A profile on one of the first female composers Hildegard Von Bingen (1098-1179) whose story is known. She believed that music had the power to heal. Disc one contains a performance of Ordo Virtutum with ensemble Vox Animae. Disc two contains a dramatised account of Hildegard's life performed by Patricia Routledge.
Verdi was almost eighty when he startled the musical world with his mastery of comic invention in his last opera Falstaff with its brilliant libretto by Arrigo Boito. The story is taken from Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor although the central character is much closer to the Falstaff of Henry IV. The roguish Sir John embroils himself in numerous plots and dupes of love and marriage until eventually the Merry Wives get their revenge on him and all plans are thwarted. When Carlo Maria Giulini returned to conducting public performances of opera after an absence of fourteen years he chose this comic masterpiece for the occasion. The great lyric baritone Renato Bruson sings the title role. Katia Ricciarelli leads the trio of merry wives with Lucia Valentini-Terrani as Mistress Quickly and Brenda Boozer as Meg Page. Leo Nucci sings the role of Ford and the young lovers are here portrayed by Dalmacio Gonzalez and Barbara Hendricks. Stunning designs by Hayden Griffen and Michael Stennett provide the perfect setting for this witty interpretation of Shakespeare's masterpiece.
Created specially for television this Beggar's Opera captures the quality and satiric edge of the Hogarth engravings which influenced Gay's original version. The characters of this highly spirited comedy of London low-life thrived on thieving lechery and deceit: Peachum the receiver of stolen goods shops his clients when it suits him; Lockit the prison governor has corrupt links with Peachum; Macheath the highwayman has married Polly Peachum but is promised to Lucy Lockit; Jenn
Funny fast and furious Rossini's masterpiece Il Barbiere di Siviglia is one of the most popular of comic operas with its sparkling and stylish score. John Cox's innovative production for Glyndebourne Festival Opera with good looking authentic designs by William Dudley put plenty of fizz into this old favourite and was a real hit with the critics. The usual Glyndebourne hallmarks of team work and extended rehersal paid handsome dividends in this production filmed in 1982.
Alessandro Corbelli takes the title role in Annabel Arden's whirlwind production of Puccini's compact opera in which the scheming Gianni Schicchi retrieves for himself the spoils of a disinherited family to pave the way for his daughter to marry her love.
The magnificent cast of this production of I Lombardi is headed by Ghena Dimitrova Jose Carreras Silvano Carroli and Carlo Bini. The haunting designs of Spartan grandeur are by Giovanni Agostinucci who uses the motif of a blood-red cross as a double-edged symbol throughout the opera which is set at the time of the first crusade. The performance is conducted by a La Scala conductor of long-standing repute Gianandrea Gavazzeni.
What oprea fan doesn't know the famous opera arias 'Our True Love' 'Make Up Your Mind Marenka' or 'I Know A Maiden Fair' ageless classics from that treasure of Czech opera Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride? These outstanding singers Gabriela Benackova as Marenka Peter Dvorsky as Jenik and Richard Novak as Kecal as well as brilliant performances by the Czech Philharmonic and Prague Philharmonic Chorus conducted by Zdenek Kosler became the basis for this 1981 television programme directed by Frantisek Filip. Sets by Jan Zazvorka costumes by Lida Novotna cinematography by Ilja Bojanovsky directed by Frantisek Filip.
Luca Ronconi's highly acclaimed production of Verdi's rarely performed opera I Vespri Siciliani was recorded at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna in 1986. American soprano Susan Dunn sings the demanding role of Elena. Equally powerful are the performances of Leo Nucci as Guido di Monforte the great romantic tenor Veriano Luchetti as Arrigo and Bonaldo Giaiotti in the challenging role of Procida. The cast also includes a young Anna Caterina Antonacci as Ninetta. This good looking production is conducted incisively by Riccardo Chailly.
The story of the legendary V-Bomber from its days at the heart of Britains nuclear deterrent through its tanker conversion and disbandment.
The legendary production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen directed by Harry Kupfer at Bayreuth Festival Opera with designs by Hans Schavernoch and conducted by Daniel Barenboim is considered one of the greatest productions of this titanic work ever staged. For their innovative staging Kupfer and his team have turned away from the work's time of origin and located The Ring at a crossroads of history a meeting place of past present and future which sets the scene for the story
This famous film of the world's best loved opera, directed by Herbert von Karajan, features the three greatest exponents of their respective roles at the time: Grace Bumbry's magnificently seductive-toned Carmen, Mirella Freni's ineffably lovely, touching Micaela, and Jon Vickers's thrillingly manic-depressive Don Jose.
The legendary production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen directed by Harry Kupfer at Bayreuth Festival Opera with designs by Hans Schavernoch and conducted by Daniel Barenboim is considered one of the greatest productions of this titanic work ever staged. For their innovative modernist staging Kupfer and his team turn 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'
The incomparable Cesare Siepi stars in this legendary Salzburg production of Mozart's masterpiece. Wilhelm Furtwangler conducts the internationally renowned Vienna Philharmonic in what has become one of the definitive productions of a classic opera.
Jon Vickers plays Samson while Shirley Verrett plays Dalila in this production of the classic tale which was performed at the Royal Opera House. The dramatic story based on Chapter 16 of the Book of Judges lends itself to spectacular presentation not least in the final scene as the blinded Samson summons all his strength to bring down the pillars of the temple. The opera also features a magnificent and voluptuous score.
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
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.
An early Verdi work set in the 5th century Italy during the age of the Huns and the Ostrogoths. It tells the story of the fall of the infamous king of the Huns which proved popular with the Italians in the 1800's. This production was filmed in 1985 with Nello Santi conducting.
Carlos Alvarez takes the title role in the first of Verdi's Shakespearean operas with Maria Guleghina as the manipulative wife whose desire to gain the Scottish throne drives her husband to murder and leaves both with blood on their hands. Bruno Campanella conducts the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu in the 2004 recording of Phyllida Lloyd's powerful production first staged at London's Royal Opera House.
Gluck's 1762 opera Orphée et Eurydice was ground-breaking in its day and--as this 1999 performance from the Theatre Musical de Paris shows--it still lends itself to radical treatment. The composer's rejection of traditional flamboyant operatic bells and whistles led to a fresh form in which the lyrics hold court. The music provides the setting and emotional colour in a way that is almost physical in its intensity. Gluck's readiness to incorporate the influences of other art forms--poetry, ballet and drama--has always made this story of love rescued from the jaws of tragedy universally appealing. This production, directed by Robert Wilson and conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, is mesmerising. The all but ill-fated couple (Magdalena Kozena and Madeline Bender) move as if in a trance, their actions suggesting marionettes controlled by greater forces. Their faces are largely expressionless, leaving their voices to explore the force of the huge range of human emotions they must cover during the opera's 100 minutes. Only Cupid runs free. The performances are beautifully sung in French, Kozena bringing immense dignity to Orphée's lament, "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice". A powerful interpretation of an important work, fit for the 21st century. --Piers Ford
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