music DVDs

RAMEAU - LES PALADINS       OPUS ARTE OA 0938D

Les paladinsJean-Philippe Rameau’s ‘comédie lyrique’, Les Paladins, received one of its rare productions in 2004 when it was brilliantly staged and choreographed by José Montalvo and Dominique Hervieu at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Although this was Rameau’s penultimate opera, written when he was in his mid-70s, the work is full of youthful ardour and new experiments with old forms - seen at the time as a bewildering mix of serious opera, ballet and popular comedy. The beautiful young Argie is kept imprisoned by her elderly guardian Anselme who plans to marry her. Then along comes the handsome Atis and his troop of knights (les paladins), determined to claim her for himself. Some of the writing is extraordinary and much of the two and a half hours of music is given over to dance, allowing Montalvo to let his imagination run riot in this spectacular and technically audacious production. The stage is often filled with acrobatic dancers and amazing, sometimes outrageous, multimedia effects complement Rameau’s dazzling burlesque. Even the curtain call is a tour-de-force. Conductor William Christie and Les Arts Florissants are in great form and the virtuoso cast includes the tenor Topi Lehtipuu (Atis), mezzo-soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac (Argie), Sandrine Piau (Nerine), countertenor Francois Piolino (as the fairy Manto), Laurent Naouri (Orcan) and Rene Schirrer (Anselme). Extras include an illustrated synopsis, cast gallery and a documentary, Baroque that Rocks!, featuring the director and many of the performers. Recorded live at the Paris Théâtre du Châtelet in true surround sound, this double DVD provides is a ravishing treat.

GIGLI - RIDI PAGLIACCIO      BEL CANTO SOCIETY BCS-D0513

Beniamino Gigli (1890-1957) was one of the greatest operatic tenors of his time. Born in Recanati, near Ancona, he won first prize in a singing competition in Parma in 1914 and made his operatic debut later that year in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda. He was soon in great demand around the world and after the death of Caruso in 1921 Gigli became the most famous Italian tenor in the world. He performed at opera houses in Europe and throughout the Americas, continuing to give concert performances right up until his retirement in 1955. This fascinating DVD features a black and white film made in Italy in 1942, starring Alida Valli, Leone Paci and Adrianna Perris, with Paul Hörbige in a moving performance as the real-life Canio. When Canio leaves prison he discovers that his daughter has been adopted and is about to marry a man of good family. The powerful and dramatic plot thickens when he meets Leoncavallo, who decides to base his opera, Pagliacci, on Canio’s life. The story leads inevitably to the opera’s premiere with the great Gigli in a heart-breaking interpretation of the title role. The music in the film is superbly conducted by Luigi Ricci and the dialogue is in Italian, with English subtitles. Also available is Gigli’s enjoyable 1935 English-language film, Non ti scordar di me, which includes excerpts from Rigoletto, Africana, Mignon, Favorita, Marta and Elisir (Bel Canto Society BCS D0504).

THE JUDY GARLAND CHRISTMAS SHOW      CASCADE 60054

This episode of Judy Garland’s CBS television show was recorded in early December of 1963 and aired on the 22nd, exactly one month after President John F. Kennedy had been killed in Dallas. The programme features the great entertainer and her three children, Liza Minnelli and Lorna and Joe Luft, and a set design that was based on Judy garland’s actual house. The atmosphere of the show is of a party that you are attending, and Garland’s relaxed attitude makes you feel right at home. As well as her children, the other guests include Mel Torme, Jack Jones and. Tracy Everitt, a dancer from the show whom Judy refers to as ‘Liza’s beau’. The youthful Liza reveals her innate star quality in several numbers and Lorna Luft is almost as impressive with her version of ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’. Eight-year-old Joey’s excruciating account of ‘Where Is Love?’ from Oliver proves that he didn’t inherit the same show business genes as his sisters. Judy Garland is the real star, of course, especially with two of her most famous film songs, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Over the Rainbow. She also joins Mel Tormé at the piano for his Christmas Song, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, and clean-cut Jack Jones sings Lollipops and Roses as well as an a cappella version of Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Other songs include Consider Yourself, Steam Heat, Little Drops Of Rain, Wouldn’t It Be Lovely?, Alice Blue Gown, and a traditional Christmas carol medley. Special Features include biographies and a music-only option. Recorded in front of a live studio audience in nostalgic black and white, this is a poignant evocation of a more innocent television age.

WE WANT THE LIGHT - CHRISTOPHER NUPEN     OPUS ARTE OACN0909D

The veteran documentary maker Christopher Nupen’s remarkable one hour film, We Want The Light, was first broadcast by BBC2 on Holocaust Memorial Day 2004. The title is taken from a poem written in the Theresienstadt concentration camp by a 12-year-old girl, Eva Pickova, and the film examines the cultural origins of genocide during the Second World War. Christopher Nupen shows how German music, from Johann Sebatian Bach onwards, has been hugely important for Jews. The film deals also, and at quite some length, with the perennial Wagner question, his ferociously anti-Semitic pamphlet ‘The Jews in Music’ and Wagner’s influence on the thinking of the Third Reich. In addition to this exceptional documentary, the two DVD set features most of the music from the film as well as four hours of additional interviews with Evgeny Kissin, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Zubin Mehta, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and others, including three inspiring Holocaust survivors. The Cologne Opera Chorus, Cologne Cathedral Children’s Choir and Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne are conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy. This is a thought-provoking release that provides a touching commentary to the 60th anniversaries in 2005 of the liberation of Auschwitz and Theresienstad. ‘An unmissable documentary’- The Times.

THE NUTCRACKER - TCHAIKOVSKY        TDK DV-BLCNUT

Tchaikovsky wrote his last ballet, The Nutcracker, in 1892 shortly before his death. It wasn’t one of his favourite works but it has since become an established standard for music lovers around the world, especially at Christmas. This fascinating production from the Royal Opera House in Stockholm features the Royal Swedish Ballet and Royal Swedish Opera Orchestra, with choreography by Pär Isberg. Only the pas de deux for the Sugar Plum Fairy and her prince has survived from the original choreography by the legendary Marius Petipa, who commissioned Tchaikovsky to write the music to his libretto. In this Swedish version, Isberg has replaced E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original characters with others from Swedish folklore drawn from Peter and Lotta’s Christmas, a children’s book by Elsa Beskow. Uncle Blue brings the nutcracker as a Christmas present for the two children but it turns out to be a charcoal burner who turns into a prince and at the end dances the great pas de deux with the uncle’s housemaid. Also involved are the three Aunts Brown, Green and Lavender. The battle with the Mouse King remains and the journey on which Peter and Lotta set out in their dream takes them to a winter landscape in which gingerbread, sticks of rock and Christmas biscuits come to life. Among the soloists are Marie Lindqvist (Uncle Blue’s Maid), Anders Nordstöm (The Charcoal Burner / The Prince), Jens Rosén (Peter), Alexandra Kastrinos (Lotta), Weit Carlsson (Uncle Blue), Mats Jansson (The Mouse King) and Eva Nissen (The Snow Queen).

ANNA BOLENA – DONIZETTI      DYNAMIC 33534

Gaetano Donizetti two-act ‘tragedia lirica’ Anna Bolena has an Italian libretto by. Felice Romani based on Ippolito Pindemonte’s Enrico VIII ossia Anna Bolena and Alessandro Pepoli’s Anna Bolena, both of which describe the life of Anne Boleyn. The opera was premiered very successfully in 1830 at the Teatro Carcano, Milan, but was not often performed during the later half of 19th century and early 20th century until it was revived with more during the post-war years. In 1957, Maria Callas was greatly acclaimed in a lavish production directed by Luchino Visconti at La Scala, since when Anna Bolena has become established as part of the standard operatic repertoire, with the role interpreted by Leyla Gencer, Beverly Sills, Montserrat Caballé, Renata Scotto and Edita Gruberova. In 16th century England, King Enrico VIII has fallen in love with his queen, Anna’s, lady-in-waiting, Giovanna Seymour. In order to put the queen in a compromising situation and to allow for his marriage to Giovanna, Enrico recalls Lord Riccardo Percy, Anna’s love, from exile. After the Queen refuses Percy’s advances because she is married, Percy threatens to kill himself. Before he can do that, Enrico rushes in with his men and claims to find the queen and Percy in a ‘compromising situation’. Enrico then sends Percy and Anne to jail and eventually to their death. With this opera, Donizetti proved that he had reached artistic maturity, creating a psychologically subtle tragedy that is intense, deep and profoundly romantic. This double-DVD set features an excellent Teatro Donizetti di Bergamo production with the outstanding Greek soprano Dimitra Theodossiou in the title role. The cast also includes Gian Luca Pasolini, Riccardo Zanellato and Sofia Soloviy, and the Orchestra and Chorus of Bergamo Musica Festival Gaetano Donizetti are conducted by Fabrizio Maria Carminati.

CHERUBIN – MASSENET      DYNAMIC 3508-DVD

Jules-Emile-Frederic Massenet wrote 37 operas, the best known being Manon, Werther and Thais. Many of the others were never produced and some were lost or surfaced only after the composer’s death in 1912. His captivating three-act opera Chérubin was written in 1903 with a sweetly romantic French libretto by Francis de Croisset and Henri Cain based on de Croisset’s play of the same name, and was first performed at the Opéra in Monte Carloin 1905, with the Scottish-born soprano Mary Garden in the title role. The story is a light-hearted addition to Beaumarchais’ Figaro plays, the action taking place soon after that of The Marriage of Figaro, and imagines festivities in celebration of Chérubin’s first military commission and seventeenth birthday. A good-natured, farcical romp ensues, brought on by Chérubin lusting after each of the female characters and inspiring general confusion. Chérubin has rarely been performed in recent years even though the score contains some of Massenet’s most shimmering and charming music. This excellent live performance, filmed in high definition and directed by Paul Curran, was recorded at the Lyric Theatre in Cagliari, Italy, with Emmanuel Villaume conducting and the vibrant South African mezzo soprano Michelle Breedt in the title role, the ‘young man’ Cherubin being portrayed by a young woman as in the 18th-century tradition. The ravishing costumes and set design are by Paul Edwards, and other members of the cast include Patrizia Ciofi, Alessandra Palomba, Carmela Remigio, Teresa Di Bari, Giorgio Surian and Nicola Ebau. This world premiere recording is also available on a double CD (DYNAMIC CDS508).

THE SEARCH FOR ROBERT JOHNSON     DIGITAL CLASSICS DC10011

Robert Leroy Johnson (1911-1938) was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, the illegitimate child of Julia Major Dodds, who had previously had ten children by her husband Charles Dodds. Born out of wedlock, Robert did not take the Dodds name but in his teens adopted the surname of his biological father, a field worker called Noah Johnson. For decades little was known about this great bluesman apart from the extraordinary recordings of just 29 songs he made in San Antonio and Dallas, Texas in 1936 and 1937. Legend has been rife ever since with supernatural accounts of his life, his supposed pact with the devil and conflicting versions of his death. Drawing upon the research of blues scholars Mack McCormack and Gayle Dean Wardlow, this film uncovers the truth about this man whose life was shrouded in mystery. Documentary footage, interviews and music tell the story of Johnson who, according to folklore, sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads. Fellow bluesmen Johnny Shines, David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards and Eric Clapton give interviews, as does Johnson’s girlfriend Willie Mae Powell - the inspiration behind ‘Love in Vain’. Director Chris Hunt and narrator John Hammond Jr search for the truth behind the legend by crisscrossing the Delta, speaking to a man claiming to be Johnson’s son, visiting the sites of Johnson’s only two recording sessions, and finally investigating the circumstances of Johnson’s grisly murder in 1938. This film features extensive re-mastered original Robert Johnson recordings, as well as specially-filmed performance footage from Johnny Shines, David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards and John Hammond Jr. Johnson’s vocal phrasing, original songs and guitar style have influenced countless musicians, including Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, and this film is a fitting tribute to the most famous and enigmatic of all American Delta Blues musicians. This documentary comes as close to the truth as anyone is now likely to get but the legend of Johnson and his mysterious life remains as intriguing as ever.

LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN – OFFENBACH      OPUS ARTE OA 0968 D

Jacques Offenbach’s opera Les Contes d’Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) was first performed in Paris in 1881. The composer did not live to see his opera performed, since he died a few months earlier, but before his death he had completed the piano score and orchestrated the prologue and first act. The libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on the play by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, in turn based on several short stories by E.T.A. Hoffmann (Der Sandmann, Rath Krespel, Die Abendteuer der Silvester-Nacht and Das verlorene Spiegelbild). Hoffman, a prolific German writer and composer of the Romantic era, himself appears as a character in the opera just as he often is in his stories. Les Contes d’Hoffmann was the culmination of a lifelong dream by Offenbach to compose a great grand opera, since most of his career was spent writing the comic operettas for which he was so acclaimed. The unfinished masterpiece was completed by Ernest Guiraud for its premiere performance at the Opéra-Comique. There has been much debate ever since about the final form the opera should have taken, and numerous different versions have emerged over the years, some bearing little resemblance to the original. The most famous piece from the opera is the ‘Barcarolle’ in the third act, which has been used in many movies. This double DVD features a live recording from the Palacio Euskalduna de Bilbao of Giancarlo Del Monaco’s passionate and intelligent production. Tenor Aquiles Machado is superb as the poet Hoffmann who loses his romantic idealism, his reflection and finally his soul to a ‘trio of charming enchantresses’. Conductor Alain Guingal inspires the Chorus of Ópera de Bilbao and the Bilbao Orkestra Sinfonikoa and the excellent cast includes María Bayo (a wonderful Antonia), Milagros Poblador (Olympia), Valentina Kutzarova and Katharine Goeldner (outstanding as Nicklausse). The recording is in High Definition video and surround sound and extras include interviews with María Bayo and Aquiles Machado. ‘The greatest success of the season’ - El Mundo.

NATHAN MILSTEIN – IN PORTRAIT     ALLEGRO A 06CN D

The Ukrainian-born violinist Nathan Mironovich Milstein was born in Odessa in 1904. As a child, he took violin lessons, studying with Piotr Stolyarsky (also David Oistrakh’s teacher) and with Leopold Auer at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In 1921, Milstein went to Kiev where he became friends with Vladimir Horowitz, with whom he performed on a concert tour of Western Europe. Milstein also briefly became a pupil of Eugène Ysaÿe then made his American debut in 1929 with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, eventually settling in New York and taking out United States citizenship. Nathan Milstein was indisputably one of the 20th century’s leading violinists, especially well known for his interpretations of unaccompanied Bach sonatas and Romantic works. His long career ended when he was in his mid-80s, when he had to retire after suffering a broken hand. He was an accomplished transcriber and composer, arranging many works for violin and writing his own cadenzas for many concertos. One of his best known compositions is Paganiniana, a set of variations on various themes from works by Paganini. Milstein received a Grammy Award in 1975 and was the Legion of Honour in France in 1968, dying in London ten days before his 89th birthday in 1992. Christopher Nupen’s film In Portrait (Some memories of a quiet magician) features over three hours of material, celebrating the miraculous gift of one of the finest violinists of all time. The DVD contains the only portrait film ever to be produced on Nathan Milstein, in which this most professional, modest and honest of great musicians talks about his life, career, music and is friends; particularly about Auer, Glazounov, Rachmaninov, Horowitz and Piatigorsky. He also talks entertainingly about music to a younger friend and fellow violinist, Pinchas Zukerman. There are also astonishing performances of the Kreutzer Sonata and the Bach Chaconne from Millstein’s legendary last recital in the Berwaldhallen in Stockholm in 1986, making this DVD a compendious and memorable tribute to ‘the most nearly perfect violinist of the twentieth century’. ‘Christopher Nupen: king of the music documentary’ - Gramophone Magazine.

SIBELIUS: THE EARLY YEARS & MATURITY AND SILENCE   ALLEGRO A 05CND

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was one of the most popular and prolific composers of his time. His music played an important role in forming the Finnish national identity, although he was born into a Swedish-speaking family in Hämeenlinna in the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland. Named Johan Julius Christian Sibelius - known as Janne to his family - he began using the French form of his name, Jean, during his student days. The core of Sibelius’s music is his collection of seven symphonies, with other famous compositions including Finlandia, Valse Triste, the Violin Concerto, the Karelia Suite and Lemminkäinen Suite (featuring The Swan of Tuonela as one of its four movements). He wrote over a hundred songs for voice and piano, incidental music for thirteen plays and an opera (The Maiden in the Tower), as well as chamber and choral music and works for piano. Although he lived into his 90s, he completed almost no compositions in the last thirty years of his life after his seventh symphony (1924) and the tone poem Tapiola (1926). Christopher Nupen’s two-part film portrait examines the work of Sibelius as seen through his music, letters and diaries and the words of his wife Aino, who was with him for more than sixty four years. The films follow the composer from his earliest years through to worldwide fame and the complex circumstances that resulted in his frustrating final years. Christopher Nupen combines live performances with documentary and superb photography of the mystical Finnish landscape to offer this intimate and sympathetic view of what Sibelius felt that he was trying to achieve. The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy, joined by Elisabeth Söderström and Boris Belkin. This DVD is the first on the new Christopher Nupen Films label and on it the director introduces excerpts from some of his other superbly crafted films, all of which are a credit to him and to public service television. ‘For the Sibelius films alone Christopher Nupen’s life on this earth must be judged a life worth living’ - Terence Davies.

SHOSTAKOVICH – LADY MACBETH OF MTSENSK   OPUS ARTE OA 0965 D

Dmitri Shostakovich’s four-act opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District was first performed in 1934 at the Leningrad Maly Theatre. Despite its early success, Lady Macbeth became the excuse for a general denunciation of Shostakovich’s music by the Communist Party in early 1936. Stalin had attended one of the Bolshoi’s performances of the opera and walked out; two days later an unsigned editorial appeared in the government newspaper, Pravda. Titled ‘Muddle Instead of Music’, the official attack on Shostakovich’s music left the composer fearful for his life and began the government’s suppression of all artists. After being condemned by Stalin the opera was banned in the Soviet Union for almost thirty years. It incorporates elements of expressionism and verismo to tell the story of a lonely woman in 19th century Russia, who falls in love with one of her husband’s servants and is driven to murder. This double DVD of Shostakovich’s masterpiece features a thrilling Nederlandse Opera production directed by Martin Kušej, with the excellent Mariss Jansons conducting the Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Eva-Maria Westbroek is phenomenal in the leading role of Katarina and other membersof the outstanding cast include Christopher Ventris, Carole Wilson, Vladimir Vaneev, Lani Poulson, Ludovít Ludha and Alexandre Kravets. Extras include an illustrated synopsis and cast gallery as well as The Tragedy of Katerina Ismailova, a documentary film by Reiner E. Moritz featuring interviews with Martin Kušej, Mariss Jansons and other members of the cast.

NEIL YOUNG - HEART OF GOLD      PARAMOUNT PHE 9072

The Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist Neil Percival Young was born in 1945 in Toronto, Ontario, and grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His work is characterised by deeply personal lyrics, distinctive guitar work and an instantly recognisable singing voice. Although Young has experimented many different musical styles, including swing, jazz, rockabilly, blues and electronica, his most accessible and best known work is either acoustic, country-tinged folk rock (such as ‘Heart of Gold’) and powerful electric hard rock ('Cinnamon Girl' and ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’). He first came to prominence as a member of the folk-rock band Buffalo Springfield in the 1960s and then as a solo performer backed by the band Crazy Horse. He reached his commercial peak during the singer-songwriter boom of the early 1970s with the albums After the Gold Rush and Harvest as well as with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. As well as creating highly accessible and lasting popular music he has also sometimes indulged in outlandish and uncompromising experiments that have left audiences and critics baffled. Jonathan Demme’s Heart of Gold is an intimate musical portrait of Neil Young, filmed on the occasion of the world premier of his 'Prairie Wind' concert at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in 2005. Young is accompanied onstage by many long time musical companions, including his wife Pegi Young and country music singer Emmylou Harris. Disc one of this double DVD includes concert film and and extra features such as Young’s spoken introductions that were deleted from the film and the deleted song, 'He Was The King'. Disc two, The Prairie Wind Diaries, is a verité documentary following the Nashville film project from early preparations up to the final two-night performance, with exclusive behind-the scenes footage. Other extras include Fellow Travelers (a conversation with Jonathan Demme and Neil Young), Nashville Cruise (an interview with Neil Young on the first day of the performance) and Finishing Touches (showing work on the final audio mix for Heart of Gold). This splendid release captures the legendary Neil Young at his intimate best and shows why Paste Magazine ranked him second only to Bob Dylan among its ‘Greatest Living Songwriters’ of 2006. Highly recommended.

PUCCINI – LA BOHEME     OPUS ARTE OA0961D

This splendid one million euro production of Puccini’s masterpiece is subtly directed by Giancarlo del Monaco and emphasises the ‘cinematic’ essence of the work, with impressive set designs by Michael Scott and superbly naturalistic acting. Jesús Lopez Cobos directs the Madrid Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and an outstanding cast, led by the Albanian-born soprano Inva Mula and Venezuelan tenor Aquiles Machado. Other soloists include Laura Giordano (a sparky Musetta), Fabio Maria Capitanucci (Marcello), David Menéndez (Schaunard), Felipe Bou (eloquent as Colline) and Gonzalo Fernández De Terán (Parpignol). The orchestra plays superbly throughout and the cast fully deserves its rapturous curtain call. Aquiles Machado gives a heartfelt performance as Rodolfo and the beautiful Inva Mula looks and sounds exactly right as Mimi, brilliantly suggesting her character’s knowingness in the first scene, making sense of Rodolfo’s subsequent jealousy and portraying Mimi as less of a victim. Extras include an illustrated synopsis and cast gallery as well as Reflections, a film featuring interviews with Jesús Lopez Cobos, Giancarlo del Monaco, Inva Mula and Aquiles Machado. Filmed with high definition cameras and in true surround sound as well as stereo, this two-DVD recording is highly recommended.

BELLINI - NORMA    OPUS ARTE OA 0959 D

Vincenzo Bellini wrote Norma when he was at the peak of his career and the first performance took place in Milan in December 1831. The libretto is by Felice Romani, who collaborated with Bellini on all of his most successful operas. The opening of Norma, however, was a fiasco, although the public soon began to recognise the opera as a masterpiece. The title role, originally sung by Giuditta Pasta, is one of the most difficult in the soprano repertoire. During the twentieth century, only a few singers were able to master the role successfully, most notably Rosa Ponselle in the early 1920s, Joan Sutherland in the 1950s and Maria Callas, who appeared as Norma more than seventy times in the 1960s. This double DVD set features a live recording from 2005 of Guy Joosten’s ingenious and spectacular production of this timeless drama in which Norma is the archetypal successful woman struggling to retain her dominant but vulnerable position. Julian Reynolds conducts the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and Chorus to great effect and the brilliant Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian’s lyrical and intense interpretation of the demanding title role accentuates the similarity between a Druid high priestess and a modern opera diva. The other soloists in an outstanding cast are Hugh Smith as the Roman Proconsul Pollione, Irini Tsirakidis, Giorgio Giuseppini, Anna Steiger and Carlo Bosi. Extras include an illustrated synopsis and cast gallery as well as an introduction that has interviews with members of the cast and artistic team.

L’ITALIANA IN ALGERI – ROSSINI       TDK DVWW-OPITAL

L’Italiana in Algeri is the earliest of Gioachino Rossini great full-length comedies and he claimed to have composed the work in only eighteen days. It received its first performance at Venice’s Teatro San Benedetto Theatre in 1813, where it was rapturously received. The opera subsequently fell from the repertoire until revived for the Spanish coloratura Conchita Supervia in 1925, since when it has been popular for its appealing overture and delightful melodies. The outstanding American mezzo Jennifer Larmore stars as the heroine Isabella in this elegant production directed by Andrei Serban for the Opera National de Paris. The opera may be named after this feisty Italian girl, but her adversary Mustafà is just as dominant, and here the role is taken by one of its leading exponents, the buffo bass Simone Alaimo. Two other leading Rossini singers complete the cast: the tenor Bruce Ford, who is at the forefront of the revival of the composer’s operas, and whose Lindoro has been heard in the leading opera houses across Europe, and Alessandro Corbelli who makes the hapless Taddeo, insulted and mocked from his first appearance, into something more than a figure of fun, a fully-rounded character, with all his awkwardness, pretensions and timid eagerness to please. Other soloists include Jeannette Fischer, Maria José Trullu and Anthony Smith, and the Orchestra and choir of the Opera National de Paris are conducted by Bruno Campanella. Outrageous colours and incessant movement are the hallmarks of this production, in which everything is outsize, from the protruding stomachs of the palace eunuchs to the huge ship we see sinking behind the captive Isabella, or the vast table with its checked cloth where Mustafà sits to experience the life of a ‘Pappataci’. The cartoon quality of this vision of the opera is summed up in the defining opening image of a carefree girl perched on a pole. L’Italiana in Algeri set the seal on the young Rossini’s meteoric rise to fame and this DVD of a live 1998 recording from the grand Palais Garnier provides more than two hours of carefree entertainment.

STRAVINSKY - ONCE AT A BORDER…   DIGITAL CLASSICS DC10015

Russian-born Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky was one of the most influential composers of twentieth century music, both in the West and in his native land. His work embraced many styles, revolutionised orchestration, and incorporated many different languages and cultures. He wrote for a wide range of ensembles, with works that ranged from opera and symphonies to piano miniatures, jazz pieces and brilliantly innovative ballets. This DVD features Tony Palmer’s outstanding digitally restored documentary (winner of the Special Jury Prize at the San Francisco Film Festival), that paints a compelling portrait of this crucial and sometimes controversial composer by incorporating archive footage of Stravinsky himself as well as documents, photographs and film never previously seen. The composer’s three surviving children talk about their sometimes tyrannical father and there are interesting contributions from, among others, Madame Vera Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov’s granddaughter, Stravinsky’s amanuensis Robert Craft, Marie Rambert, the ballet-master George Balanchine and composer/teacher Nadia Boulanger. Also included are several remarkable performances: ‘Les Noces’, which has never before been heard in its original form, and the choreography of ‘Petrushka’, specially recreated for the film by the Bolshoi Ballet and not been seen in this form since 1911. An extraordinary amount of material has been skilfully assembled to create this thorough and engaging account of Igor Stravinsky and his music. see here for more films by Tony Palmer.

CREAM                 CLASSIC ARTISTS DVDCASTC001

The powerful rock music trio Cream’s name reflected the supreme musicianship of its members: Eric Clapton (lead guitar), Jack Bruce (bass guitar and vocals) and Ginger Baker (drums). British poet Pete Brown, who wrote the lyrics to many of the songs, was sometimes known as the fourth member of the band, which had Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison among its many fans. The supergroup’s distinctive high energy sound combined blues with psychedelia and reached its peak on the wonderful Disraeli Gears album. Cream’s studio work and songwriting were relatively formal but in a live setting they were almost a different band, often improvising for more than twenty minutes at a time. After a couple of hugely successful years Cream broke up in 1968 due to the clash of giant egos and divergent musical visions. Bruce and Baker were notorious for not getting along and Clapton claimed that he once suddenly stopped playing in a concert without either of the others noticing. Cream didn't play together again until 1993, when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This was the last time they were together as a group until they reunited in May 2005 for four shows at the Royal Albert Hall, the venue of their final concerts in 1968. The reformed band also played at Madison Square Garden in October 2005. This much-anticipated DVD - the first of The Classic Artists Series of DVDs - features the story of Cream as told by Clapton, Bruce, Baker and many others. Rare archive footage is combined with exclusive new interview material and the DVD consists of a two hour programme plus 111 minutes of DVD extras which include thirty minutes of non-stop live performance footage, a photo and memorabilia gallery and extended interviews. The DVD also comes with a bonus audio CD of five previously unreleased Cream tracks known as the Swedish Sessions which were made in 1967 for Swedish Radio and digitally re-mastered for The Classic Artists Series. There is also an excellent 16-page colour booklet with rare archive photographs of Cream and inserts written by acclaimed journalist Chris Welch. After the band’s 2005 reunion, Clapton, Bruce and the reclusive Baker were persuaded to talk at length and reminisce about their first meeting, early fame, conquering America and the final, painful if inevitable split. Aside from the band members, many of their contemporaries and associates provide their own insights into the life and times of this most influential of groups. Tom McGuiness of Manfred Mann fame recalls how he formed a band called The Roosters in 1963 with the then 17-year-old Clapton. Also supplying fascinating anecdotes and debunking long-held myths are the likes of Manfred Mann’s Paul Jones, Yes co-founder Chris Squire, BB King, promoter Harvey Goldsmith, Chris Welch, Rolling Stone editor Dave Fricke, road manager Ben Palmer and lyricist Pete Brown. This fascinating and comprehensive double DVD featuring one of the finest and most innovative rock group’s in the world is essential viewing.

PROKOFIEV - THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES   OPUS ARTE OA 0957 D

Sergei Prokofiev’s delightful opera The Love for Three Oranges was composed in 1919 and first performed in two years later at the Chicago Opera, with the composer himself conducting. The absurd, surreal story is in the Commedia dell’Arte tradition and concerns a young prince cursed by a wicked witch. He is forced to voyage into distant lands in search of three oranges, each of which contains a princess. The witty libretto was by Prokofiev and Vera Janacopoulos and based on Vsevolod Meyerhold’s adaptation of Carlo Gozzi’s play. This double DVD features a dynamic production from the Amsterdam Muziektheater, with the Nederlandse Opera choosing the French libretto used at the work’s 1921 premiere, accentuating the aesthetic common ground shared by Prokofiev and Les Six. Stéphane Denève’s masterly musical direction inspires outstanding performances from the cast and the excellent Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, enhanced by the spectacular staging of Laurent Pelly and the exquisite sets of Chantal Thomas, which propel this feverish fable to great heights. Soloists include the marvellous Jamaican bass-baritone Sir Willard White as the bumbling wizard Tchélio, Alain Vernhes, Anna Shafajinskaja and the incomparable French soprano Sandrine Piau. DVD extras include a cast gallery, an illustrated synopsis and an introduction containing interviews with members of the cast and artistic team.

VERDI – LUISA MILLER   DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 00440 073 4027

Luisa Miller is an early period opera by Giuseppe Verdi with an Italian libretto by Salvatore Cammarano based on an intimate bourgeois drama, Kabale und Liebe (Love and Intrigue), by Friedrich von Schiller. Verdi composed the music while travelling between Paris, Busseto, Rome and Naples and the opera was first performed at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, in 1849, becoming the composer’s first real success since Ernani. The tragic story of love and intrigue is a gloomy one, with the three acts entitled ‘Love’, ‘Intrigue’ and ‘Poison’. This splendidly produced DVD features James Levine conducting a live Metropolitan Opera performance made for television in 1979, with a magnificent cast that includes Renata Scotto in the demanding title role, Plácido Domingo (in his prime as Rodolfo), the great Sherrill Milnes, Jean Kraft, Bonaldo Giaiotti and James Morris. There is a choice of 5.1 Surround Sound or stereo and the DVD’s bonus material includes a picture gallery as well as discussions by Scotto, Domingo, Milnes and Levine on performing this somewhat neglected masterpiece. ‘Scotto sings her first Met Luisa with her usual energy, intensity and care for detail’ - The New York Times.

KRISTINA OLSEN WITH PETER GRAYLING – LIVE IN CONCERT

Kristina Olsen is one of the most entertaining and compelling performers on the international folk circuit - a fine instrumentalist (acoustic guitar, steel-body slide guitar, saxophone, concertina and piano) as well as a powerful songwriter with a big bluesy (often sexy) voice. Her mix of songs are in the troubadour tradition, with influences that range from jazz and classical sounds through to folk, blues and rock. Born in San Francisco and raised in Haight-Asbury during the 1960s, Kristina Olsen’s approach to music and life was formed by that heady environment of vital cultural expression, social activism and diverse musical influences. She is now based in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, but has a hectic touring touring schedule for ten months a year. It was on one of her tours that she met Peter Grayling, a cellist from Western Australia and a new musical alliance was formed. Their recordings together have included Duet, Truth of a Woman and a live CD, All Over Down Under (with the addition of Melbourne based accordion player George Butrumlis). This live DVD, recorded in 2004 in Brisbane and Toowoomba, Australia, features some of Kristina Olsen’s finest songs, with their sinewy melodies and sensitive, compassionate lyrics. There are also many engaging and often hilarious stories as well as a revealing interview in which she describes her early days as a musician, life on the road and writing songs. Concert highlights include Dangerous, the languorous In Your Darkened Room, The Yellow Piper, the delicately beautiful instrumental Phoebe’s Iceberg, the bluesy Brownsville, If I Stayed, and the rousing Better than TV. Kristina Olsen’s website is at www.kristinaolsen.net

ROSSINI - LA GAZETTA        OPUS ARTE OA 0953 D

Gioacchino Antonio Rossini’s sole Neapolitan comic opera received its first performance at the small Teatro dei Fiorentina on 26th September 1816. The premiere had been postponed because Rossini was indulging his social life to the full, being distracted by Isabella Colbran for whom he wrote the lead soprano parts in all his Naples opera seria and who eventually became his wife. La Gazzetta’s delightfully complicated plot involves two young women, their lovers and their fathers, all resident at the same hotel. The ambitious Pomponio advertises in ‘The Gazzette’ for a husband for his lively daughter Lisetta, who is already in love with Filippo. Rossini exploits the many consequent intrigues with great elan and although borrowing considerably from earlier works the music was effectively rewritten to suit the new context. With fresh pieces, especially for Don Pomponio, Lisetta, and her suitor, La Gazzetta became a satisfyingly original product. This DVD features a sparkling stage performance given at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu in July 2005, filmed using high definition cameras with multitrack sound. The director is the Nobel Prize-winning author Dario Fo, who also designed the sets and costumes, and a splendid cast includes Cinzia Forte, Bruno Praticò, Charles Workman, Pietro Spagnoli, Agata Bienkowska, Marisa Martins, Simón Orfila and Marc Canturri. The Orchestra Academy of the Gran Teatre del Liceu and the Intermezzo Choir are conducted by Maurizio Barbacini. The DVD also has an illustrated synopsis, cast gallery and an engaging interview with Dario Fo. ‘A tour de force of acrobatic silliness and barbed social satire...it is difficult to imagine the piece sung or acted better’ - The Financial Times.

MOZART – IL RE PASTORE      DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 073 4225

Mozart’s Il Re Pastore (The Shepherd King) was first performed in the Archbishop’s palace Salzburg in 1775, the opera being commissioned for a visit by Archduke Maximillian Franz, son of Empress Maria Theresa. The opera has an Italian libretto by imperial court poet Pietro Metastasio, based on a work by Torquato Tasso called Aminta. A previous version of the opera, set to music by Felice Giardini, had three acts but Mozart’s version features two, each lasting about an hour in performance. The Salzburg court chaplain, Gianbattista Varesco, edited Metastasio’s libretto and nineteen year old Mozart took six weeks to complete the work. Often referred to as a serenata - a type of dramatic cantata - Il Re Pastore tells how Alexander the Great frees Sidon from tyranny and finds Aminta, the heir of the deposed king, with the help of the nobleman Agenore. Since this heir is a shepherd and in love with a peasant girl, Elisa, persuading him to take up his rightful place is difficult. Moreover, not knowing of Agenore’s love affair with the tyrant’s daughter Tamiri, Alexander decides that Tamiri should marry Aminta, thereby uniting the kingdom. He follows this decision with a celebration of his own wisdom in the splendid aria ‘Se vicendo vi rendo felici’. Happily, all is sorted out in the end, with the quartet of lovers suitably reunited. Although this remains one of Mozart’s least known music dramas, its melodies and instrumental development point towards the composer’s later masterpieces. This fascinating DVD release features a live performance staged and conducted at the Salzburg Festival by Thomas Hengelbrock, with the Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble and soloists Kresimir Spicer, Annette Dasch, Marlis Petersen, Arpiné Rahdjian and Andreas Karasiak. Other rare titles in this invaluable Unitel/Deutsche Grammophon series of all 22 Mozart operas include productions of Ascanio In Alba (written when he was just fifteen years old), La Finta Giardiniera and Lucio Silla.

VERDI – OTELLO    OPUS ARTE OA 0963 D

Giuseppe Verdi’s four-act opera Otello, with an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito based on Shakespeare’s play Othello, was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, in 1887. Often considered Verdi’s greatest opera, this masterpiece remains remarkably faithful to the original play. The roles of Otello (Othello), Desdemona and Jago (Iago) are extremely demanding of performers’ acting and singing abilities and are profoundly convincing as a result, although Jago is more of villain in the opera. Some of the greatest tenors have sung Otello, among them Giovanni Martinelli, Leo Slezak, Ramón Vinay, Mario del Monaco, James McCracken, Jon Vickers and Plácido Domingo. This live recording, filmed with high definition cameras and in surround sound at the Gran teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, in 2006, features the outstanding Argentinian-born tenor José Cura, one of the world’s leading interpreters of Verdi’s music. Other members of the cast include the wonderful Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova (Desdemona), Lado Ataneli (Jago), Vittorio Grigolo, Ketevan Kemoklidze and Vicenç Esteve Madrid. The Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu are conducted by Antoni Ros-Marbà and re-staged by Francois de Carpentries (the dramatic original stage direction for La Monnaie is by Willy Decker). Extras with this double DVD include an introduction that features cast interviews, an illustrated synopsis and a cast gallery, as well as subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Catalan. José Cura brings great intelligence and intensity to the title role, and Krassimira Stoyanova is a wonderfully lyrical and touching Desdemona.

MOZART - IDOMENEO    DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 00440 073 4234

The first performance of Mozart’s Idomeneo took place in 1781 at the Residenztheater in Munich, but neither the composer nor the librettist (Giambattista Varesco, a court poet and chaplain in Salzburg) were mentioned in the original newspaper reports. Five years later Mozart produced his revised version of the work in Vienna in private circles and in concert performance, although again it was poorly received. The Salzburg-Vienna paper Pfeffer und Salz commented that ‘Mozart's opera was overloaded with accompagnato... and did not receive the applause which his works otherwise deserve’. For later generations this weakness remained the predominant characteristic of the work. The libretto, an adaptation by Varesco of Antoine Danchet’s tragédie lyrique Idomenée (which had been previously set to music by André Campra in 1712), revolves around the vow sworn by Idomeneo as he is shipwrecked on his way home from the Trojan War. The King of Crete promises to sacrifice a human victim to the sea-god Neptune if he is saved and, to his horror, the victim turns out to be his own son, Idamantes. This double DVD set, in 5.1 DTS Surround Sound, was filmed live during the first-ever performances of Idomeneo at the Metropolitan Opera in 1982, lavishly produced by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. The soloists include Frederica von Stade (Idamante), Ileana Cotrubas, Hildegard Behrens (Elettra) and Luciano Pavarotti in the title role (making a rare appearance in a Mozart work). The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus are conducted by James Levine. ‘Pavarotti takes Idomeneo to a new musical high’ - New York Post.

THE COMPLETE FINGERSTYLE GUITARIST (COMPLETE BEGINNER)  WANSBECK

Guitars have set the standard for cool ever since the 1950s and playing guitar can still make you the star attraction. Instruments similar to what we call the guitar have been around for at least 5,000 years and the word qitara is an Arabic name for various members of the lute family. The name was introduced into Spanish when guitars were introduced to Iberia by the Moors after the 10th century, and the Spanish vihuela appears to be an intermediate form between the ancestral instrument and the modern guitar, with lute-style tuning and a small, but guitar-like body. Learning how to play this is most popular and adaptable instrument is a lifelong ambition for many but coaxing a mellifluous sound from it initially can be frustrating. Luckily, the six interactive guitar lessons on this encouraging DVD will teach you all you need to know to get started, even if you are an absolute beginner. You learn how to tune the guitar, strum the basic major and minor chords, read tablature and work on various guitar techniques and exercises. You learn how to play sixteen complete songs - including House of the Rising Sun and Scarborough Fair - as well as classical pieces and twelve bar blues, complete with turnarounds and fills. The DVD uses technology to good effect, with split screens, computer graphics and ‘rolling music’ techniques that make the learning process easy to follow and lessons an enjoyable experience. Presenter Peter J. Finlay’s relaxed style makes it seem possible for anyone to pick up a guitar and play (with the necessary practice). A handy 36 page booklet accompanies the DVD, which is one of a range of wide ranging series by Wansbeck that take you from basics right through to advanced techniques. Highly recommended.

BELLINI - NORMA       KICCO CLASSIC KC9009

Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma is the quintessential Bel Canto opera. The composer was approaching the height of his Italian career when his collaborator and librettist Felice Romani, noticed a recent play, Norma, ou L’Infanticide by Alexandre Soumet, which had just opened at the Théâtre de l’Odéon in Paris. The play appealed to Romani’s natural abilities and exemplified traits of the newly emerging French Grand Opera style, not to mention the boulevard theatre’s penchant for blood and thunder dramas, which were then quickly assimilated by Romantic-period composers. Bellini’s composition of the music for Norma was unusually swift, although the eloquent ‘Casta Diva’ aria had to be rewritten several times because of the composer's perfectionism and the demands of the censors. The opera's heroine is both strong and sympathetic, with moments of extreme pathos, and the role demands a dramatic soprano with great agility and firm technique, able to declaim expressively and convey the meaning of Romani’s meticulously chosen words. Since the opera's premiere in 1831 there have been only a handful of sopranos who have truly’ captured every aspect of an all-encompassing role. This DVD features a stunning live recording directed by Massimo Gasparon at the Teatro dell’Opera Giocosa in Savona in 2000, with the wonderful Maria Dragoni as Norma. Other soloists include the tenor Gianluca Zampieri (Pollione), Raffaella Angeletti (Adalgisa), Giorgio Giuseppini (Oroveso), mezzo soprano Paola Leveroni (Clotilde) and Walter Omaggio (Flavio). Massimiliano Carraro conducts the Orchestra Sinfonica di Savona and Coro lirico G. Manzino - Savona. Highly recommended.

BUTTERFLY LOVERS - MARIKKI HAKOLA      MARCO POLO 2.220002

The pioneering Finnish artist Marikki Hakola studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki and has been involved with many multimedia projects since the early 1980s, including music and dance films, video installations and internet art. She received the prestigious NHK President’s Prize for her film L’Enfant et Les Sortilèges at the 2005 International BANFF World Television Festival in Canada and her works have been shown in art museums, festivals, exhibitions and on television channels all over the world. Butterfly Lovers is a music and dance film based on the popular Chinese violin concerto Butterfly Lovers, inspired by the ancient Chinese fairy tale, A Love Story of Liang Shan Bo and Zhu Ying Tai. The script, direction, visual design, editing and production are by Marikki Hakola, and Dou Dou (the acclaimed artistic director of Shanghai Song and Dance Group) is responsible for the choreography as well as being the other solo dancer with Ding Yuehong. The film also features the outstanding Japanese violinist Takako Nishizaki, British conductor James Judd and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. The DVD also includes a documentary designed and directed by Marikki Hakola in which composer Chen Gang describes the birth of the concerto, Takako Nishizaki talks about her career, and James Judd analyses the composition and reveals how he sees the work of a conductor. Zeng Kang Mei talks about the origins of the Love Story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai and its significance to the Chinese, and Dou Dou considers the art of dance, including the role of a solo dancer. The Butterfly Lovers Concerto is also available on CD from Naxos.

TALES FROM HOFFNUNG AND RUDDIGORE    BLUE DOLPHIN  BDVD2009

Gerard Hoffnung was a unique talent. Born in Berlin in 1925, he went to London in 1939 as a refugee from Nazi Germany and went on to become an artist, teacher, cartoonist, caricaturist, musician and tuba player, as well as a broadcaster and raconteur. Although he died at the early age of 34, he achieved much in his short life, including several hilarious symphonic concerts and many wonderfully absurd drawings with a musical theme. Tales From Hoffnung is a collection of seven enchanting animated films made by Britain’s first animation studio, Halas & Batchelor, for the BBC in the 1960s. All are wonderfully inventive and are based on Hoffnung’s original drawings, combining German sensibility with British whimsy. Set to music arranged by Francis Chagrin, they include the unflappable Palm Court Orchestra, Professor Yaya’s hilarious family, the Music Academy and the famous Symphony Orchestra finale that literally brings the house down. Ruddigore, the first animated work based on Gilbert & Sullivan, features voices from the D’Oyle Carte Opera company and music by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The Barons of Ruddigore have been struck by a hereditary curse which condemns them to committing a crime every day or face a painful death. The supernatural, revenge and love further complicate a long-lost heir’s attempts to escape his destiny. Bonus material includes the trailer to the original 1964 release and Vivien Halas and animator Tony Guy in conversation. Tales From Hoffnung and Ruddigore have both been digitally restored and Paul Wells, a Professor of Animation Studies, introduces and reviews the films. This delightful release will entertain people of all ages and is a wonderful way to introduce children to the joys of classical music.

JOSE CARRERAS - O’ SOLE MIO       PAN DREAM PDL 1054 

The honey-toned operatic tenor José Carreras was born in Barcelona in 1946 and gave his first public performance at the age of eight, singing La Donna e Mobile on Spanish national radio. At eleven, he appeared at the Liceu as a boy soprano in the role of the narrator in Falla’s El retablo de Maese Pedro and as an urchin in La bohème. He studied at the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu before appearing at the Liceu as Flavio in Norma, with the soprano Montserrat Caballé in the title role. He also sang with Caballé in his 1971 London stage debut and the two singers subsequently performed in more than fifteen operas together. By the age of 28, Carreras had sung the lead tenor in twenty-four different operas but in 1987, at the height of his career, he was diagnosed with leukaemia and had to endure lengthy medical treatments before being able to resume singing. In 1990, millions of people around the world watched The Three Tenors (Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti) give a concert at the opening of the World Cup in Rome. Originally conceived to raise money for Carreras’ leukaemia foundation, it was also a way for Domingo and Pavarotti to welcome back their colleague to the world of opera. Much admired for his Verdi and Puccini roles, Carreras also often performs in music lighter genres such as Zarzuela and has recorded West Side Story with Leonard Bernstein. The charismatic singer can be seen at his intimate best on this concert recording, accompanied by pianist Mariu Lorenzo Bavaj. Highlights include works by Leoncavallo (Chanson des jeux, Déclaration, Sérénade Francoise, Sérénade Napolitaine), Bixio (Parlami d’amore Mariù), Puccini (Terra e mare, Menti all’avviso), Scarlatti (Gia il sole al Gange) and Tosti (Apri, Non t’amo più, A vucchella, L’ultima canzone). Highly recommended.

RENATA TEBALDI - A PORTRAIT      VAI 4324

The great Italian opera singer Renata Ersilia Clotilde Tebaldi (1922 - 2004) was one of the most successful lyric sopranos of the post-war period, much admired for the beauty and purity of her voice as well as her stylish stage presence. Born in Pesaro, she received her earliest musical training at home and at the Boito Conservatory, Parma, before making her professional debut in 1944. Two years later, she sang at the reopening of La Scala in Milan. She was an acclaimed member of the Metropolitan Opera company from 1955 to 1973, and retired from singing in 1976. Legendary for her superb musicianship, Tebaldi was particularly well-known for her interpretations of the title roles in Tosca, Aïda and Madama Butterfly. On this double DVD set she takes three Puccini roles, Mimi, Tosca and Cio-cio-san (in the famous 1956 New York television recording of La Boheme, with Jussi Bjoerling). She also sings Un bel di and the Death Scene from Madama Butterfly, as well as arias from Tosca (with Eugene Tobin and George London), Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, Cavalleria Rusticana, and a stunning Suicidio from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda. The second disc, in black and white, features a Canadian Broadcasting Company television concert from 1965, in which Tebaldi exquisitely performs O Mio Babbino Caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi as well as songs by Rossini (La Regatta di Venezia) and the devastating finale from Act II of Tosca - with Canadian baritone, Louis Quilico, as Scarpia. An added bonus is another version of the Death of Butterfly, recorded for the Bell Telephone Hour in 1961 and never before released. Renata Tebaldi’s singing is magnificent throughout and this Portrait makes a splendid tribute to an exemplary artist.

RAMEAU - LES INDES GALANTES         OPUS ARTE OA 0923 D

Jean-Philippe Rameau, born in Dijon, France, in 1683, was a composer, harpsichordist and organist. Self-taught in harmony and counterpoint, he published his Traité de l’harmonie 1722, which was followed by other textbooks on harmony between 1726 and 1752. He lived in Paris from 1722, teaching the harpsichord and writing many works for this instrument. He composed more than 20 operas and opera-ballets, the second of which was Les Indes galantes. This extravagant opera-ballet tells four exotic love stories, using typically colourful orchestration and bold harmonies. In Le Turc généreux Osman sets free his captive, Emilie, whom he loves, so that she may be reunited with her former lover, Valère; Les Incas de Perou is about the rivalry of the Inca Huascar and the Spaniard Don Carlos, both in pursuit of Princess Phani; Les Fleurs offers a Persian love intrigue, as the Sultana Fatima tries to detect whether her husband Tacmas has his eye on the lovely Atalide; and Les Sauvages is set in North America, where a Spaniard and a Frenchman compete for the love of Zima, daughter of a native chief. This beautifully produced DVD features a highly effective staging by Andrei Serban and the performers include Valérie Gabail, Nicolas Rivenq, Paul Agnew, Patricia Petibon, Nicolas Cavallier, Jaël Azzaretti, Anna Maria Panzarella, William Christie and Les Arts Florissants. Extras include a documentary, ‘Swinging Rameau’, as well as biographies and an illustrated synopsis. ‘A vibrant and spectacular work on a grand scale’ - Artsworld.

RHYTHM IN YOUR RIFFS - BOB BROZMAN   HOMESPUN VIDEO DVD-BOB-RR21

On this inspiring DVD, the American guitarist Bob Brozman shows how acoustic guitarists of any style and genre can look at the guitar in a whole new way. With humour and improvised virtuosity, Brozman engagingly explores the many aspects of rhythm guitar and what makes a good ‘groove’, helping you develop your coordination through a variety of drills, leading you in hand- and foot-tapping exercises so that accents, swing rhythm, polyrhythms, triplets in blues playing and other meters become second nature. Moving the exercises to the guitar, he shows how to incorporate these techniques into songs using strumming patterns, string slapping, fret tapping, hammering, damping, and other devices that will put emphasis and movement into your music. Fingerstyle players will be fascinated by the ways that these subtleties are used in blues and ragtime picking. Among other things, you will learn how to incorporate blues, Caribbean, New Orleans, calypso and other rhythms into your picking and strumming style. The ability to change and improve your instrumental arrangements through rhythmic variations is at the heart of this lesson, aptly demonstrated by the fact that Bob Brozman has improvised all of the music, proving the power and spontaneity of good rhythmic guitar playing. Follow his instructions and you will not only be able to keep your ‘groove’, you will also walk in a much funkier way. How cool is that? ‘I have found that rhythm and feeling is what captures the hearts of audiences, far more than all the scales in the world. Rhythm and intention of attack give life to guitar music. The best riffs and solos still tell a story even if you remove the pitches and just hear the rhythm of the phrases’ - Bob Brozman. This is one of a wide range of instructional DVDs available from Homespun (www.homespuntapes.com).

THE ELKINA PIANO DUO AT STEINWAY HALL     AMADEUS HL 00331684

Irina and Julia Elkina are identical twins who have been playing together since the age of five. Since leaving their native Russia in 1993 they have captured the attention of American music lovers by winning the Fourth Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition, and have performed to critical acclaim throughout the USA, Europe and Russia, revealing an almost telepathic understanding when they play. On this DVD, the duo give impassioned performances of five piano duets: Larghetto and Allegro (Mozart), Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos (Mozart), Rondo in C Major, Op. 73 (Chopin), Rigoletto (Verdi/Liszt) and Sicilienne (Bach). It is one of a series of live recordings released by Amadeus Press to celebrate Steinway & Sons’ 150 years as a renowned piano-maker. Among the other artists appearing at the Beaux Art style Steinway Hall in New York City are rising vocal star Monique McDonald who performs works by Gounod, Glück, Verdi, Fauré, Gershwin, Schubert, Granados and Handel, accompanied by Chun-Wei Kang. Other artists include violinist Sebastian Knauer (performing four pieces by Mozart, Bach, Schubert and Beethoven), the wonderful Kristina Reiko Cooper (solo cello music by Fauré, Schumann, Cassado, Debussy, Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Popper), the acclaimed Nobilis Trio (works by Mozart and Smetana) and German violin virtuoso Axel Strauss (seven pieces from Leclair, Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Sarasate and Kreisler. The interview/performance format explores the performers’ personalities and the repertoire they have chosen.

PROKOFIEV - THE STONE FLOWER     ARTHAUS MUSIK 101 121

Sergei Prokofiev composed the music for nine ballets, the best known of these being Romeo and Juliet, The Prodigal Son and Cinderella. This DVD features the Stone Flower, based on a traditional Russian folk tale collected by Pavel Bazhov and set in the middle of the 19th century. First performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1954, it tells the story of a young stonemason called Danila, who has to choose between his sweetheart Katerina and a magical temptress. Prokofiev was suffering under the oppressive regime of Stalin at the time and was compelled to conform to the musical demands of the state in order to stage his new ballet. Partly because of this political interference the work was initially unsuccessful, despite containing some of the composer’s most brilliant music. It was only three years later with the choreography of Yuri Grigorovich that Prokofiev’s final ballet eventually came to be fully appreciated. The young choreographer simplified the story to focus mainly on the dance, transforming the ballet into his first major success. The version presented in this recording made at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1990 reproduces Grigorovich’s 1957 choreography and features the boyish virtuoso Nikolai Dorokhov as Danila, with Lyudmilla Semenyaka as a soulful Katerina, Nina Semizorova as the mischievous Mistress of Copper Mountain and Yuri Vetrov as the evil Severyan. Scenery and costumes are by Simon Virsaladze, and Aleksandr Kopilov conducts the Bolshoi Orchestra.

DONIZETTI - PIA DE’ TOLOMEI     DYNAMIC 33488

Venice’s Teatro La Fenice opera house is one of the world’s most beautiful. Originally opened in 1792, it burnt down and was rebuilt in 1836 but controversially burnt down again in 1996. It was entirely appropriate that following the building’s reconstruction one of the first productions to take place was Pia de’ Tolomei. Gaetano Donizetti’s lyric tragedy in two parts, with a libretto by Salvatore Cammarano, was originally composed for La Fenice, where it was staged on 18 February 1837. Papal censors later altered the libretto and other changes were made without the composer’s consent. The production featured in this double-DVD was staged in April 2005 during the first season of the reconstructed Teatro La Fenice. It was the first performance of the new critical edition, directed by Christian Gangneron, with scenery by Thierry Leproust and costumes by Claude Masson. The musical director and conductor is Paolo Arrivabeni and the cast includes Patrizia Ciofi as Pia, Dario Schmunck (Ghino), Andrew Schroeder (Nello) and Laura Polverelli (Rodrigo). The plot is every bit as melodramatic as Donizetti’s more famous Lucia di Lammermoor, as the composer again makes his heroine suffer to sublime music. Pia de’ Tolomei was a 13th-century Sienese noblewoman who came to a tragic end when her husband Nello kept her in a castle in the middle of a swamp, hoping she would contract malaria. When this failed, he had her poisoned. The story is told by Dante in the Purgatorio and forms the basis of Donizetti’s fascinating though perhaps overlong opera, with its disturbing mad scene and a climactic sequence that closely resembles the one between Violetta and Germont in La Traviata. This commendably faithful version of the opera reveals an abundance of melodic inspiration and the celebrated Italian soprano Patrizia Ciofi is outstanding in the title role.

PUCCINI - MADAMA BUTTERFLY       OPUS ARTE OA 0936 D

Giacomo Puccini’s poignant opera Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly), with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, was based on a book by John Luther Long and a play by David Belasco. The first version, premiered 1904 at La Scala in Milan, had only two acts and was poorly received. The revised version split the long second act in half and proved more acceptable, although the two-act version is still preferred in Italy. Sometimes criticised for its stereotyping of ‘passive’ Asians or reflecting the supposed anti-American tone of the play on which it is based, Madame Butterfly nevertheless remains one of the most popular works in the operatic repertoire. This double DVD captures Robert Wilson’s impressive and highly stylised 2003 production, which enhances the timeless beauty of Puccini’s moving Japanese tragedy. The director has reduced Madame Butterfly to its essential elements, avoiding traditional sets and costumes to focus on the movement of the singers. The style is reminiscent of Japanese No drama, with bare sets were and imaginary props. Cheryl Barker (Cio-Cio-San) and Martin Thompson (Pinkerton) lead an outstanding cast in this recording from the Amsterdam Muziektheater with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted with passion by Edo de Waart. Other soloists include Catherine Keen (Suzuki) and Richard Stilwell (an excellent Sharpless). Extras include an illustrated synopsis and cast gallery as well as an introduction to the Opera, featuring interviews with Robert Wilson, Edo De Waart and members of the cast.

PAGLIACCI - TITO GOBBI      BEL CANTO SOCIETY BCS-D0657

This 1948 version of Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci stars Tito Gobbi, actor Alfred Poli and the young actress Gina Lollobrigida, as well as such reknowned singers as tenor Galliano Masini and the soprano Onelia Fineschi. Conductor Giuseppe Morelli leads the Orchestra e Coro del Teatro dell'Opera di Roma. Pagliacci has long been a favourite opera and this remains the best version on film. The black and white print of this Italian film has been superbly remastered, although a few unavoidable technical imperfections remain on the soundtrack. Director Mario Costa hints at post-war neo-realist style and this is as close to film noir as any opera movie has so far come. Galliano Masini was Italy’s leading dramatic tenor at the time and Tito Gobbi was one of the most interesting and talented baritones of the twentieth century. In a virtuoso display, he portrays both Tonio and Silvio, differentiating the parts not only in physical characterisation and appearance but in subtly changing his vocal performances. Onelia Fineschi is charming as Nedda, singing in the typical Italian soprano style of the 30s, and Gina Lollobrigida looks seductively beautiful. This outstanding film, with its dramatic and unforgettable climax, makes a fascinating companion to the earlier Pagliaccio, featuring Beniamino Gigli. As an added bonus, the DVD also includes highlights of Tito Gobbi in Rossini’s Guglielmo Tell (1947), with Gabriella Gatti and the great heroic tenor Jose Soler.

ANDRES SEGOVIA - IN PORTRAIT      OPUS ARTE OA CN0931D

The Andalusian Andrés Segovia, born in 1893, came to be known as ‘the father of the modern classical guitar’. Without him, the classical guitar might still be thought of a peasant instrument unsuited for concert halls. He first played publicly at the age of sixteen and gave his first professional concert in Madrid, playing transcriptions for guitar by Francisco Tárrega and works by J S Bach, which he had transcribed. Segovia’s technique was different from that of Tárrega and others in that he plucked the strings with his fingernails, producing a much sharper sound. His superb technique and unique touch were much acclaimed and he was soon performing for large audiences in Spain and around the world. He also prompted technological advances to improve his instrument’s natural amplification, using better wood and nylon strings and changing the shape to improve the acoustics. Composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos began writing guitar pieces for him and he transcribed many classical works. This double DVD celebrates a colourful spirit whose dedication perfected a gift that lasted throughout nearly 80 years of professional life, one of the longest musical careers the world has ever seen. Two contrasting Christopher Nupen films are included. ‘Segovia at los Olivos’ was shot in Segovia’s Andalucian home in 1967 when the master musician was 75. The beautiful ‘Andrés Segovia: The Song of the Guitar’ was filmed in Granada and the Alhambra Palaces when Segovia was aged 84. Extras include new personal introductions by Christopher Nupen. ‘Spiritually therapeutic’ - The Sunday Times.

WAGNER - DIE WALKURE    WARNER CLASSICS 2564 62319-2

Richard Wagner’s opera Der Ring des Nibelungen, took more than a quarter of a century to create and may be the most challenging and monolithic piece of music ever written, taking as its subject a mythic-symbolic history of the world from creation to its destruction and redemption. Of the four parts of the Ring Cycle, Die Walkure is the most often performed separately and may be Richard Wagner’s best-loved work. It depicts the sensitive love story of Siegmund and Sieglinde, and the father-daughter relationship of Wotan and Brünnhilde. This two-CD set features a 1992 performance of Die Walküre by the Orchester Der Bayreuther Festspiele, conducted by Daniel Barenboim and directed by Harry Kupfer. The singers include: Poul Elming (Siegmund), Matthias Holle, John Tomlinson (Wotan), Nadine Secunde, Anne Evans (a feminine yet heroic Brünhilde), Linda Finnie and Eva Johansson. Wagner continues to be controversial. Because of his Nazi association, the composer’s works have nver been publicly performed in Israel, although they are not officially banned. They have been broadcast on government-owned radio and television but attempts at staging public performances have so far been prevented by protests. After Daniel Barenboim, who was born in Argentina but grew up in Israel, conducted a passage from Tristan and Isolde at the 2001 Israel Festival, a Knesset parliamentary committee urged a boycott of the conductor, and a scheduled performance of Die Walküre had to be withdrawn. Barenboim has probably done more than any musician to break through the ill-feeling surrounding Wagner’s annexation by Hitler and his courage is to be commended.

DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY - IN CONCERT   VAI 4330

The acclaimed Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky was born in 1962 in the central Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. He began his musical studies at the age of seven and went on to become a soloist with the Krasnoyarsk Opera. He came to the attention of the western world in 1989 by beating Bryn Terfel to win the pretigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. After making his western operatic debut at the Nice Opera in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades and his Italian debut at La fenice, Venice, in Eugene Onegin, he is now much sought-after for appearances at leading opera houses such as the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Metropolitan Opera, New York. He has also given many recitals in major international venues including London, New York, Milan, Moscow, Hong Kong and Vienna, working with orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic. This DVD captures a live 1998 concert in which Hvorostovsky appears with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Charles Dutoit. Highlights include Mussorgsky’s cycle ‘Songs and Dances of Death’ and the Russian folksong ‘Ochi chyornye’, as well as arias by Verdi and Rossini, and Respighi’s Pines of Rome. This is fine singing by one of the the world’s most outstanding opera and concert performers.

HEIFETZ IN PERFORMANCE       RCA RED SEAL 82876 638869 

Part of RCA’s Legendary Visions series, Heifetz: In Performance features a 63 minute documentary about the renowned violinist, filmed for television in 1971. Drawing on footage of Heifetz playing some of his favoured repertoire, the film interweaves performance with the violinist’s commentary on aspects of music, teaching, and his personal views. The narration is in English and optional subtitles. A bonus CD inludes complete versions of the music used in the film, including works by Mozart (Rondo from Serenade in D major), Prokofiev (March from The Love for Three Oranges, transcribed by Heifetz), Debussy (La Fille avec cheveux de lin), Rachmaninoff, Gershwin (It Ain’t Necessarily So from Porgy and Bess, arranged by Heifetz), Bach, Bruch, and a Heifetz arrangement of a piece by Dinicu. Jascha Heifetz was one of the most celebrated violinists of his generation and this revealing DVD makes a fitting tribute to his genius.

MOZART - DON GIOVANNI      ARTHAUS MUSIK 101 087

Don Giovanni may not be Mozart’s most popular opera but it is certainly one of his most admired. First performed at the National Theatre in Prague in 1787, it combines comedy and tragedy to tell the story of an insatiable womanizer, Don Giovanni, otherwise known as Don Juan. Don Giovanni represents a force of nature without conscience and sense of responsibility. His sole aim in life is to win the female he has just fallen in love with. Therefore, all the people around him become his victims. Not able to own up his crimes he is dragged down to hell. All the characters are fascinating and the timeless music and sharp-witted libretto contribute equally to this masterpiece. This new DVD in the Arthaus Glyndebourne classic opera series features the 1977 production. Director Sir Peter Hall has long been associated with Glyndebourne, having directed there since 1970, and his production of Mozart’s tragic ‘opera of all operas’ received universal praise.The renowned baritone Benjamin Luxon is outstanding as the inveterate seducer Don Giovanni, although he almost didn’t appear after injuring himself during rehearsals by jumping from a balcony as directed. His supporting stars include Stafford Dean as Leporello, Horiana Branisteanu as Donna Anna and Leo Goeke as Don Ottavio, and Bernard Haitink conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

PUCCINI - GIANNI SCHICCHI       OPUS ARTE OA 0918 D

Gianni Schicchi is an opera in one act with a libretto by Giovacchino Forzano. The work is based on an episode in Dante’s Inferno about a wealthy man who dies, resulting in chaos among his money-grubbing relatives as they discovered that he left most of his money and possessions to the local monks. They beg the cunning Gianni Schicchi to find a solution but he contrives to give most of the possessions to himself. This high-spirited production of Puccini’s lively farce was filmed live at the Glyndebourne Opera House in July, 2004, recorded in High Definition and True Surround Sound. Alessandro Corbelli takes the title role in Annabel Arden’s whirlwind production and other leading roles are taken by Massimo Giordano, Sally Matthews, Felicity Palmer and Marie McLaughlin. The London Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Vladimir Jurowski. Extras include an illustrated synopsis and cast gallery as well as interviews with Alessandro Corbelli, Vladimir Jurowski and Annabel Arden. ‘Conducted with flamboyant verve and mercurial comic energy by Jurowski, this is close to the perfect Glyndebourne experience’ - Sunday Times Magazine.

MOZART - IDOMENEO      DYNAMIC 33463

Composed by Mozart in 1780, this opera seria tells the story of the King of Crete, Idomeneo, who is rescued by Neptune after his boat sinks on returning from the Trojan War. In return for saving his life, Idomeneo must sacrifice the first human he meets, who unfortunately turns out to be his son, Idamente. Neptune intervenes further and offers to save Idomeneo’s son, but only if the throne is relinquished by the King and given to Idamente instead. This was possibly the composer’s greatest serious opera, depicting heroic emotion with great skill and combining a colourful orchestral score with apt and expressive recitative. Despite a mediocre libretto by Gianbattista Varesco, the work occupied a special place in the affections of its composer and has gained in esteem over the years. Idomeneo has been performed more often in recent years and although it hardly compares with the composer’s sublime Da Ponte operas it was, in its day, a revolutionary work. This double DVD set features a fine performance at the Teatro San Carlo of Naples, directed by Pier Luigi Pizzi. Marco Guidarini conducts the theatre’s orchestra and a cast that includes the tenor Kurt Streit (Idomeneo), Angeles Blancas Gulin (Ilia), Iano Tamar (Elettra) and Sonia Ganassi (Idamante).

WAGNER - PARSIFAL     OPUS ARTE OA 0915 D

Richard Wagner began thinking about his final music-drama, based on medieval legends, as early as 1857 although the text was not completed until 1877. The composer was sixty-five when he started to write the music, which he completed in 1882. The first performance took place at Bayreuth that year and the meaning of Parsifal has been widely discussed ever since. This splendid 3 DVD set features Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s visionary staging of this emotionally charged masterpiece of existential drama about human existence. The exciting production from Festspielhaus Baden-Baden is a co-production with ENO London, San Francisco Opera and Lyric Opera Chicago, filmed in August 2004 at the Baden-Baden Festival Theatre with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Festspielchor Baden-Baden conducted by Kent Nagano. Christopher Ventris, Waltraud Meier, Matti Salminen, Tom Fox and Thomas Hampson. lead an inspired cast and the high definition recording in true surround sound. Extras include a 60 minute documentary, Parsifal’s Progress, containing interviews with Kent Nagano, Nikolaus Lehnhoff and members of the cast. ‘Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s (production of Parsifal) for ENO is one of the best Wagner stagings of my lifetime’ Opera Review.

A SIMPLE MAN - GILLIAN LYNNE & CARL DAVIS     OPUS ARTE OA 0914 D

Commissioned to mark the centenary in 1987 of the birth (in Old Trafford, near Salford) of L. S. Lowry, this award-winning ballet celebrates the artist’s life and achievements in a unique way. The ballet captures much of the humanity and atmosphere of the painter’s deceptively simple and accessible art. Most of the images - mill-workers, children, women, a funeral procession, an organ grinder - can be found in Lowry’s brilliantly evocative pictures. We also see the man’s life - his powerful relationship with his mother, his enjoyment of the piano, and the three girls he knew best (co-incidentally all named Ann). Lowry's mother is portrayed by the incomparable Moirer Shearer and Lowry himself by another ex-Royal Ballet star, Christopher Gable, who began his transformation of the NBT with this work. Created by Gillian Lynne (choreographer of Cats and The Phantom of the Opera), in collaboration with the composer Carl Davis (author of music for films such as Pride & Prejudice and The French Lieutenant’s Woman), this famous production by the Northern Ballet Theatre has been re-mastered for DVD. The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Carl Davis and extra features include an introduction by actor Albert Finney, an interview with Gillian Lynne and Carl Davis, and a photo gallery of the cast.

CINDERELLA - MARGOT FONTEYN         VAI 4296

British choreographer and dancer Sir Frederick Ashton studied with Léonide Massine and Marie Rambert before joining what later became the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (now the Royal Ballet) in 1935 as chief choreographer. His works are renowned for their lyricism, quiet charm and precision, and include his debut full-length ballet, Cinderella, first staged at Sadler’s Wells in 1948. It was the first production in the West to use Prokoviev’s wonderful score, and some of Ashton’s finest choreography is combined with comedy, irony and pathos. Particularly haunting is the beautiful pas de deux for the Prince and Cinderella at the ball. This ballet was originally created by Moira Shearer (Margot Fonteyn was injured) and has since become a standard in the repertoire, with hundreds of performances. This captivating DVD features a historic 1957 television version starring Fonteyn and the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, with an outstanding cast that includes Michael Somes and Merle Park. Kenneth MacMillan and Frederick Ashton enjoy themselves enormously as the outrageous Ugly Sisters, and this black and white telecast is the only available recording of Dame Margot in one of her most important roles. The DVD also includes a bonus scene from The Sleeping Beauty, which also stars the great Fonteyn.

CHOPIN PIANO MUSIC     OPUS ARTE OA 0893 D

This collection of pieces from the early works of Frederic Francois Chopin highlights the brilliance of his innovation as a composer and the great advances in emotional subtlety that he created for the instrument. Chopin’s Opus 10 and Opus 25 Études are immaculately performed here by pianist Freddy Kempf, recorded in the evocative setting of the Château de Neauville, Gambais. Freddy Kempf was born in London in 1977 and came to national prominence aged eight when he performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto K.414 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He won the first National Mozart Competition and became the youngest ever winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition. Since his award of third prize in the controversial 1998 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow he has been a major international soloist. Chopin’s complete Opus Préludes are played by the renowned Chilean pianist Alfredo Perl in the grandeur of Hopetoun House, Edinburgh and Canadian Angela Hewitt performs Chopin’s Piano Sonata in B flat Minor. Born into a musical family in Ottawa, Angela Hewitt began studying piano at the age of three and gave her first public performance at four. She was awarded the first ever BBC Radio 3 Listener’s Award in 2003 and has lived mostly in London since 1985. This DVD features fine interpretations of some of Chopin’s greatest piano music, that is by turn amorous, playful and audacious.

JACQUELINE DU PRE - IN PORTRAIT       OPUS ARTE OACN0902D

Jacqueline du Pre Du Pré started learning the cello at the age of six and by the time she was twelve years old was playing professionally for the BBC. Her full-blooded recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1961 brought international recognition, and her 1965 recording of this work under Sir John Barbirolli was equally acclaimed. Sadly, she began to lose sensitivity in her fingers in 1973, marking the onset of multiple sclerosis. This cruel disease caused her health to deteriorate until her death in 1987 aged 42, when she remained as vibrant a figure in the public mind as she had been at the height of her glittering career. Film-maker Christopher Nupen captured the spirit of this great musician in an enthralling documentary (restored and digitally re-mastered for this DVD). The film features a typically flamboyant account of the Elgar Concerto, played with her husband Daniel Barenboim conducting the New Philharmonia Orchestra, as well as an emotional performance of Beethoven’s Piano Trio No. 5 with Barenboim (piano) and Pinchas Zukerman (violin). Extras include a photo gallery from the film and a 24 page booklet. ‘..the most vivid portrait of a musician I have yet seen on television’ - The Guardian.

THE VALLEY RECALLS          NAVRAS NRDVD006

This exhilarating recording makes available for the first time on DVD the music of one of best-selling CDs from Navras. There is an extended and more improvised version of Raga Bhoopali and the fact that the thematic part, ‘Peace Love & Harmony’, is also largely improvised makes this a unique and satisfying performance. The maturing of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia is visible in the presentation of their music and the clear fusing of their minds and music is quite magical. Seeing this concert being performed reveals in full the wonderful understanding between these musicians, who also include Pandit Anindo Chatterjee (tabla), Pandit Bhawani Shankar (pakhawaj and tabla), Shubhankar Banerjee (tabla) and Jayanti Shah (acoustic guitar). They make classical music in a style that is widely acceptable, combining the highest standards of classical rigour with the exciting presentation of a thematic form - improvised and less rigorous but thoroughly enjoyable. The DVDs also features an interesting interview with Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia.

CHRISTMAS WITH CHANTICLEER     RHINO HOME VIDEO R2 970271

Chanticleer is famous for performing evocative Christmas concerts, so it is appropriate that this acclaimed public television special should become the ensemble’s first DVD. Christmas with Chanticleer: An Orchestra of Voices was filmed before a live audience in the Medieval Sculpture Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in November 2002. The concert features songs and carols from many countries and traditions - from Renaissance gems to traditional Christmas favourites - several in new arrangements by Chanticleer’s music director, Joseph Jennings. The works include Of the Father’s Love Begotten (13th century plainsong), O magnum mysterium (Tomás Luis de Victoria), A Christmas Round, Today the Virgin and Village Wedding (all by John Tavener), the Holly and the Ivy, Ave Maria (Franz Biebl), The First Nowell, In the Bleak Mid-Winter (Gustav Holst), and a medley of Christmas Spirituals: Rise Up Shepherd and Follow/Behold that Star/Oh, What A Pretty Little Baby/Oh Jerusalem in the Morning. This charming DVD is a good choice to accompany any Christmas season celebration. ‘the world’s reigning male chorus’ - New Yorker.

PUCCINI - MADAMA BUTTERFLY     VAI 4284

The beautiful American lyric soprano Anna Moffo, born in 1932 in Wayne, Pennsylvania, gave up a possible career in Hollywood to become an opera singer. Her fame was perhaps greatest in Italy, where she hosted the ‘The Anna Moffo Show’ that helped popularise opera from 1960 to 1973. She had previously appeared to great acclaim on Italian television in a production of Madama Butterfly, staged in 1956 by Mario Lanfranchi, who later became her husband. Even though this was her debut performance in a major opera, Moffo gave a star-making performance in the demanding lead role of Cio-Cio San and this fascinating DVD captures her vibrant and credible interpretation. She performs with Renato Cioni (suitably handsome as Pinkerton), Miti Truccato Pace (Suzuki) and Alfro Poli (as the kind-hearted Sharpless). The black and white picture is a little fuzzy at times but the mono sound is surprisingly good and Moffo’s voice comes through pure and strong. Oliviero De Fabritis conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of Radiotelevisione Italiana Milano..

BORIS CHRISTOPH - LUGANO RECITAL, 1976  DYNAMIC 33476

The Bulgarian-born Boris Christoff was one of the greatest basses of the 20th century. As a boy, he sang in the chorus of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia After graduating in law, he continued singing became a soloist with the Gusla Chorus He left Bulgaria left for Italy during the war and made his operatic debut as Colline in La Boheme at Reggio Calabria in 1946, following this with appearances at Milan’s La Scala, Venice’s La Fenice, the Rome Opera and Covent Garden in London. He made his USA operatic debut in 1956 at the San Francisco Opera. After surgery for a brain tumour in 1964, Christoff’s stage performances became less frequent. This valuable recording of a 1976 concert recital made for Televisione Svizzera Italiana is a fine tribute to a formidable artist. With his unique voice and huge stage presence, Christoph is in fine form in performances of music by Mussorgski (including his most famous role as Boris Godunov), Rossini, Mozart and Verdi. There is also a lengthy interview with the critic Giorgio Gualerzi. Boris Christoff died in Rome in 1993 and his body was returned to Sofia’s Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, where he was honoured with a state funeral.

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV - LE COQ D’OR      TDK DV-OPLCO

One of the leading group of 19th century Russian nationalist composers, Rimsky-Korsakov is best known for his brilliant orchestral compositions but he also wrote songs, choral music, chamber music and works for piano. Of his 15 operas, the satirical and once banned Le coq d’or (The Golden Cockerel) is perhaps the most popular. This Châtelet revival brings to the stage again the great Kabuki actor Ennosuke III’s striking staging of the opera, first mounted by San Francisco Opera in 1984. Kabuki is a Japanese drama developed in the 17th century, characterised by elaborate costumes, rhythmic dialogue and stylised acting. Ennosuke III has worked to give this traditional theatre form appeal for modern audiences. As an actor, director and producer his aim has been to bring back the energy and excitement of Edo-period Kabuki, using his trademark high-tech special effects, dynamic lighting, stunning costumes and minimalist designs. He worked on this sumptuous production of Le Coq d’Or with an all-Japanese creative team and the result has an Oriental beauty and fascination entirely appropriate to this fantasy opera that took its inspiration from a military conflict between Japan and Russia. The Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg and Orchestre de Paris, conducted by Kent Nagano, are joined by soloists including Albert Schagidullin, Ilya Levinsky, Olga Trifonova and Yuri Maria Saenz (as the Golden Cockerel).

THE GILBERT AND SULLIVAN COLLECTION    UNIVERSAL DVD 8228651-11

Arthur Seymour Sullivan is perhaps the best known of all English composers. He wrote many choral and orchestral works but is most remembered for his theatrical partnership with the librettist William Schwenk Gilbert. The somewhat neurotic W S Gilbert’s satirical silliness combined perfectly Arthur Sullivan’s wonderfully memorable music to produce a dazzling succession of triumphs, and together they transformed the earnest and orderly Victorian age into a topsy-turvy world that is all their own. Despite the couple’s personal quarrels their comic operas have stood the test of time, gaining a special place in the culture and affections of the English-speaking world. This splendid box set contains 12 operettas in versions that were originally shown by the BBC during the early 1980s, and among them are such favourites as The Mikado, HMS Pinafore, Iolanthe, The Gondoliers, Trial by Jury and Patience. Performers include the London Symphony Orchestra and Ambrosia Opera Chorus, with an imaginative use of actors such as Vincent Price, Joel Grey and Frankie Howerd. DVD extras include introductions, profiles of Gilbert and Sullivan, behind-the-scenes featurettes, librettos and a photo gallery. No production of these works can be entirely definitive but this collection will be welcomed by any admirer of the immortal partnership.

PROKOFIEV: WAR AND PEACE         ARTHAUS MUSIK 100370

The outbreak of the Second World War inspired Sergei Prokofiev to begin composing his sweeping opera, War and Peace, filled like Tolstoy’s monumental novel with themes of love, patriotism, deceit and death. The action takes place in Russia between 1806 and 1812 and the opera has two parts, Peace and War. When fully produced, it lasts about four hours. Prokofiev added his own interpretation of neo-classicism to Tolstoy’s socialist realism, deriving his style partly from Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina and Boris Godunov. He spent the ten years following his first acceptable completion of the work in 1943 rewriting the script and attempting to shorten it, but ufortunately died in 1953 without finishing the work to his satisfaction. This sumptuous double DVD version was recorded in 1991 at the revered Marinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, where it was performed in suitably grand style by the Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of the Kirov Opera, conducted by Valery Gergiev. The stage director was Graham Vick and the DVD direction is by Humphrey Burton.

MOZART: DIE ZAUBERFLUTE           ARTHAUS MUSIK 101085

This recording of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) captures the famous production designed by David Hockney for Glyndebourne in 1978. 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. On this DVD the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Glyndebourne Chorus are conducted by Bernard Haitink and the outstanding soloists include Felicity Lott (Pamina), Leo Goeke (Tamino), Benjamin Luxon (Papageno), May Sandoz and Thomas Thomaschke. The original stage production is by John Cox and subtitles are provided in English, German, French and Spanish.

WAGNER: GOTTERDAMMERUNG          TDK - DVOPRDNG

TDK release the fourth and final part of Wagner’s epic masterpiece, The Ring, from Stuttgart Opera’s 2002/2003 season with Götterdämmerung (or ‘The Twilight of the Gods’). For the first time in the history of The Ring cycle, each of its four sections was given to a different director, providing an exciting range of perspectives with a unified theme. The decision to stage Wagner’s Ring in four separate pieces, rather than as a single, integrated work spread over four evenings, liberated Gotterdammerung in particular from a need to draw together the threads of a holistic concept of the work. Director Peter Konwitschny ignores the wider myth-bound associations of the work and concentrates on the immediate motivations, emotions and obsessions of the characters. Gone are the gods awaiting nightfall in their imposing hall; the action instead being set on a simple wooden stage of a touring theatre company. The Staatsorchester Stuttgart is conducted by Lothar Zagrosek and the soloists include Albert Bonnema (Siegfried), Franz-Josef Kapellmann (as the dwarf Alberich), Luana DeVol (a stunning Brunnhilde), Tichina Vaughn, Lani Poulson, Helga Rós Indridadóttir and Janet Collins.

AIDA - VERDI           OPUS ARTE OA0894D

This stylish production of Verdi’s popular masterpiece, filmed in 2003 at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, features Daniela Dessì as the slave girl Aida, Fabio Armiliato as Radames, Stefano Palatchi, Elisabetta Fiorillo (outstanding as the jealous Amneris) and Roberto Scandiuzzi, with the orchestra and chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu conducted by Miguel Angel Gomez Martinez. Spectacular historic paper trompe-l’oeil sets painted between 1936-45 by the Catalan artist Josep Mestres Cabanes were painstakingly restored for this production - revealing exotic pharaos palaces, temples and the surroundings of Memphis and Thebes, and providing an ideal backdrop for the thrilling drama of love and emotion. Extra features on the DVD include a fascinating documentary on Cabanes’ designs and the restoration process, an illustrated synopsis and a cast and set gallery. With stunning costumes, excellent surround sound and a superb cast, this sumptous production will please any opera fan. Sung in Italian, with English, French, German and Catalan subtitles.

RAMEAU - LES BOREADES           OPUS ARTE OA0899D

French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau was an orchestrator of rare and individual genius. Delightful musical surprises abound in his ‘lost’ opera, Les Boreades, the mythic tale of a young queen who abdicates her throne rather than be forced into a marriage with a descendant of Boreas, god of the North Wind. The bold rhythms and daring melodic lines of Rameau’s appealingly varied music relate the wonderfully convoluted plot in great style, creating a unique fusion of music, dance and drama. In this stunning production, Robert Carsen directs a magnificent cast resplendent in elegant costumes inspired by late 1940’s Dior. Soloists include Barbara Bonney, Paul Agnew, Toby Spence and Laurent Naouri. The DVD also includes a 60-minute documentary feature giving background information about the production as well as interviews with Robert Carsen, musical director William Christie, and members of the cast. Highly recommended.

OWEN WINGRAVE - BENJAMIN BRITTEN   ARTHAUS MUSIK 100 372

When Benjamin Britten started work on Owen Wingrave he conceived the opera both for performance on stage as well as on television, and the first television production was broadcast in 1971, two years before the work’s premiere at Covent Garden. This 1992 production, directed by Margaret Williams, tells the dramatic story of Owen Wingrave, who refuses to follow a military career in the tradition of his ancestors. The cast includes Gerald Finley (outstanding as Owen), Peter Savidge (Spencer Coyle), Anne Dawson (Mrs. Coyle) and Martyn Hill (Sir Philip Wingrave). The Deutsches Symphony Orchestra and Choristers of Westminster Cathedral Choir are conducted by Kent Nagano and the narrator is Andrew Burden. The DVD also features an interesting documentary, Britten - The Hidden Heart, an artistic biography of Benjamin Britten with references to his life-long friend Peter Pears and his most famous works: Peter Grimes, War Requiem and Death in Venice.

THE PAUL BRADY SONGBOOK        RTE SERIES HYPD 3425

The singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Paul Brady was born and raised in Strabane, Northern Ireland, on the border with the Irish Republic. After an early interest in many knids of music he became part of the Irish traditional folk music scene in Dublin, playing with The Johnstons and later, in London, with Planxty. As a solo performer and with his own band he now tours extensively, and in August 2002 RTE television filmed a six programme series featuring his music, called ‘The Paul Brady Songbook’. This three hour DVD features the entire series, together with extra songs not included in the original programmes. There are outstanding performances of traditional favourites such as Arthur McBride as well as many self-penned songs.

MERLIN - ALBENIZ             OPUS ARTE OA0887D

This double DVD release features the world premiere recording of the full and original version of the three act opera Merlin by Isaac Albeniz, produced over a hundred years after he completed the work. The score of this ‘Wagnerian’ opera, with a libretto by the composer’s English-born patron Francis Burdett Money-Coutts, was thought to be lost until conductor Jose de Eusebio reconstructed it from various manuscript sources and publishers' proofs. Jose de Eusebio fittingly conducts the Madrid Symphony Orchestra and Choir here in this lavish and colourful production, staged at the Teatro Real in Madrid and directed by John Drew. The soloists include David Wilson-Johnson (an impressive Merlin), Stuart Skelton (Arthur), Eva Marton (Morgan le Fay), Angel Odena (Mordred) and Carol Vaness (Nivian). Extra features include interviews with Carol Vaness, David Wilson-Johnson and Jose de Eusebio ‘Easy to imagine that Camelot is here after all’ - The Times.

LUCIANO PAVAROTTI - LIVE IN BARCELONA    UNION SQUARE USPDVD003

This DVD features a fine recording, made in June 1989 at the Gran Teatre Del Liceu in Barcelona, of one of Luciano Pavarotti’s most exhilarating performances. The charismatic tenor has become even more famous since then, performing operas, recitals and concerts, and appearing in front of huge, adoring crowds. He has also sold many millions of CDs, including one of the best-selling classical albums of all time, ‘The Three Tenors’. On this compelling DVD Pavarotti’s voice is at its purest and most seductive in arias by, among others, Mozart (Un' Aura Amorosa), Rossini (La Danza), Bellini (Bella Nice Che D'amore), Verdi, Massenet, Respighi, Mascagni (Serenata), Puccini (Recondita Armonia) and Donizetti (a thrilling performance of Una Furtiva Lagrima).

SIMON BOCCANEGRA - VERDI         TDK DV-OPSIBO

The personal price of political success is the theme at the heart of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, a tale of intrigue, rebellion, betrayal, assassination and passion. Although this has never been one of the composer’s most popular works, some consider it the most beautiful of his operas. Set against the class-driven battle for the control of 14th-century Genoa, it sympathetically portrays the embattled Doge of the city as the consequences of his past lead - through an estranged daughter, her competing suitors and a life-long enemy - to his own death. This thrilling 2002 recording was originally made for Italian television and features Carlo Guelfi (imposing in the title role), the wonderful Karita Mattila as Maria Boccanegra and Vincenzo La Scola as Gabriele Adorno. Claudio Abbado conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. ‘Abbado...has deepened his understanding of this score over the past thirty-one years, and his reading is now of such depth, concentration and unostentatious beauty that the work's idealistic advocacy of reconciliation and peace proves quite overwhelming’ - www.operanews.com

NAUGHTY MARIETTA - VICTOR HERBERT         VAI DVD 4248

This is one of Victor Herbert's most enduringly popular works, featuring such favourite melodies as Ah!, Sweet Mystery of Life, Italian Street Song, I'm Falling in Love with Someone and Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! In 1935, MGM Studios chose this charming operetta to launch the cinematic career of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. Much of the storyline and music were changed, but twenty years later Max Liebman produced and directed a television production with, according to Variety, ‘painstaking care and devotion’. This telecast production, reproduced here, is much closer to the original work and stars Metropolitan Opera singer Patrice Munsel as Marietta d'Altena. The splendid baritone Alfred Drake, who created leading roles in both Oklahoma! and Kismet, admirably assumes the part of Captain Warrington. The excellent supporting cast of singers and dancers, including John Conte and Gale Sherwood, also contribute to a most memorable production.

DIE ZAUBERFLOTE - MOZART          BBC OPUS ARTE OA 0885 D

Mozart specialist Sir Colin Davis conducts the chorus and orchestra of the Royal Opera House and a superb cast in David McVicar’s 2003 production of Mozart’s last opera, the Magic Flute, written in the final year of the composer’s life. This sparkling performance was recorded live at Covent Garden and stars Simon Keenlyside (an engaging Papageno), Dorothea Roschmann (Pamina), Will Hartmann (stylish as Tamino), Diana Damrau (an outstanding Queen of the Night) and Franz-Josef Selig (Sarastro). Extra features on this DVD include an illustrated synopsis of the opera, a BBC documentary that looks behind the scenes of the production, and Sir Colin Davis talking about Die Zauberflote. The words are sung in German with English, French and Spanish subtitles. ‘...a mellow warmth that was deeply satisfying...this is an evening no Mozart lover should miss...’ - The Mail on Sunday.

TOSCA - PUCCINI         BBC OPUS ARTE OA 0883 D

In Benoit Jacquot’s acclaimed 2002 film of Puccini’s opera the glamorous soprano Angela Gheorghiu is perfectly in the title role of the doomed singer. Also featured are the charismatic Roberto Alagna (Cavaradossi), Ruggero Raimondi (an outstanding Scarpia) and the Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, conducted by Antonio Pappano. The words are sung in Italian, with English subtitles. Extra features in this compelling DVD include Angela Gheorghiu on her role as Tosca, Benoit Jacquot on creating Tosca as film, and Antonio Pappano on Puccini’s music for the opera. An illustrated booklet includes biographies in English and Spanish.

VERDI - ATTILA   DYNAMIC 33732

The young Giuseppe Verdi’s opera tragedy Attila had its world premiere in 1846 at La Fenice in Venice and soon became very popular, receiving its first London production two years later. With an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera, based on a play by Zacharias Werner, it has the kind of picturesque Romanticism and gaudy Medieval themes which snaked in the German theatrical underwood and seemed perfect for an opera. From a musical point of view Attila has been defined a ‘sculptural’ work; and if the characters’ psychology - unlike in Macbeth, which would come a year later - has no great insight and little relevance in the unrolling of events, the epic and dramatic impact is overwhelming. Significant, to this end, is undoubtedly the fact that belligerent and heroic traits can be found not only in the Roman soldier and the Barbarian king but also in Odabella, the only female character: the young woman wants to avenge the death of her father, killed by Attila, and achieves her goal at the end of the opera when, with Foresto and Ezio, she takes active part in the king’s assassination, stabbing him of her own hand. This DVD features a recording made at the romantic medieval Tsaverets Fortress in the old capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Tamovo, by the Sofia National Opera and Ballet of Bulgaria, directed by Plamen Kartaloff and conducted by Alessandro Sangiorgi. World famous Bulgarian bass Orlin Anastasov gives a towering performance as Attila, King of the Huns, and the cast also includes Ventselav Anastasov (Ezio), soprano Radostina Nikolaeva (Odabella), Daniel Damvanov, Plamen Papazikov and Dimitar Stanchev.

VERDI – OBERTO   C MAJOR 720104

Giuseppe Verdi’s Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio, is an opera in two acts with an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera, based on a libretto by Antonio Piazza. It was Verdi’s first opera, written when he was in his 20s, and was first performed at Teatro alla Scala, Milan, in 1839, 54 years before his last opera was premiered there. The first British performance did not take place until February 1982, at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London. Set in Bassano in 1228 the opera tells the story of young count Ricardo, who is to marry the sister of Ezzelino da Romano, Cuniza. However, deceiving his friend Oberto, he seduces his daughter Leonora. Discovering the deception, Oberto convinces Leonora to go to Cuniza to tell her the truth and unmask the seducer. Upset by what Leonora has to say, Cuniza decides to quit Ricardo, who will thus be forced into a marriage of reparation. Oberto is unhappy with this solution and challenges the young man to a duel. For Leonora all that remains is the convent. The opera already shows Verdi’s instinctive melodic gift and heightened sense of drama which was to make him a giant among composers of grand opera. To celebrate Verdi’s bicentenary in 2013, C Major’s unique Tutto Verdi project will release all 26 of his operas on DVD and Blu-ray, together with his Requiem and special documentary. Pier´Alli was the stage director as well as set, costume and lighting designer for Parma this stylish production recorded live at the Teatro Regio di Parma. Oberto, as seen here for the first time on Blu-ray, stars Giovanni Battista Parodi in the title role, with Mariana Pentcheva (Cuniza), Giorgia Bertagni (Imelda), Fabio Sartori (Riccardo) and Francesca Sassu (Leonora). The Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma is conducted by Antonello Allemandi. An introduction to the opera is also included as a bonus. ‘This is how Verdi should be played’ - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

LEONCAVALLO - PAGLIACCI    WARNER 2564 66600-7

José Plácido Domingo was born in 1941 in Madrid to parents who were zarzuela performers. He was brought to Mexico at the age of eight and later attended Mexico City’s Conservatory of Music to study piano and conducting. When his vocal talent was discovered he began to take voice lessons and made his first performance as a leading tenor in the city of Monterrey when he was twenty. He launched his hugely successful international career in 1965 and has performed over 3,500 times, taking on more than 130 major tenor roles, encompassing music from Handel and Gluck to Menotti, Tan Dun and Daniel Catán. In 1997, Domingo took the role of Canio in Franco Zeffirelli’s spectacular production of Pagliacci for Washington National Opera, filmed live in this 1997 recording at the John F Kennedy Center Opera House. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s popular short opera uses the play-within-a-play device to explore the classic operatic themes of passion, adultery, jealousy and revenge. The great tenor aria, Vesti la giubba, one of the most dramatic moments in verismo opera, expresses the anguish of the cuckolded husband who is a performing clown but must make others laugh, even as his heart is breaking. This extravagant production sets the opera in a grimy modern Italian ghetto, with hundreds of people including transvestites and prostitutes, sailors, gangsters, fire eaters, children, animals, jugglers and acrobats. Domingo has performed the role of Canio many times and his thrilling performance shows why he is arguably the finest actor-tenor of our time. Canio’s young wife Nedda is played by Verónica Villarroel, Tonio is richly sung by Gregory Yurisich, Nedda’s lover Silvio is played by Manuel Lanza, and David Cangelosi is the Harlequin Beppe. The Washington National Opera Orchestra is conducted by Leonard Slatkin. This release is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

HANDEL - RODELINDA   DECCA 0734 3469

George Frideric Handel’s opera Rodelinda, regina de’ Longobardi has a libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym based on an earlier one by Antonio Salvi, which in turn was inspired by Corneille’s play Pertharite, roi des Lombards, based on the history of a 7th century king Perctarit. The opera was first performed in London in 1725 then largely neglected until its first modern production by Handel enthusiast Oskar Hagen in 1920. The first performance of Rodelinda at the Metropolitan Opera was in 2004 in a stylish production by Stephen Wadsworth and conducted by Harry Bicket. It featured Renée Fleming in the title role and The New York Times said of her performance, ‘Ms Fleming draws on every resource of her artistry in this portrayal: luminous sound, exquisite ornamentation, floating high notes, emotional volatility.’ Playing opposite her on this double DVD recording based on a ‘Live in HD’ transmission to cinemas worldwide in 2011 is countertenor Andreas Scholl as King Bertarido, assumed dead, but returning to reclaim his throne and his queen. The handsome period production sets the drama of public and private passion in the Milan of Handel’s own time - majestically presented in the set designs of Thomas Lynch and the lavish costumes of Martin Pakledinaz. Renee Fleming is in beautiful voice and as well as the accomplished Scholl the cast also includes Iestyn Davies making his Met debut as Unulfo, mezzo veteran Stephanie Blythe as Eudige, the king’s sister, tenor Joseph Kaiser as the pretender Grimoaldo, and bass-baritone Shenyang as Garibaldo. Bonus features include ‘Backstage at the Met’ with Renee Fleming, Andreas Scholl, Joseph Kaiser, and others. This release is also available as a single blu-ray (DECCA 0734 3470).

ABBA - THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION   POLAR MUSIC

Swedish group ABBA formed in 1972, with a name that comprises the first letters of the band members’ first names: Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. They became one of the most commercially successful acts in the history of pop music, topping the charts worldwide from 1972 to 1982, winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, and selling over 370 million records. During the band’s active years, Fältskog and Ulvaeus were a married couple, as were Lyngstad and Andersson, although both couples later divorced. At the height of their popularity, the strained relationships they were suffering were reflected in the group’s increasingly introspective music. ABBA’s music, with its superb melodies and impressive harmonies - not to mention the outrageous clothes - has seen a remarkable revival in recent years. This has resulted in a number of films, several tribute bands and a hugely successful musical, Mamma Mia! that became 2008’s highest-grossing film in the UK. This new collection of songs includes all the band’s hits and more on two CDs and one DVD, together with an illustrated 28-page booklet. The DVD features all of ABBA’s official promo clips in remastered form, including two previously unreleased videos: Conociéndome, Conociéndote and Gracias por la música (Spanish versions of Knowing Me, Knowing You and Thank You For The Music). The double CD has 39 tracks, including nine UK number one hits such as the immortal Dancing Queen, Knowing Me Knowing You, Take A Chance On Me and The Winner Takes It All.

BIZET - CARMEN   DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 0734799

Both of Georges Bizet’s parents were professional musicians - his mother a pianist and his father a composer and singing teacher. The precocious Georges entered the Paris Conservatory of Music aged nine and won several awards there before studying further in Italy. In 1875 he wrote his best-known work, Carmen, based on a story by prosper Merimee, incorporating Spanish rhythms to set the stage. As well as triumphant successes as Carmen in London, Vienna and Munich, the acclaimed mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca took New York’s Metropolitan Opera by storm in this ‘Met Live in HD’ performance, transmitted to cinemas around the world and now available for the first time on Blu-ray. Starring alongside the Latvian singer is star tenor Roberto Alagna as Don Jose, Barbara Frittoli as his first love Micaela and New Zealand baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes as the toreador Escamillo. The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is conducted by rising star Canadian maestro Yannick Nezet-Seguin. ‘She sings with rich sound, an unerring feel for the nuance and subtext of a phrase, and alluring sensuality.’ - New York Times. Extras include Backstage at the Met with host Renee Fleming; Interviews with Elina Garanca and Roberto Alagna as well as with Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Barbara Frittoli, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Christopher Wheeldon.

CAVALLI - LA DIDONE  OPUS ARTE OABD7106D

Francesco Cavalli is not as well known as Monteverdi, though he was crucial in establishing opera as an art form. Staged productions of his operas used to be rarities but in recent years La Calisto, L’Egisto and Ercole Amante have been staged more often in recent years. La Didone, however, remains obscure, probably because it demands such a large and talented cast. With a libretto by Giovanni Francesco Busenello (later librettist for Claudio Monteverdi), La Didone is one of the first operas deserving of the name (it was first performed at Venice’s Teatro San Cassiano in 1641). The work takes its inspiration from Virgil’s Aeneid. On the advice of his mother Venus, Aeneas leaves the fallen city of Troy, attacked by the Greeks. When he arrives on the shores of Carthage, he meets the Queen Dido and the two young people fall in love. But the gods remind Aeneas of his destiny: the creation of Rome. The pious hero follows his duty and continues on his journey to Rome, leaving the noble Dido alone and inconsolable. This Blu-ray release features a live recording of a performance at the Théâtre de Caen in 2011, with an outstanding cast of soloists: mezzo soprano Anna Bonitatibus (Didone), tenor Kresimir Spicer (Enea), Xavier Sabata (Iarba), Maria Streijffert (Ecuba) and Katherine Watson (Cassandra). William Christie conducts Les Arts Florissants in this bold production directed by French comic actor Clément Hervieu-Léger.

GLUCK - ORFEO ED EURIDICE   C MAJOR 710404

Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera, Orfeo ed Euridice, is based on the myth of Orpheus. Set to a libretto by Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, it belongs to the genre of the azione teatrale, meaning an opera on a mythological subject with choruses and dancing. The premiere was in Vienna in 1762 and this was the first of Gluck’s ‘reform’ operas, in which he attempted to replace the abstruse plots and overly complex music of opera seria with a ‘noble simplicity’ in both the music and the drama. One of the composer’s most popular of works, it became a major influence on subsequent German opera. Though originally set to an Italian libretto, the work owes much to French opera, particularly in its use of accompanied recitative and a general absence of vocal virtuosity. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ambitious Festival Internacional de Música Castell de Peralada in Spain, the Catalan theatre collective La Fura dels Baus and its director Carlus Padrissa have staged Orfeo ed Euridice with three splendid soloists in a production that confirms the Fura’s creativity. The most striking aspect of the production is the effective participation of the BandArt orchestral ensemble in the action. Padrissa also makes abundant stage use of the chorus, who depict souls or demons. With its stunning effects, expert lighting and video projections, the production grabs the viewer from the start and is perfectly captured on this Blu-ray release. Gordan Nikolic conducts and the solo singers are young Georgian mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili, with Spanish sopranos Maite Alberola and Auxiliadora Toledano. The Palau de la Música Catalana Chamber Choir also perform with rare passion.

PUCCINI - IL TRITTICO  OPUS ARTE OABD7102D

Giacomo Puccini’s Il Trittico (The Triptych) is a collection of three contrasting one-act operas, Il tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. Puccini first began planning a set of one-act operas in 1904, largely because of the success of Cavalleria Rusticana, and Il Trittico received its world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918. This Blu-ray release features The Royal Opera’s highly acclaimed interpretations of the operas, directed by Richard Jones. His witty, darkly comic realisation of Gianni Schicchi for The Royal Opera in 2007 was revived in 2012 and is here completed with two new productions of Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica. Antonio Pappano conducts a fine cast that includes Eva-Maria Westbroek, Ermonela Jaho, Lucio Gallo, Elena Zilio and rising star Francesco Demuro. In the tragic tale, Il Tabarro (The Cloak), Eva-Maria Westbroek is Giorgetta, whose affair with a lusty deckhand (Aleksandrs Antonenko) provokes her husband to murder. In Suor Angelica (an intense performance by Ermonela Jaho with great support from Anna Larsson as The Princess, her aunt), the heroine has been banished to a convent for having an illegitimate child. In the brilliantly staged farcical comedy Gianni Schicchi (sung by Lucio Gallo) the hero tricks a grasping family out of its inheritance. Expertly filmed, with excellent DTS-HD surround and stereo, this is essential viewing for all Puccini aficionados. ‘A marathon production of Puccini’s triptych is a masterclass in taut, nuanced drama.’ - Guardian.

CAVALLI - IL GIASONE  DYNAMIC 33663

Francesco Cavalli’s three act opera, Giasone, was a great success when it premiered at the 1649 Carnival season in Venice, and went on to become one of the most popular opera of the 17th century. Admired for its wit and lush melodic invention, this entertaining opera is a fanciful interpretation of the myth of Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece. Jason sires twins with one queen, Hypsipyle, then sires twins again with another, Medea. The queens plot against each other and a cast of strange characters that includes a stammering dwarf and various servants and lovers. New Grove Dictionary of Opera describes the work as an ideal meeting of music and drama. The libretto by Giacinto Andrea Cicognini displays a subtle, near Shakespearean irony employed to underscore deep emotion, and Cavalli’s colourful brings the words to life. This double DVD set features a new production orchestrated and conducted by the internationally accliamed baroque specialist Federico Maria Sardelli. The production is directed by the young Frenchwoman Mariame Clément, currently making a name for herself with her infectious directing in German and French opera houses. The title role is sung by promising countertenor Christophe Dumaux and the cast also includes Katarina Bradic (Medea), Robin Johannsen (Isifile), Josef Wagner, Filippo Adami, Yaniv d’Or, Angélique Noldus and Andrew Ashwin. This production is also available from as a three-CD box set (Dynamic CDS 663/1-3).

BRUCKNER - SYMPHONY NO. 8   ICA CLASSICS ICAD5071

Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 was the last that the composer completed. It premiered in 1892 in Vienna and is dedicated to the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. Sometimes nicknamed The Apocalyptic, though not by Bruckner himself, this moving work is one of his most triumphant and thrilling creations. This live recording of Bruckner’s Eighth from 1972 features William Steinberg and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where he was Music Director for three seasons towards the end of his career. Steinberg conducts from memory to produce an exciting yet subtle and sympathetic interpretation of this masterpiece, receiving a rapturous response from the Boston audience for this compelling performance. This rare material represents some of the earliest televised concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Steinberg. Carefully restored using state-of-the-art techniques, this recording is of exceptional musical interest and historic value. Other releases in the acclaimed ICA Classics series include VAN CLIBURN & ARRAU (ICA CLASSICS ICAD5073) featuring the great Van Cliburn and Claudio Arrau in performances of music by Chopin and Beethoven. The three Chopin performances (Piano Sonata No. 32, Ballade No. 3, and Scherzo No. 3 were filmed by the BBC in 1959, a year after Cliburn was the inaugural winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition. Claudio Arrau, one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, plays Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Nos 23 & 32.

CARLOS SAURA’S FLAMENCO TRILOGY   STUDIOCANAL

Carlos Saura is one of Spain’s most influential directors, heralded in particular for his exploration and use of the art of dance in films. The best known of these is his colourful Flamenco Trilogy made up of BODAS DE SANGRE (Blood Wedding), CARMEN and EL AMOR BRUJO (A Love Bewitched). Choreographed by Saura and his leading man, the world famous Flamenco dancer Antonio Gades, these exciting films were international hits, with Carmen winning two prizes at Cannes in 1983 and the 1985 BAFTA for Best Foreign Film. BODAS DE SANGRE stars Gades with Cristina Hoyos and Juan Antonio Jimenez and is a flamenco adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s play, Blood Wedding. This intense, passionate story reveals a couple drawn irresistibly together in the face of an arranged marriage in rural Andalucia, with family vendettas raging in the background. CARMEN stars Antonio Gades with Laura del Sol and Paco de Lucia in a film adaptation of the novel by Prosper Merimee, using music from the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet. Art imitates art as choreographer Antonio looks for someone to play the lead in his new dance work. He spots a young dancer named Carmen whose skills are unrefined but her wildcard spirit is just right for the operatic gypsy heroine who inspires lust and jealousy in a soldier. As Carmen is put through the paces of rehearsal, Antonio falls in love with her. But their affair El Amor Brujobegins to crack as Carmen’s true character is slowly discovered and Antonio questions her loyalty. So popular was this Cannes-feted depiction of the physical and interior world of dancers that in 1985 Gades mounted a popular touring version, with Saura serving as staging director and lighting technician. EL AMOR BRUJO stars Gades, Cristina Hoyos and Laura del Sol in a film based on the gypsy ballet El Amor Brujo composed by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. A worthy tale of love, madness and the supernatural, it begins with the small children Candela and José, who are promised in marriage by their fathers, but by the time they are of age another boy Carmelo (Gades) is heartbroken because he loves Candela (Hoyos) as well. Carmelo swallows his pain, even when José (Juan Antonio Jiménez, the groom in Blood Wedding) immediately takes a lover, sultry dancer Lucía (Laura del Sol otra vez). José is killed in a knife fight and bystander Carmelo is unjustly sent to prison for four years. Carmelo returns hoping to find Candela waiting for him, only to learn that she has gone mad: every night at midnight she walks to where José died and dances with his ghost. In desperation Carmelo turns to his aged aunt to find help on how to break the curse of the unfaithful ghost.

HAYDN & MOZART STRING QUARTETS   ICA CLASSICS ICAD 5056

Celebrated for their performances of the Viennese Classics, the Amadeus Quartet dominated the British chamber music scene for over 40 years and was one of the most respected ensembles of the 20th Century. The ensembles core repertoire included all three quartets performed here with great warmth and exuberance on this ICA Classics Legacy series release. The series is a collection of historic performances by some of the world’s greatest artists, released on DVD for the first time and incorporating rare archive footage that has been lovingly restored. Other releases include Charles Munch and the excellent Boston Symphony Orchestra’s exhilarating performances of music by HANDEL & MOZART (ICAD 5057), featuring Handel’s sparkling Water Music Suite and two Mozart symphonies (Nos.36 and 38, ‘Prague’). Erich Leinsdorf conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra in works by BEETHOVEN & TCHAIKOVSKY (ICAD 5059). Intense and driven, Leinsdorf’s insightful interpretations of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Beethoven’s Egmont Overture provide fresh readings of this familiar music.

THE MIKADO   OPERA AUSTRALIA OPOZ56015BD

Composer Arthur Sullivan and librettist W S Gilbert, wrote fourteen comic operas together and The Mikado is probably the best-loved. The operetta premiered in 1885 at London’s Savoy Theatre, where it then ran for a highly successful 672 performances, and its irresistible tunes and sense of fun have made this one of the most frequently performed musical theatre pieces in history. The action is located in exotic Japan, allowing Gilbert wittily to satirise British politics and institutions of the time more freely by setting them in a foreign land. This refreshingly unstuffy and often saucy production, brilliantly directed by Stuart Maunder for Opera Australia, has fantastical sets, extravagant costumes and some great choreography. Orchestra Victoria is conducted by Brian Castles-Onion and the music sparkles with sprightly joy. The cast includes Mitchell Butel as Ko-ko (in Harold Lloyd specs), the excellent Kanen Breen as lanky wandering minstrel Nanki-Poo, Taryn Fiebig as his luscious beloved Yum-Yum, Warwick Fyfe as the pompous Pooh-Bah, Jacqueline Dark in fine voice as the voracious crone Katisha, and Richard Alexander as the grand Mikado himself. Extras with this Blu-ray release include ‘Jacqueline Dark becomes Katisha’ in which we see the ‘mild-mannered mezzo’ transformed into her makeup as the scene-stealing harridan. ‘If you don’t know it yet, Mitchell Butel is a star…He is so funny that the audience laughs in anticipation.’ - Sunday Herald Sun. Other recommended Opera Australia Blu-ray releases include Verdi’s RIGOLETTO (OPOZ56010BD), starring Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Taryn Fiebig, and Mozart’s THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO (OPOZ56002BD), with Alan Opie and Emma Matthews.

PUCCINI - MADAMA BUTTERFLY    DYNAMIC 55563

Giacomo Puccini’s poignant opera Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly), with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, was based on a book by John Luther Long and a play by David Belasco. The first version, premiered 1904 at La Scala in Milan, had only two acts and was poorly received. The revised version split the long second act in half and proved more acceptable, although the two-act version is still preferred in Italy. Sometimes criticised for its stereotyping of ‘passive’ Asians or reflecting the supposed anti-American tone of the play on which it is based, Madama Butterfly nevertheless remains one of the most popular works in the operatic repertoire. This Blu-ray release features a recording of a magnificent production of the timeless Japanese tragedy directed by Stefano Vizioli in 2007 at the Puccini Festival in Italy’s Torre del Lago, Puccini’s home town. The fine cast includes brilliant Russian soprano Elmira Veda as Cio Cio San and Australian-born Italian tenor Carlo Barricelli as Pinkerton, with Annmaria Popescu (Suzuki), Sally Wilson (Kate Pinkerton), Luca Salsi (Sharpless), Emanuele Giannino (Goro), Manrico Signorini (Zio Bonzo) and Giovanni Guagliardo (Il principe Yamadori / Il commissario imperiale). Laurence Gilgore conducts The Orchestra & Chorus Festival Puccini.

RICHARD STRAUSS - CAPRICCIO  DECCA 074 3455

Richard Strauss subtitled his final opera, Capriccio, ‘A Conversation Piece for Music’. Its main character, Countess Madeleine, is a young widow who lives in a chateau near Paris with her brother, the Count, and is being courted by the passionate composer Flamand and the more buttoned-up poet Olivier. On the occasion of her birthday, Flamand has written her a string sextet and Olivier a sonnet, leading to much aesthetic debate about whether music or words are more important on their own terms or when the two arts are combined. With a witty German libretto by Clemens Krauss and Strauss himself, the opera received premiered at the Nationaltheater München in 1942. This sumptuous production was specially mounted for the acclaimed Strauss soprano Renée Fleming by the Metropolitan Opera of New York. John Cox’s production moves the opera from its original eighteenth century setting to the elegance of 1920s Paris, an era beautifully captured in Robert Perdziola’s designs. Under the baton of conductor Sir Andrew Davis, Renée Fleming leads a superb cast of Straussians, which includes Russell Braun and Joseph Kaiser as the poet and composer respectively. Morten Frank Larsen stars as the countess’s brother alongside the ‘theatricals’ - British mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly and tenor Barry Banks. Peter Rose is perfect as the ‘director’ La Roche. The Met’s Live in High Definition includes backstage footage and interviews with the company, hosted by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. ‘Ms Fleming’s voice was plush and alluring; her phrasing noble...The role suits her ideally’ - New York Times.

AFTERNOON IN PAN´S LABYRINTH - PRÁDA / LINDGREN  NOSAG CDVD 185  

This enchanting chamber concert features mostly French music from the 1900s about and around the myth of Pan and Syrinx, together with several modern Swedish compositions inspired by the same story. Recorded in HD in the beautiful Wood Hall of Lilla Akademien of Stockholm, the film’s performers are the charming Hungarian-born flutist Kinga Práda and pianist Stefan Lindgren. Music is by Debussy (including his mesmerising Afternoon of a Faun and the captivating Syrinx), Jules Mouquet (his sprightly Flute of Pan with its lovely third movement), Albert Roussel, Georges Hue (Fantasies), Stellan Sagvik (Panidul) Stefan Lindgren (Invoking Syrinx) and Henri Dutilleux (the haunting Sonatine). Kinga Práda plays this delightful music with great vivacity and passion, with exemplary accompaniment from Swedish pianist/composer Stefan Lindgren. In addition to this DVD, the concert is also available on blu-ray as well as in a combined DVD/BD version or on CD (nosag CD 186).

MATS EK - APPARTEMENT  ARTHAUS MUSIK 107185

Swedish born Mats Ek is a leading dance and ballet choreographer, dancer and stage director. His virtuoso avante garde ballet, Appartement, was especially created for the Opera National de Paris and shows off Ek’s exemplary skills as a choreographer. Split into eleven uninterrupted scenes: ‘The Bathroom,’ ‘The Television,’ ‘The Pedestrian Crossing,’ ‘The Kitchen,’ ‘Children’s Games,’ ‘Waltz (Four Couples),’ the hilarious ‘March of the Vacuum Cleaners,’ ‘Duo of the Embryos,’ ‘Grand pas de Due,’ ‘Safety Barriers,’ and ‘This Division’), performers such as Clairemarie Osta, Marie-Agnes Gillot, Kader Belarbi, Nicolas Le Riche and José Martinez subtly interpret an inpired work buzzing with ideas. The beautiful set and costume design is by Peter Freiij in this live 2003 recording from the Opéra National de Paris Palais Garnier. The production also features original music played on stage by the Swedish rock band Fleshquartet - acclaimed as the instrumentalists behind the theme tune to hit television series, Wallander. Highly recommended.

VERDI - LA TRAVIATA   ARTHAUS MUSIK 108036

Giuseppe Verdi based his three act opera La traviata on La dame aux Camélias, a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils. The title La traviata literally means The Fallen Woman, and it was originally called Violetta, after the main character, a beautiful courtesan. Violetta abandons her happy but empty life in Paris and takes up with young nobleman Alfred Germont. His father demands that Violetta leaves as the relationship disgraces the Germont family name. Violetta agrees for Alfredo’s sake and is abandoned by everyone until Alfred discovers the truth and begs her to forgive him. Verdi and his Italian librettist Francesco Maria Piave wanted to follow Dumas in giving the opera a contemporary setting, but the authorities at La Fenice insisted that it be set in the past. It was not until the 1880s that the composer’s original wishes were carried out and ‘realistic’ productions were staged. This Blu-ray release features a live recording of Verdi’s enduring favourite, directed by Peter Konwitschny in strikingly simple yet sophisticated production at The Oper Graz in 2011. The German coloratura soprano Marlis Petersen makes her sensational in the role of the doomed courtesan Violetta and Italian lyric tenor Giuseppe Varano is her young lover Alfredo, with James Rutherford as his unyielding father Giorgio, Kristina Antonie Fehrs as Flora Bervoix and Fran Lubahn as Annina. Tecwyn Evans conducs a highly-focused, intelligent reading of Verdi’s subtle and passionate music with daring cuts in the score. Extras include ‘La Traviata’ in Graz - an introduction by Ioan Holender featuring interviews with Peter Konwitschny and Marlis Petersen as well as backstage and rehearsal footage.

LES SYLPHIDES & GISELLE   ICA CLASSICS ICAD 5030

These two exceptional studio performances comprise rare archive material featuring internationally first time on DVD. Les Sylphides, introduced by one of the founders of modern British ballet, Tamara Karsavina, is one of the earliest examples of a complete filmed ballet in the BBC archives. The production boasts a stellar cast, including Alicia Markova, Prima Ballerina Assoluta and Founder and President of English National Ballet. Markova, invited by Diaghilev to join his Ballet Russes at just fourteen, was the first British dancer to become the principal dancer of a ballet company. Svetlana Beriosova became a prima ballerina at Sadlers Wells in 1955, and Violetta Elvin, one of the Bolshoi’s most promising talents was often seen as Fonteyn’s closest rival. In the 1958 broadcast of Giselle, one of the most popular ballets from the Romantic era, the delightful Nadia Nerina takes the title role and Nikolai Fadeyechev is the dashing Prince Albrecht. Renowned as the best technician at Covent Garden in the 1950s and 1960s, South African born Nerina was famous for her acrobatic lifts. Giselle is beautifully danced and acted and the black and white photography here serves to heighten the fairy tale atmosphere. The ICA Classics Legacy series features historic performances by some of the world’s greatest artists released on DVD for the first time, John Crankoincorporating rare archive footage that has been expertly and lovingly restored. Other recent releases include THE LADY AND THE FOOL & PINEAPPLE POLL (ICAD 5040) featuring two ballets by John Cranko that reveal the choreographer’s theatrical ingenuity. Created for the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet, which later became the Royal Ballet, Pineapple Poll is a light hearted frolic. Lady and the Fool is a bittersweet satire on the plight of society’s outcasts with La Capricciosa danced by Svetlana Beriosova in the year she became Prima Ballerina at Sadler’s Wells. Both ballets are rare studio performances from the BBC’s earliest television archives and are released here for the first time on DVD. VIENNESE NIGHT AT THE BBC PROMS (ICAD 5026) with waltzes, polkas and overtures recorded at the Viennese Night Prom concerts during a vintage period in their history. Music featured includes the Blue Danube Waltz, Radetsky March and Csardas and Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus, all performed with exuberance, good humour and panache by three conductors well suited to the genre - János Fürst, James Loughran and Walter Susskind. The ICA Classics Legacy series presents a collection of historic performances by some of the world’s greatest artists. These performances are released on DVD for the first time, incorporating rare archive footage that has been expertly and lovingly restored.

LULU - ALBAN BERG   DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 734637

Austrian composer Alban Berg’s opera Lulu has a libretto adapted by the composer himself from twu plays by Frank Wedekind - Erdgeist (Earth Spirit) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box). The opera was first performed in an incomplete form in 1937 and following Berg’s death his widow, Helene Berg, approached Arnold Schoenberg to complete the orchestration but he changed his mind. Lulu was only performed as a two act opera for over forty years until a completed version could be made by another Austrian composer, Friedrich Cerha. This version caused a sensation when it premiered at in 1979 and Lulu is probably opera’s rawest exposition of the fatal risks of untamed erotic power. No man who meets Lulu does not want her − but, like the wind, she cannot be possessed. As happens to the heroine herself, the men who attempt to subdue her, and the one woman who also adores her, are destroyed by the flip side of the life force that pours through Lulu: death. French soprano Patricia Petibon is Lulu to the life in this live recording of the Gran Teatro del Liceu’s 2010 hit production, directed by Olivier Py, which also stars Franz Grundheber, Paul Groves and Julia Juon. Michael Boder’s conducting of the outstanding Liceu Orchestra brings out the sensuality and psychological finesse of Berg’s demanding 12-tone score.

BIZET - CARMEN IN 3D  OPUS ARTE OA 3D 7096D

Georges Bizet’s opera, with a libretto written by Meilhac and Halévy, is based on a story with the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera premiered at the Opéra Comique of Paris in 1875 and was initially considered a failure, denounced by critics as immoral and superficial. Today, it is a staple of the operatic repertoire. The story is set in Seville, Spain, circa 1830, and concerns the eponymous Carmen, a beautiful gypsy with a fiery temper. Free with her love, she woos the naïve corporal Don José, an inexperienced soldier. Their relationship leads to his rejection of his former love and mutiny against his superior as he turns to a criminal life for the sake of Carmen. Although he is briefly happy with the fickle Carmen, he falls into madness when she rejects him for the bullfighter Escamillo. This Blu-ray release features a characteristically vivid and vibrant stage production by Francesca Zambello, beautifully filmed in 3D by Julian Napier. Seville is brought to life with ranks of soldiers, crowds of peasants, gypsies and bullfighters - as well as a magnificent horse, a donkey and even some chickens! This spectacular RealD and Royal Opera House production has a fine cast that includes the lustrous Christine Rice in the title role, Bryan Hymel as Don José, Aris Argiris as Escamillo and the young Latvian soprano Maija Kovalevska as Micaëla. Carmen in 3D was shot using state-of-the-art 3D cameras during live performances at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and this recording marks the world’s first complete opera on 3D Blu-ray. You will need a 3D compatible TV and a 3D compatible Blu-ray player to watch this disc and will have to wear the 3D glasses that were supplied with your 3D TV (no glasses are supplied with the disc).

DER ROSENKAVALIER  PARK CIRCUS PC0021

Starring Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Otto Edelmann, conducted by Herbert von Karajan and featuring the Vienna State Opera Ballet, the Vienna State Opera Chorus and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, this is a colourful and inspiring performance of Richard Strauss’ opera. Director Paul Czinner’s production was filmed live at the Salzburg Festival on the opening night in 1960, the singers also include Sena Jurinac and Anneliese Rothenberger. The story is set in the Royal Court of Vienna, where the beautiful, though aging, Princess is being wooed by Octavian, a handsome young cavalier, despite her married state. Complications arise when Octavian falls in love with her younger sister, Sophie, whom another man is trying to win. Set to a rousing musical score, Der Rosenkavalier is a classic love story. Following a successful Blu-ray release (Park Circus PCB0021), Der Rosenkavalier is now out on DVD for the first time in this sparkling restoration of the film, with extras that include a theatrical trailer.

PAGANINI’S DAEMON: A MOST ENDURING LEGEND  ALLEGRO FILMS

Nicolò Paganini was born in Genoa, Italy in 1782 and was taught to play the violin from a very young age. He gave his first public concert at the age of 11 and went on to become the greatest violinist of his time, profoundly influencing the technique of violin-playing and, through his phenomenal virtuosity, the ambitions of performers on other instruments. During a two and half year period from August 1828 to February, 1831 he visited 40 cities in Germany, Bohemia and Poland, and his performances in Vienna, Paris and London were sensational. His concert tour of England and Scotland in 1832 made him rich. Paganini’s genius as a player overshadows his work as a composer but he wrote many accomplished works for violin and orchestra for his own use, including five concertos and several sets of variations for violin and orchestra. Prize-winning filmmaker Christopher Nupen looks at the legend and the strange man who created it all with his dazzling combination of technical brilliance, showmanship, Italian melody and unbridled manipulative skill. Paganini was a man whose extraordinary personality unsettled even the most sophisticated and educated of minds, provoking wildly contradictory opinions. He was simultaneously hailed as the greatest of all violin virtuosos and as a charlatan in league with the devil. This documentary attempts to present a true picture of the man and the musician, featuring extracts from Paganini’s music as well as readings from his letters and quotations from both his admirers and his detractors. There are contributions by violinist Gidon Kremer, guitarist John Williams, and the Coro e Orchestra della Radiotelevisione della Svizzera Italiana, conducted by Lawrence Foster. Paganini served his daemon with commitment and dedication, wrote a great range of original and memorable music, changed violin playing decisively and created the age of the romantic virtuoso. This fascinating film, broadcast on London Weekend Television’s South Bank Show and by the BBC, is now available on DVD for the first time. A bonus track, ‘Gidon Kremer, Perfectionism and the Thirteenth Caprice,’ is a short sequence from Christopher Nupen’s previously unavailable film portrait of Gidon Kremer: Man of Many Musics (First Come the Sounds). ‘Your Paganini film is, in my opinion, the best that we have seen. Congratulations.’ - Edward Neill, Paganini Institute, Genoa. Meticulously researched and directed, this is another triumph for Christopher Nupen, who has shown himself the music documentary master with his outstanding films about Tchaikovsky, Nathan Millstein, Sibelius, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Itzhak Perlman, Andrés Segovia and Jacqueline du Pré.

HANDEL - ALCINA   ARTHAUS MUSIK 108 028

George Frideric Handel’s opera seria Alcina has a plot taken from Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, an epic poem set in the time of Charlemagne’s wars against Islam. The opera was composed for Handel’s first season at the Covent Garden Theatre, London, where it premiered 1735. Like the composer’s other works in the opera seria genre, Alcina fell into obscurity; after a revival in Brunswick in 1738 it was not performed again until a production in Leipzig in 1928. This Blu-ray release features a delightful production recorded live at the Vienna Staatsoper with an all-star cast of Baroque specialists, a former director of the Royal Shakespeare Company – Adrian Noble, the highly-acclaimed conductor Marc Minkowski and his Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble in the pit. Noble places his Alcina into a framework which begins in the magnificent ballroom of the Devonshire-House in London Piccadilly. The legendary Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, stages a play in which she is acting together with her friends, a stage on the stage. The cast includes the magnificent German soprano Anja Harteros as Alcina, with Vesselina Kasarova (Ruggiero), Kristina Hammarström (impeccable as Bradamante), Veronica Cangemi (Morgana) and boy soprano Alois Muehlbacher as Oberto. Alcina is a great musical experience geared to the Baroque curiosity and Marc Minkowski revives Handel’s music in an outstanding way. Extras include a ‘Behind the Scenes’ feature.

MOZART – DA PONTE OPERAS  EUROARTS 2058818

Mozart - Da Ponte Operas1All three of Mozart’s operas written with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte are included in this superb collection of six DVDs featuring Claus Guth’s celebrated Mozart-Da Ponte opera trilogy at the Salzburg Festival. These excitingly original productions feature superb orchestral playing and world-class conductors as well as outstanding casts. Le nozze di Figaro Figaro stars Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, Susanna: Anna Netrebko as Susanna and Bo Skovhus as Il Conte Di Almaviva, with Dorothea Röschmann, Christine Schäfer and Franz-Josef Selig. The Wiener Staatsopernchor and Wiener Philharmoniker are conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and there is a bonus documentary by Sylvia Griss and Alexander Hellbrügge. Don Giovanni stars Christopher Maltman as the Don and Anatoli Kotscherga as Il Commendatore, with Annette Dasch, Matthew Polenzani, Dorothea Röschmann and Ekaterina Siurina. The conductor is Bertrand de Billy. Così fan tutte has Miah Persson as Fiordiligi and Isabel Leonard as Dorabella, with Florian Boesch, Topi Lehtipuu, Patricia Petibon and Bo Skovhus, conducted by Adam Fischer. ‘A triumph for Mozart … Netrebko’s golden radiance and dark velvet are ideal.’ - Salzburger Nachrichten.

PIQUE DAME   OPUS ARTE OA BD 7085D

Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades) premiered in 1890 in St Petersburg, Russia, and received rave reviews. This powerfully dramatic three-act opera has a libretto by the composer’s brother Modest Tchaikovsky, based on a short story of the same name by Alexander Pushkin about the soldier Hermann, an obsessive in gambling and in love. Hermann falls for the aristocratic Lisa and becomes fixated on learning the winning secret of ‘the three cards’ from her grandmother, the Countess, played by celebrated Polish coloratura contralto Ewa Podleś. This opulent production from Barcelona’s Liceu Theatre, directed by Gilbert Deflo, captures St Petersburg in the era of Catherine the Great, while the house’s Music Director Michael Border conducts a large and impressive cast that in addition to the iconic Podles includes Misha Didyk as as a compelling Hermann, American soprano Emily Magee as Liza, the excellent Lado Ataneli as Count Tomsky, French baritone Ludovic Tézier as Prince Yeletsky and Elena Zaremba as Polina. The Symphony Orchestra and chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Chorus Intermezzo and Escolania de Montserrat are conducted by Michael Boder.

THE GRAND ORGAN OF CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL  PRIORY PRDVD6

This spectacular new DVD - the seventh in Priory’s excellent Grand Organ series - features the little recorded organ in Canterbury Cathedral played by John Robinson, the assistant organist and former organ scholar of St John’s College, Cambridge. As usual, the music reflects the history of the building and here the theme is pilgrimage. John Robinson plays from memory and presents an absorbing commentary on the history of the organ and its links with the music. The 78-minute recital includes works by Modest Mussorgsky, J S Bach, Claude Debussy (Footprints in the Snow, transcribed by John Robinson), Alfred Hollins, Healey Willan, Benjamin Britten, Josef Rheinberger, Theodore Dubois and Hubert Parry, amongst others. The DVD is a real tour de force recorded in Stereo and Dolby 5.1 to make the most of the the vast sound created by this instrument. The programme chosen demonstrates the entire organ and the visuals show the magnificent building in its entirety as well as the surrounding area. The bonus tracks are a full demonstration of the restored organ from the mobile console as well as Simon Johnson talking through his registration of Cocker’s Tuba Tune whilst playing from the console, and shots probably never seen before of the interior of the organ and the tuner at work. A CD is also included so that you can enjoy this thrilling music in your car or on a separate hi-fi system.

DONIZETTI - MARINO FALIERO    NAXOS DVD OPERA CLASSICS 2.110616-17

Set in Venice in 1355, Gaetano Donizetti’s Romantic, sentimental three act opera tells the dramatic story of Elena, wife Marin Faliero, the Doge of Venice. Elena is continually subjected to attacks on her reputation by the patrician Steno whose advances she has rejected. Meanwhile, she is in love with Faliero’s friend Fernando, who wants to leave the city to save her from dishonour. During a masked ball, Fernando challenges Steno to a duel resulting in many conspiratorial adventures and an inevitably tragic conclusion. With an Italian libretto by Giovanni Emanuele Bidéra inspired by Lord Byron’s drama Marino Faliero, the opera was originally commissioned by Rossini for the Théâtre-Italien in Paris in 1835. Although not initially a great success, Marino Faliero subsequently enjoyed a long and successful run of international performances throughout the 19th Century before disappearing from the stage until its modern revival in 1966. This recording was filmed in 2008 at the Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo, Italy, in 2008. The Orchestra and Chrus of the Bergamo Musica Festival Gaetano Donizetti is conducted by Bruno Cinquegrani and the fine cast includes the sumptuous bass Giorgio Surian as Marino Faliero, delectable Italian soprano Rachele Stanisci in the difficult role of Elena, Ivan Magri as Fernando and Luca Dall’Amico as Steno.

WAGNER - DIE WALKURE  OPUS ARTE OA BD7081 D

Richard Wagner’s opera Der Ring des Nibelungen, took more than a quarter of a century to create and may be the most challenging and monolithic piece of music ever written, taking as its subject a mythic-symbolic history of the world from creation to its destruction and redemption. Of the four parts of the Ring Cycle, Die Walkure is the most often performed separately and may be Richard Wagner’s best-loved work. It depicts the sensitive love story of Siegmund and Sieglinde, and the father-daughter relationship of Wotan and Brünnhilde. Christian Thielemann returns to Bayreuth for this radiant account of Die Walküre filmed live at the 2010 Festival. Also available on DVD, this Blu-ray release provides the only audio-visual document of Tankred Dorst’s remarkable and highly personal Ring production, and follows the hugely successful release of the whole cycle on CD. South African tenor Johan Botha is a truly heroic Siegmund (‘ideal vocal casting’ according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) and Edith Haller is touchingly vulnerable in the role of his sister and lover Sieglinde. The cast also includes Albert Dohmen as Wotan, Linda Watson as Brünnhilde and Mihoko Fujimura as Frick, with the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra sensitively conducted by Christian Thielemann (‘by common consent the leading Wagner conductor of our time - Die Presse). Extras include a ‘making of’ feature and cast gallery.

ROSSINI - ARMIDA  DECCA 0743416

Gioachino Rossini’s Armida was first performed at the Teatro di San Carlo, Naples, in 1817. This three-act opera, with an Italian libretto by Giovanni Schmidt, is based on scenes from Gerusalemme liberata by Torquato Tasso. Its first modern staging took place at the Teatro Comunale Florence in 1952, during the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, with Maria Callas and Francesco Albanese in the leading roles, but its Metropolitan Opera premiere had to wait until 2010, with Renée Fleming in the title role. The bel canto rarity was specially staged to showcase the Queen of the Met’s extraordinary vocal virtuosity and that four-hour extravaganza is captured here on this double DVD in all its glory. Fleming is in great form in one of the longest and most demanding that Rossini ever wrote and there are no fewer than six tenor roles, here led by the acclaimed young American tenor, Lawrence Brownlee. Mary Zimmerman’s magical production is supported by striking sets and colourful costumes and a fully-staged ballet, the ‘real world’ of the Crusaders and the fantastical realm of Armida’s enchanted island being clearly contrasted. Of Renée Fleming’s performance, the The Opera Critic said: ‘The beautiful singing and appearance of Fleming make this an event worth seeing … She was especially brilliant in her long final scene which calls for rich legato singing as well as flashy ornamentation’. In A MUSICAL ODYSSEY IN ST PETERSBURG (DECCA 0743383) Renée Fleming explores the cultural riches of St Petersburg, and the role that music played in its unique history. She is joined by Russian baritone star Dmitri Hvorostovsky, for a three-part programme of opera excerpts by Tchaikovsky and Verdi, and songs by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Medtner. The 90 minute film is presented by Fleming herself, as she takes the viewer on a journey through the principal sights and musical history of ‘The Venice of the North’. All repertoire was performed by special permission in the opulent theatres of the Winter Palace, the Yusopov Palace and the magnificent palace of Peterhof. A sumptuous treat.

MARIA MULDAUR: LIVE IN CONCERT  RETRO WORLD: FLOATD 6066

Maria Maldaur is a veteran of the US Roots music scene, with a career that stretches all the way back to the early 1960s Greenwich Village Folk era that also produced many other enduring talents. The most renowned of these was the young Bob Dylan, and it is Dylan’s work that is celebrated on this excellent live, full-length concert CD and DVD. Fronting a fine band, Maria Muldaur performs selections from her acclaimed 2006 album of Dylan covers, Heart Of Mine, together with a smooth version of her infallibly sexy signature hit, Midnight (or Midnite?) At The Oasis. Included in the set list is an inspired reworking of Dylan’s amiable You Aint Going Nowhere, re-titled Ride Me High, the wonderful Heart of Mine, and the soulful interpretation of Make You Feel My Love. Throughout, Muldaur proves that she is an engaging, eminently likeable performer, and backed by a funky eight piece band, her distinctive voice does full justice to the Duluth bard’s oeuvre. She brings an extra dimension to these great songs and gives the impression that she’s lived every one of them.

MONTEVERDI - L’ORFEO    OPUS ARTE OA BD7080 D

The Baroque era produced some of the most vocal ever written by far the most important vocal music and the first operas were composed in early seventeenth century Italy by Cavalieri and Monteverdi. Most operas from this period were based on stories and plays from Greek and Roman mythology, one of the most famous of these being Monteverdi’s Orfeo, first produced for the carnival at Mantua in 1607. The opera is based on the Greek myth of Orpheus. From an idyllic opening on his wedding day, tragedy quickly strikes when his beloved Euridice dies from a snake bite. Orpheus’ love travels into the underworld to bring back his love but can only do so if he promises not to look at her before they have left the abyss. If he does, he will lose her for ever. This Blu-ray release features a live recording from La Teatro alla Scala filmed in high definition and surround sound. The stunning 2009 production was directed by Robert Wilson, taking its inspiration from a sumptuous painting by Titian - Venus with Eros and an Organist. The cast includes Austrian baritone Georg Nigl as Orfeo, Milanese soprano Roberta Invernizzi as Euridice and classical contralto Sara Mingardo as the Messenger, with the Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala and Concerto Italiano conducted by acclaimed Italian early music specialist, Rinaldo Alessandrini. Extras include a cast gallery and illustrated synopsis.

PUCCINI - LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST   OPUS ARTE OA BD7075 D

Giacomo Puccini’s considered La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West) to be the best of his operas. Based on a hit play by David Belasco, ‘the original spaghetti Western’ was first performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1910, conducted by Arturo Toscanini with Met stars Enrico Caruso and Emmy Destinn for whom Puccini created the leading roles. The setting is California during the Gold Rush of 1849 and the love triangle story features a crafty criminal, a suspicious sheriff and a frontier woman who knows how to shoot. Recorded live at The Amsterdam Music Theatre in 2009, Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s extravagant Hollywood-style production updates this Wild West story to the capitalist culture of Wall Street, perfectly reflecting Puccini’s innovatory spirit. In a new angle on the age-old love triangle theme, corrupt Sheriff Jack Rance (Lucio Gallo) and charismatic criminal Dick Johnson (Zoran Todorovich) vie for the love of glamorous blonde and devout Christian Minnie (the wonderful Eva-Maria Westbroek), finding her way in a man’s world. Carlo Rizzi’s idiomatic conducting draws excellent singing from the large cast and fine playing from The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. Filmed in High Definition and recorded in true surround sound. Extras with this blu-ray disc include a cast gallery and a documentary about the acclaimed Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek. ‘A high-powered show throughout’ - The Financial Times.

 

 

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