barenboim | DVD | (29/09/2003)
from £24.14 | Saving you £5.85 (19.50%) | RRP
A double DVD performance of Mozart's 'Cosi Fan Tutte' produced and directed by Doris Dorrie for the 2002 Staatsoper Berlin.
Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffmann -- Royal Opera House/Pretre | DVD | (22/09/2003)
from £11.19 | Saving you £6.80 (37.80%) | RRP
This famous and highly-praised Royal Opera production by film director John Schlesinger filmed in 1981 is as good as we are ever likely to see. The spectacular designs by Maria Bjornson and William Dudley vividly bring Hoffman's nightmare world to life. The brilliant cast is led by Placido Domingo as Hoffmann in one of his towering portrayals. He has become wholly identified with this part in a way that no other artist has.
Salome | DVD | (03/03/2003)
from £12.74 | Saving you £1.60 (9.40%) | RRP
A performance of Strauss's biblical 'Salome' at the Royal Opera House.
Die Verkaufte Braut - Smetana/Adam Fischer/Orchester Der Wiener Staatsoper | DVD | (10/09/2007)
from £14.75 | Saving you £1.60 (9.40%) | RRP
Smetana: Die Verkaufte Braut (Aka: The Bartered Bridge)
Die Fledermaus | DVD | (22/09/2003)
from £10.99 | Saving you £7.00 (38.90%) | RRP
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
The Bangles - Return to Bangleonia | DVD | (14/07/2008)
from £23.99 | Saving you £0.00 (0.00%) | RRP
One of the most successful female groups of all time The Bangles make a triumphant return to their hometown of L.A. with their first ever concert DVD. The queens of power pop pull out all of their hits from Walk Like An Egyptian to Eternal Flame along with early fan favorites like Hero Takes A Fall. Extras include acoustic performances of Ride The Ride and Princes Manic Monday a candid interview with the band about their history and a photo gallery with rare and never-before-seen photos. 1. Hazy Shade Of Winter 2. Live 3. If She Knew What She Wants 4. Between The Two 5. The Rain Song 6. Manic Monday 7. Here Right Now 8. September Gurls 9. Going Down To Liverpool 10. I Will Take Care Of You 11. Get The Girl 12. In Your Room 13. Stealing Rosemary 14. Angels Dont Fall In Love 13. Hero Takes A Fall 14. Walk Like An Egyptian 15. Pushin Too Hard 16. Eternal Flame
Donizetti: L'Elisir D'Amore (The Elixir of Love) | DVD | (11/03/2002)
from £10.39 | Saving you £5.60 (35.00%) | RRP
It's hard to think of a couple better suited to play the romantic leads in Donizetti's comedy L'Elisir d'amore than husband-and-wife team Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu. Both are charming on stage, and both have voices to die for: Gheorghiu's dark liquid tones are particularly spine-tingling, and her coloratura abilities awe-inspiring, and though Alagna has mainly concentrated on the more spinto (powerful) roles of the tenor repertoire, in 1996 when this live production was recorded his voice was just a little fresher and lighter and thus perfect for the bel canto gracefulness of Donizetti's writing. His performance of "Una furtiva lagrima", for example, is meltingly sung and free from all temptation to overplay the high notes. Frank Dunlop's 1920s-set production doesn't quite produce the belly laughs some stagings manage (in Dulcamara's patter song, for example), but has a certain small-town wistful charm nonetheless. The orchestral accompaniment under Donizetti expert Evelino Pidò is spot on, and never falls into the banal "oom-pah" trap that such simple writing can often lead to. Overall, it's a production of great charm. On the DVD: L'Elisir d'amore comes to disc with a 52-minute film on the history of the opera and its recording, with contributions from Alagna and Gheorghiu, and subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish and Chinese. The Lyon opera house is particularly well set up for video recording, and Brian Large does a sophisticated job of capturing a live performance: it's hard to believe at some points that the cameras aren't actually on stage in the middle of the action. Just occasionally this leads to the singers not knowing where to look and seeming a trifle lost, but generally the performances work superbly well on the small screen. --Warwick Thomson
Salome | DVD | (09/09/2002)
from £14.94 | Saving you £23.05 (60.70%) | RRP
A one-act production performed at The Royal Opera House Covent Garden with Maria Ewing in the lead role ably supported by Michael Devlin and Kenneth Riegel. The Orchestra of The Royal Opera House is conducted by Edward Downes. Directed by Derek Bailey. English subtitles.
Verdi - Macbeth | DVD | (22/10/2007)
from £15.69 | Saving you £6.30 (28.60%) | RRP
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