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M. Ball

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Ponchielli:La Gioconda [Placido Domingo; Eva Marton; Matteo Manuguerra; Ludmila Semtschuk; Kurt Rydl; Margarita Lilova] [ARTHAUS: BLU RAY] [Blu-ray] [2015]
Ponchielli:La Gioconda [Placido Domingo; Eva Marton; Matteo Manuguerra; Ludmila Semtschuk; Kurt Rydl; Margarita Lilova] [ARTHAUS: BLU RAY] [Blu-ray] [2015]
Dvd ~ Wiener Staatsoper
Price: £14.15

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Problems with picture size., 6 Jun. 2015
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It's difficult to know how to rate this. I have the original of this on DVD which is in wide screen format. This new Blu-Ray version the picture is in 4:3 format with two black bands down either side and it looks distorted i.e. people look taller and thinner than they should. It's possible that this only happens on my player (a good quality Sony player) but I haven't had this problem with any other discs. I couldn't find any adjustments on either the Blu-Ray player or the TV which corrected the problem.
Apart from this problem the Blu-Ray and DVD were very similar - certainly no obvious improvement in the picture quality which was rather dark. The presentation of the disc was also rather scruffy. The disc immediately plays a trailer and only then goes to the main menu and the main menu is distinctly lacking in options. So, much as I like some of these old productions that Arthaus are re-releasing on Blu-Ray, I shall avoid them for the time being.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 9, 2016 2:47 PM GMT

Offenbach Les Contes d'Hoffmann [DVD] [2014]
Offenbach Les Contes d'Hoffmann [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Stephane Deneve
Price: £16.12

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting new (to me) version, 11 Jan. 2014
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This is a revue of Les Contes d'Hoffman by the Gran Teatre del Liceu from 2014 starring Natalie Dessay, Laurent Naouri and Michele Losier among others.

Because Offenbach died before fully completing Les Contes d'Hoffman there are a lot of different versions around and this was one that I hadn't seen before which made it particularly interesting. There were several numbers I had not heard before. This was clearly the version Powel and Pressburger had based there film version on (although they cut a good hour of material and changed things around quite a lot).

My only real complaint of the performance was that the staging was a little plain - presumably because of the many fairly rapid scene changes that were needed. Everything else was excellent.
There was a big cast all of whom were at least good. Of the bigger roles Natalie Dessay (Antonia), Laurent Naouri (Lindorf, Dapertutto etc.) and Michele Losier (Nicklausse) stood out as particularly good and Kathleen Kim (Olympia) was excellent in a small but very difficult role. Both Stephane Deneve and the Liceu orchestra were first rate.

Video and Sound were very good and the video editing (which must have been quite difficult in some of the scenes) was excellent.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 7, 2014 11:38 PM GMT

Korngold: Die Tote Stadt (Berlin 1983) (James King/ Karan Armstrong/ William Murray/ Margit Neubauer/ Donald Grobe/ Heinrich Hollreiser/ Götz Friedrich) (Arthaus: 101656) [DVD] [NTSC] [2012]
Korngold: Die Tote Stadt (Berlin 1983) (James King/ Karan Armstrong/ William Murray/ Margit Neubauer/ Donald Grobe/ Heinrich Hollreiser/ Götz Friedrich) (Arthaus: 101656) [DVD] [NTSC] [2012]
Dvd ~ James King

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, traditional production, 24 Nov. 2012
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Just to be clear this review is of the Berlin Opera production of Die Tote Stadt starring James King and Karan Armstrong. (The 4 reviews currently attached to this DVD are actually of the Opera du Rhin production starring Torsten Kerl and Angela Denoke. This is a mistake that Amazon have also made elsewhere and I have emailed them to complain).

Of the three versions of this opera available on DVD I would recommend both this version and the Opera du Rhin version. The Opera du Rhin production is very dramatic at times, which I like, and it is very well performed. Unfortunately the production is rather unclear - you are not always sure what an earth is going on. The Berlin Opera production on the other hand is very clear, quite traditional and follows very well the spirit of Georges Rodenbach's original novel 'Bruges-la-morte'. Both prductions change Korngold's improbable and anti-climatic happy ending. To me the changed ending seems preferable ( Korngold had himself changed Georges Rodenbach's end).

The Berlin Opera performance is very well sung and acted. It was filmed at the theatre but without an audience, giving the recording team maximum flexibility, so that the audio and video quality are excellent for time (1983).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 24, 2013 9:57 PM BST

Verdi: Macbeth, Royal Opera House, Opus Arte [DVD] [2010] [NTSC]
Verdi: Macbeth, Royal Opera House, Opus Arte [DVD] [2010] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Simon Keenlyside
Price: £21.38

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bed Production, 25 April 2012
What is it with opera producers and beds? They turn up in the strangest of places - here in the `Patria' scene at the start of act 4. No wonder MacBeth was defeated , he spent most of his time in bed! Despite that, as the production rather neatly pointed out, he had no children.
The production used a lot of symbolism (blood, hand washing, beds, cages etc.) for me this was rather overdone and didn't always work. For example: the large cage worked quite well at the end of the opera, MacBeth getting trapped in there by MacDuff. However it didn't work at all well in the banqueting scene which consequently fell rather flat. The witches costumes presumably symbolized something but I couldn't figure out what - as a result they just looked strange - rather Turkish and not at all witch like. However I liked the idea of the witches driving things along - including helping Banquo's son escape.
The performances were all very good - I particularly enjoyed Liudmyla Monastryrska as Lady MacBeth. Antonio Pappano and the Royal Opera House Orchestra were at there usual very high standard.
Audio, Video and Video Editing are all excellent.

Verdi: Simon Boccanegra (Arthaus: 101595) [DVD] [2012] [NTSC]
Verdi: Simon Boccanegra (Arthaus: 101595) [DVD] [2012] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Plácido Domingo
Price: £24.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spoilt by unnecessary production and video effects, 2 Mar. 2012
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This is an opera I am getting to like more every time I hear it. There are none of the big tunes typical of Verdi but the music grows on you.
Placido Domingo in the title role was in a astonishingly good voice as were Ferruccio Furlanetto (as Fiesco) and Anja Harteros (as Amelia/Maria). Fabio Sartori (as Gabriele Adorno) and Massimo Cavalletto (as Paolo) were good but not in the same class as the other three. Audio and video quality were excellent.
The production was traditional but with a few strange effects thrown in. The prologue was set on a darkened stage with a docked ship in the background. Unfortunately the ship itself was set in a bright white background and was the scene of furious activity, all of which distracted from the main action in the foreground. At this point the video editor was quite helpful and cut a lot of this out. In the scene between Simon Boccanegra and Amelia, four large uprooted shrubs descended from the top of the stage and were eventually re-united with the soil. You could see the analogy - the uprooted orphan Amelia is being re-united with here Father in this scene. However this was a very strange, distracting effect - basically the Producer was being clever at the expense of the overall performance.
In the final scene, which is very poignant when well done, the Producer and Video Editor combined in a way that completely spoilt the performance of the two principals. The Producer had a large mirror descend above the scene while the Video Editor switched too rapidly from camera to camera, playing about with clever ways of fading one shot into another. This all distracted badly from what I actually wanted to see, namely the two singers.
The Video Editor is Patrizia Carmine who I have come across before, she completely ruined a fine production of Aida with strange, intrusive video effects. This was a lot better than Aida but still not as good as the best.
In the end, despite some fine performances, this was disappointing. I much prefer the Metropolitan Opera version of this opera with Placido Domingo in the title role and there is also a fine Metropolitan Opera version with Sherill Milnes in the title role.

Rimsky-Korsakov: TheLegend of the Invisible City Of Kitezh (NAXOS 2110277-78) [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
Rimsky-Korsakov: TheLegend of the Invisible City Of Kitezh (NAXOS 2110277-78) [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Mikhail Kazakov
Price: £29.56

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine opera, well sung, poor production, 28 Dec. 2011
There is good news and bad news with this DVD. The good news is that this is musically a very fine opera, generally rated as Rimsky-Korsakov's best and much more typical of his style than the more famous The Golden Cockerel. The other good news is that the singing is without exception very fine indeed.
The first piece of bad news is that on the first DVD (about 1hr) the audio and visuals are out of sync - the audio is about ½ second ahead of the video which is very distracting. The second DVD (about 2hrs) is fine. The other piece of bad news is that the production is very quirky and at times downright weird. Unfortunately on second viewing this got even more irritating.
My hope is that this DVD will make others realise what a fine opera this is, and then other versions will become available.

Otello: The Metropolitan Opera (Levine) [DVD] [2011]
Otello: The Metropolitan Opera (Levine) [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Verdi
Price: £10.78

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All round excellent, 10 Sept. 2011
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This is a Metropolitan Opera production from 1978 so inevitably the picture quality is not as sharp as modern recordings and the colour had faded a little. The sound quality was astonishingly good, better than some much later recordings. The only thing I faulted was that the volume level varied a little as performers moved about the stage.
Everything else was excellent, a fine production by Franco Zeffirelli, well conducted by James Levine with 3 first rate principals and a fine set of supporting performers. Good video editing and a quiet audience. All this and at a bargain price as well!

Adamo: Little Women [DVD] [2010] [NTSC]
Adamo: Little Women [DVD] [2010] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Stephanie Novacek
Price: £24.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, 9 Nov. 2010
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The opera is based on Louisa May Alcott's story of the same name and is a moving and well told story about 4 sisters growing up in New England shortly after the American civil war. The music is attractive - tonal, through composed and very descriptive. The staging was ingenious, representing 3 levels of a house, ground floor, first floor and attic. It quite probably worked better on video than in the theatre as the camera could focus on the floor where the action currently was. The production was traditional and effective and the performances all excellent. The high standard of acting was particularly noticeable. The sound and video quality and video editing were all first rate.

Katerina Izmailova [DVD] [2006]
Katerina Izmailova [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Galina Vishnevskaya
Price: £16.48

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great despite the video and audio quality, 13 Oct. 2010
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In its original quality this must have been superb for there is some excellent performances in this film. Unfortunately the tape has been badly damaged by ageing so that there is a constant flicker on the video and the audio is rather thin and shrill. This deprives the orchestra of much of its colour and impact which is a shame since Shostakovitch uses the orchestra to make a lot of wry comments on the action.
This is a cut down version of the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District. In order to make it the normal film length of 1hr 50 minutes there is about 1 hour cut out of the opera. This inevitably does some damage, the main story remains intact but much of the (black) humour in the piece is lost.
Despite all these drawbacks I thoroughly enjoyed the film, it was particularly interesting to see the last scene which is largely uncut. This scene is difficult to do on stage and invariably gets messed about, so it was interesting to see it how Shostakovitch intended.

Pfitzner: Palestrina [DVD] [2010] [NTSC]
Pfitzner: Palestrina [DVD] [2010] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Christian Stuckl
Price: £24.03

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent all round, 12 Sept. 2010
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Despite some of the rather garish and off-putting stills of this production (including the cover of the DVD) the real thing was excellent. The stage sets were fairly simple but effective. The producer make quite strong use of colour to make various points but this was always appropriate. The second act in particular, poking fun at small minded, reactionary authority, was very well done.
The music is through composed, descriptive, somewhat in the style of Wagner, and I found it immediately appealing. There are no big singing roles (not even for Palestrina), but a lot of medium sized roles and everyone perform well.
There was a little noise on the sound track which could be heard in the quiet bits but wasn't really a problem, otherwise the sound was fine. The video quality and video direction were excellent.
The opera is quite long (a little over 3 hours) but I found the time whizzed by.

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