"Actor: Christa Ludwig"

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  • Madama Butterfly - Puccini [1974]Madama Butterfly - Puccini | DVD | (09/05/2005) from £14.09   |  Saving you £-0.10 (N/A%)   |  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

  • Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen -- Metropolitan/LevineWagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen -- Metropolitan/Levine | DVD | (14/10/2002) from £44.89   |  Saving you £1.10 (2.45%)   |  RRP £45.99

    The James Levine cycle of Wagners Der Ring des Nibelungen is humane and emotionally powerful rather than monumental or spiritual; Levine is more interested in finding our sympathy for the characters than inspiring pity or terror. These are very traditional productions in which you see a rock where you need to see a rock, a dragon where the libretto says a dragon (the Metropolitan Opera has never been a place for experiment). What Levine and the Met can and do offer is excellent orchestral playing and some of the best singers in these roles in the world. Siegfried Jerusalem is boyish and naive and touching as Siegfried, and he is also surprisingly good as the detached mischievous Loge of Das Rheingold. James Morris is uniformly impressive as Wotan and makes the character evolve from the young ruthless god of the first opera to the tired old god of Siegfried, who seeks nothing more than his own necessary defeat and death. As Brunnhilde, Hildegard Behrens makes a convincing shift from goddess to woman, from callousness to tenderness and on to vindictiveness and self-sacrificing wisdom. Overall, this is an attractive Ring cycle, well-cast and beautifully played; others have greater strengths in some areas, but Levine is reliable across the board. On the DVD: Der Ring des Nibelungen has all four operas, which are also available individually, contained in a single box. All the DVDs come with a photo gallery of the Metropolitan Opera productions and with menus and subtitles in German, French, English, Spanish and Chinese. Its a little disappointing, though, that they are presented in American NTSC format, not European PAL, and the picture ratio is standard TV 4:3. On the plus side, they all have an excellent clear acoustic in the three audio options: PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. --Roz Kaveney

  • Mahler-Complete SymphoniesMahler-Complete Symphonies | DVD | (24/10/2005) from £59.59   |  Saving you £4.40 (6.90%)   |  RRP £63.99

  • Beethoven - the Symphonies (Von Karajan, Berliner Po) [2005]Beethoven - the Symphonies (Von Karajan, Berliner Po) | DVD | (21/11/2005) from £19.25   |  Saving you £5.74 (29.82%)   |  RRP £24.99

    Now being released for the first time ever on DVD these performances pay tribute to the legendary Herbert von Karajan who recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies three times for Deutsche Grammophon.With the Berliner Philharmoniker and a stunning cast led by soprano Gundula Janowitz these performances remain the benchmark recordings unsurpassed by subsequent readings. Along with his role on the podium Maestro Karajan was also responsible for the thrilling visual direction.These recordings from the late sixties and early seventies offer insight into Maestro Karajan's role not only as a leading conductor but also as a pioneer in new media and filming techniques. This production set a new standard for the interpretation of Beethoven's Symphonies and in terms of music filming in general.

  • Bernstein, Leonard - Candide (Bernstein, Lso, Hadley, Gedda)Bernstein, Leonard - Candide (Bernstein, Lso, Hadley, Gedda) | DVD | (11/09/2006) from £13.39   |  Saving you £3.60 (21.20%)   |  RRP £16.99

    The historic concert that preceded Bernstein's only recording of Candide. Videotaped at the Barbican Centre, London, 13 December 1989.

  • Wagner: Die Walkure -- Metropolitan/LevineWagner: Die Walkure -- Metropolitan/Levine | DVD | (14/10/2002) from £N/A   |  Saving you £N/A (N/A%)   |  RRP £21.99

    The 1990 Metropolitan Opera performance of Die Walkure ("The Valkyrie") with James Levine conducting is a solid, four-square performance with few frills and no gimmicks, just extraordinarily fine singing and orchestral playing. There is no point in this where you find yourself asking why the director did something: this is the sort of production which could be criticised as unimaginative but defended as serving Wagner's intentions for this instalment of his Ring cycle. Levine and his orchestra give the music an emotional intensity that never overwhelms its grandeur, though perhaps in Wotan's farewell to Brunnhilde, we feel him more as father than as god. James Morris as Wotan has real stature, making us feel that he has finally created the free agents he needs to avoid the curse he has unleashed on the world, but he has broken his heart in the process. Jessye Norman is surprisingly good and erotically self-assured as Sieglinde; the Act 1 love duet with Gary Lake as Siegmund has an ardour that makes the incestuous aspect less a matter of perversity than of the conduct of heroes. Kurt Moll makes Sieglinde's rapist and husband Hunding, a three-dimensional sinister villain; and Christa Ludwig almost manages to sell us Fricka's interminable paean to family values. The most impressive performance here, though, is Hildegard Behrens as Brunnhilde, the steely godling who sacrifices everything because she learns to feel and to know what is right. On the DVD Die Walkure on disc comes with menus and subtitles in German, French, English, Spanish and Chinese and with a picture gallery of the production. Awkwardly it is presented in (American) NTSC format not PAL, with a visual aspect of standard TV 4:3. More impressive is the choice of PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 6.1; the sound is admirably clear and well-balanced. --Roz Kaveney

  • Wagner: Das Rheingold -- Metropolitan/LevineWagner: Das Rheingold -- Metropolitan/Levine | DVD | (14/10/2002) from £15.75   |  Saving you £1.24 (7.87%)   |  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

  • Wagner: Gotterdammerung -- Metropolitan/LevineWagner: Gotterdammerung -- Metropolitan/Levine | DVD | (14/10/2002) from £21.33   |  Saving you £0.66 (3.00%)   |  RRP £21.99

    Under the baton of James Levine, Gotterdammerung ("The Twilight of the Gods") has a narrative drive that reminds us that, of all the individual operas in Wagner's Ring cycle, this is the one most about human emotions and the one in which its heroes are pulled into a world where they are most vulnerable to them. Siegfried Jerusalem as Siegfried and Hildegard Behrens as Brunnhilde never, in a sense, stand a chance: they are innocents who allow themselves to be manipulated not merely by the villainous Hagen, but by the ordinary venality of Gunther and his sister Gutrune, who goes along with a dirty little scheme to get what she wants, and is destroyed by it. As the tempter figure Hagen, Matti Salminen dominates the stage whenever he is on it; he is one of those basses whose voice and scowl seem to come from somewhere deeper than his large boots: rarely have the summoning of the vassals, or the oath of vengeance he, Gunther and Brunnhilde swear against Siegfried seemed so utterly his triumph. Jerusalem is almost perfect as Siegfried in spite of the gravelly quality of his heroic tenor: he has a glorious innocence even when the character is tricked into desecrating his true love; Hildegard Behrens is magnificent as Brunnhilde, both in her anger at Siegfried's apparent betrayal of her and in her redemptive understanding of how she has to atone for his death. Other Gotterdammerungs may be more monumental, but few make you care so passionately. On the DVD: Gotterdammerung comes with menus and subtitles in German, French, English, Spanish and Chinese and with a picture gallery of the production. Awkwardly it is presented in (American) NTSC format, not PAL, and with a visual aspect of standard TV 4:3. More impressive is the choice of PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1; the sound is admirably clear and well-balanced. --Roz Kaveney

  • Mahler - Symphonies Nos. 9 and 10, Das Lied Von Der ErdeMahler - Symphonies Nos. 9 and 10, Das Lied Von Der Erde | DVD | (24/10/2005) from £18.23   |  Saving you £3.76 (17.10%)   |  RRP £21.99

    Mahler - Symphonies Nos. 9 And 10 Das Lied Von Der Erde

  • Christa Ludwig: Lieder Recital [DVD] [2009]Christa Ludwig: Lieder Recital | DVD | (30/03/2009) from £19.45   |  Saving you £0.54 (2.70%)   |  RRP £19.99

    Lieder Recital

  • Little Drummer Boy - An Essay On Gustav Mahler By And With Leonard BernsteinLittle Drummer Boy - An Essay On Gustav Mahler By And With Leonard Bernstein | DVD | (16/07/2007) from £N/A   |  Saving you £N/A (N/A%)   |  RRP £16.99

    This television essay from 1985 was written by Leonard Bernstein to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Gustav Mahler's birth. The essay recorded in Israel Vienna and later in London is punctuated by biographical interludes and illustrated by musical examples drawn from the cycle of Mahler's works recorded by Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein talks plays and conducts various orchestras (Israel Philharmonic Orchestra London Philharmonic Orchestra Wiener Philharmoniker) and soloists (Janet Baker Christa Ludwig Edith Mathis Lucia Popp Walton Groenroos) in performances spanning 17 years. Leonard Bernstein also examines the roots of Gustav Mahler's inspiration. This DVD features music from the nine symphonies The Song of the Earth and the Wunderhorn Cycle.

  • Puccini - GoldPuccini - Gold | DVD | (07/04/2008) from £18.98   |  Saving you £-1.99 (-11.70%)   |  RRP £16.99

    The ultimate A Night At The Opera collection from the world's most popular opera composer, featuring many o the greatest singers of our time. Eighteen favourite arias and ensembles from the classic operas La Boheme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Turandot, performed by Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Mirella Freni and many more.

  • Wagner: Die Walkure -- Metropolitan/Levine [1991]Wagner: Die Walkure -- Metropolitan/Levine | DVD | (12/04/2001) from £N/A   |  Saving you £N/A (N/A%)   |  RRP £29.99

    The 1990 Metropolitan Opera performance of Die Walkure ("The Valkyrie") with James Levine conducting is a solid, four-square performance with few frills and no gimmicks, just extraordinarily fine singing and orchestral playing. There is no point in this where you find yourself asking why the director did something: this is the sort of production which could be criticised as unimaginative but defended as serving Wagner's intentions for this instalment of his Ring cycle. Levine and his orchestra give the music an emotional intensity that never overwhelms its grandeur, though perhaps in Wotan's farewell to Brunnhilde, we feel him more as father than as god. James Morris as Wotan has real stature, making us feel that he has finally created the free agents he needs to avoid the curse he has unleashed on the world, but he has broken his heart in the process. Jessye Norman is surprisingly good and erotically self-assured as Sieglinde; the Act 1 love duet with Gary Lake as Siegmund has an ardour that makes the incestuous aspect less a matter of perversity than of the conduct of heroes. Kurt Moll makes Sieglinde's rapist and husband Hunding, a three-dimensional sinister villain; and Christa Ludwig almost manages to sell us Fricka's interminable paean to family values. The most impressive performance here, though, is Hildegard Behrens as Brunnhilde, the steely godling who sacrifices everything because she learns to feel and to know what is right. On the DVD Die Walkure on disc comes with menus and subtitles in German, French, English, Spanish and Chinese and with a picture gallery of the production. Awkwardly it is presented in (American) NTSC format not PAL, with a visual aspect of standard TV 4:3. More impressive is the choice of PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 6.1; the sound is admirably clear and well-balanced. --Roz Kaveney

  • Schubert: Die Winterreise [DVD] [2009]Schubert: Die Winterreise | DVD | (02/03/2009) from £20.15   |  Saving you £-0.16 (-0.80%)   |  RRP £19.99

    Winterreise (Die)

  • Christa Ludwig - The Birthday Edition [1994]Christa Ludwig - The Birthday Edition | DVD | (28/01/2008) from £22.18   |  Saving you £2.81 (11.20%)   |  RRP £24.99

    The intimate auditorium of the magnificent neo-baroque Volkstheater in Vienna was packed with a discerning and enthusiastic audience when Christa Ludwig gave two master classes there.The first master class focuses on Mozart and concludes with a performance extract featuring the young Christa Ludwig as Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte (1970). The second includes pieces by Beethoven, Bizet and Massenet and, at the end, the greatness of her art is recalled as she is seen singing Mistress Quickly in a production of Verdi's Falstaff (1982).

  • Puccini: Madama Butterfly -- 1974 film version/Von KarajanPuccini: Madama Butterfly -- 1974 film version/Von Karajan | DVD | (15/10/2001) from £N/A   |  Saving you £N/A (N/A%)   |  RRP £19.79

    Of all Puccinis 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 Ponelles 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 Domingos rakish Pinkerton and Mirella Frenis rubicund Butterfly. Their singing is incomparable, as is Herbert von Karajans 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

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