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Reviews Written by
Derek Vernon-morris (Greater Manchester UK)

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Leonard Bernstein: Mahler - The Symphonies [DVD] [2005] [NTSC]
Leonard Bernstein: Mahler - The Symphonies [DVD] [2005] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Edda Moser
Price: £63.99

5.0 out of 5 stars This set of recordings from the late seventies have probably captured some of the finest performances of Mahler at a time when h, 19 Jan. 2015
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Absolutely superb. This set of recordings from the late seventies have probably captured some of the finest performances of Mahler at a time when he was immensely popular. Many of the recordings are with the Wiener Philharmoniker, and as always the rendering of the 8th symphony is remarkable. The rendering of the sixth I also found very pertinent and definitive. There is a rather unusual setting of the 2nd in Ely Cathedral in the UK, with the Edinburgh Festival Chorus.
The filming is very lucid, showing sections of the orchestra and soloists as they deliver various parts of the music. Leonard Bernstein conducts each Symphony with vigour and emotion, and he explains on the bonus disc of rehearsals that unless he does this, for him he would feel that it had not been a good performance. He explains also in depth the sections of Das Lied Von Der Erde, which he regards as the definitive Masterpiece of Mahler's music.
Christa Ludwig turns in a beautiful sympathetic and magnificent Contralto performance in Das Lied Von Der Erde, and Rene Kollo,Tenor, gives also a formidable performance in this Symphonic Song Cycle with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra recorded in Tel Aviv.
All the recordings are in front of live audiences, and the sound is very clear in 5.1 DTS Surround Sound. This is a landmark collection, and now a part of history which thankfully has been preserved.

50/50 [Blu-ray]
50/50 [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Price: £8.00

5.0 out of 5 stars This cool comedy about a 27 year old man diagnosed with ..., 19 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: 50/50 [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This cool comedy about a 27 year old man diagnosed with a rare spinal cancer, manages to be very informative about Chemotherapy and related aspects, as well providing humour. Joseph Gordon Levitt presents committed characterisation as usual, as the guy with a fifty/fifty chance of survival, and Seth Rogan is great playing his contrasting best friend, who uses any opportunity as a chat up line. Outspoken and blustering he non the less is committed to helping his friend through the pain and onto recovery.
The nervous and charming young Therapist played by Anna Kendrick is still studying for her Doctorate and cannot help breaching the Patient-Doctor gap, to become Adam's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) girl friend after his successful operation.
Adding to this comedy with serious undertones, Bryce Dallas Howard plays the Father with Dementia who thinks that he is having an affair with his own wife, Adam's Mother, played by Angelica Huston.

Pelléas et Mélisande, opera by Claude Debussy (Theater an der Wien 2009) [DVD] [NTSC]
Pelléas et Mélisande, opera by Claude Debussy (Theater an der Wien 2009) [DVD] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Natalie Dessay
Price: £8.43

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars who falls in love with his son, 19 Jan. 2015
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Petite Natalie Dessay is ideal in this tragic opera of young woman, Melisande, saved from disaster by an older man, who falls in love with his son.
Young Pelleas is played excellently by Stephane Degout, and his Father Golaud alternatively kindly and violent is portrayed excellently by Laurent Naouri. The ailing Grandfather, Arkel, who also finds solace in the youthful femininity of Melisande is sung by Philip Ens. The modern set and lighting evoke each scene very effectively changing from woodland to harbour to a strange final interior scene in which the bed appears to be partly situated on rocks; where Melisande dies from a broken heart after Golaud kills his son Pallas in a jealous rage when he finds them embracing.
The fourth generation male - the young son Yniold, borne by Melisande, is admirably played by Beate Ritter, in the operatic tradition governed by vocal range. Genevieve the housekeeper is sung in character by Marie-Nicole Lemieux, and Tim Mirfin, is a convincing Physician.
Debussy set his fluid emotive and often gentle Orchestrations to a Libretto by Maurice Maeterlinck which whilst being full of fairy tale and mythological references, delivers an acute social commentary akin to the 'Ages of Man' by Shakespeare.
This beautiful work is almost like a continuous choral symphony of subtle virtuosity, rather than theatrical.

Price: £2.49

5.0 out of 5 stars The animation is great - aimed at children and adults alike, 19 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: WALL-E (Amazon Video)
Fabulous and cute story. The animation is great - aimed at children and adults alike. Wall.E a waste disposal robot and flying research robot Eva find plant life on the abandoned earth after the planet is deemed uninhabitable. Life for humans is organised by an efficient robot system on space stations, but Wall.E's efforts to trace Eva lead to earth being re inhabited. very humorous.

12 Years A Slave [DVD] [2013]
12 Years A Slave [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Chiwetel Ejiofor
Price: £5.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The cast is excellent, and some of the casting is surprising, 22 Dec. 2014
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This is a remarkable story of mental and physical endurance. It again pinpoints the heart breaking realities of enforced labour and how one set of people may use another and still not see that they are equal. Maybe racial tension will remain with the world for a long time in spite of the efforts of sincere and enlightened people.
The cast is excellent, and some of the casting is surprising, as they bring the well written book to life. (I have read the book). The bonus features explain the philosophy behind the making of the film. There is a certain beauty in the photography of locations which offsets and compliments the tyrannical violence, and often a confrontational humour.

Life of Pi [DVD]
Life of Pi [DVD]
Dvd ~ Suraj Sharma
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £3.27

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I appreciate that the aim of the film was artistic ..., 22 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Life of Pi [DVD] (DVD)
I appreciate that the aim of the film was artistic creation, and I empathise with the main character's studying of several Religions to arrive at his own centre of faith. I understand the equivocal nature of the story that it all may be true or just an imaginary fairy tale, but I found the bonus features of how the film was ingeniously made, more interesting than the film feature.

Whitechapel Terminus
Whitechapel Terminus

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love the way that the dialogue is written giving the ..., 15 Nov. 2014
Very interesting and quite dynamic in action. I love the way that the dialogue is written giving the feel of Victorian London where even the rogues are given a poetic grace, and yet it is not too archaic or flowery.
The whole action looks authentic, and although there is a disaster, the drama catches some of the nostalgia for the steam railway system with manually operated points.
I like the way that the personal lives of the Police Detectives are interwoven in the criminal plot and the irony of the situations, where the cool Matron is partly responsible for the accidental deaths. An apparently hard drinking and womanising American forensic expert is a refreshing touch and gives a new twist to the Sherlock Holmes kind of character.
Excellent intriguing period drama.

Donizetti: Anna Bolena [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Donizetti: Anna Bolena [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Anna Netrebko
Price: £15.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A scintilating, dramatic, intense, beautiful production., 5 July 2014
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Donizetti composed Opera full of light humour and beautiful love songs such as L' Elisir d'Amour, and other works such as Lucia di Lammermoor full of desperation and ending in tragedy. I recently attended the Metropolitan Opera production of Lucia di Lammermoor at Teatro alla Scala, Milan. Anna Netrebko was unfortunately touring in concert but the production was the same, and I have the DVD. The Anna Bolena Opera was Donizetti's 31st completed in 1830, and amazingly, the first to be really successful during his lifetime.
Anna Netrebko plays beautiful Anna Bolena with a passion that is truly regal. This is a great contrast to the flirtatious country girl in L' Elisir d' Amour, but she is joined again by Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as King Henry V111. Here his humorous capabilities as the Doctor are also put aside, for a very serious and strong portrayal of a menacing monarch who allegedly stopped at nothing in his desire for a male heir. Anna Netrebko and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo show their brilliant versatility also in Le Nozze Di Figaro by Mozart, in a video directed also by Brian Large.
Elina Garanca is wonderful, giving an equally dramatic and beautifully spell binding performance as Giovanna Seymour. A Lady in waiting, Giovanna is the object of Enrico V111's affections and soon to replace Anna as Queen.
The Libretto by Felice Romani takes artistic licence with History, but the stress of her imminent execution induces a sense of unreality as Anna tries to comfort her young daughter Elizabeth, just as Lucia di Lammermoor is driven to madness. There is much confrontation and reverie throughout, but Anna begins the finale with the beautiful arias Piangete voi? and Al dolce guidami castrei natio, with the Chorus.
The young Minstrel Smeaton is played excellently by Elizabeth Kulman, with Dan Paul Dumitrescu as Lord Rochefort, Francesco Meli as Lord Riccardo Percy, and Peter Jelosits as Sir Harvey.
The supreme Chor, Orchester und Buhnenorchester der Wiener Staatsoper is conducted by Evelino Pido. The sumptuous 16th Century period costumes are designed by Luisa Spinatelli.
Intense drama and scintillating music demanding the pinnacle of vocal prowess, all captured on Blu-ray. What more is there to say?

Massenet: Manon (Barenboim, Netrebko, Villazon) [DVD] [2008]
Massenet: Manon (Barenboim, Netrebko, Villazon) [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Massenet
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £13.69

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A totally vibrant and dazzling production., 4 July 2014
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This magnificent performance was filmed from live stage performances in 2007, from the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin. The director and Choreographer Vincent Patterson has updated this 1882 Opera to the 1950's, and the role allows Anna Netrebko ample room to demonstrate her considerable acting skills.
Massenet based this work of five acts, on a novel by Abbe Prevost written in 1731, and this explains the underlying morality of the plot. A sixteen year old girl Mannon Lescaut, meets her Army Officer cousin at a station café in Paris, on her way to a life in a Convent. She has already been inspired by a movie star magazine and employs the old wartime trick of drawing a black line down the back of her leg to imitate nylon stockings, and imagines herself maybe as a young Audrey Hepburn. The continual presence of three camera and lighting men on stage indicate that her life is in fact like that of a Screen Goddess.
Rolando Villazon enters as a student, Le Chevalier des Grieux, on his way to see his wealthy and important father, and immediately breaks into passionate emotion when he sees Mannon and they abandon all of their plans and live together. This then becomes the tale of inner conflict and thwarted love. His Father and manipulative businessmen separate them, and Chevalier chooses the confines of the Church until he is forced by his passion to leave his vows, and succumb to the renewed entreaties of Mannon. He is forced to become an illegal gambler as his inheritance id dissipated.
Anna Netrebko's natural beauty is transformed into that of maybe Ava Gardiner or Elizabeth Taylor as the toast of Paris, and then to that representing maybe Bette Grable or Marilyn Monroe.
Throughout, Massenet provides inspirational duets and solos and joyous sometimes humorous chorus pieces, enhanced by a glittering array of 1950's retro costumes designed by Susan Hilferty.
Finally in grey sackcloth and with clipped hair reminiscent maybe of Judy Garland or Ingrid Bergman, Anna Netrebko enjoys dying a tragic death as Mannon is released from Prison to die in Chevalier's arms as Rolando Villazon lifts her with intense passion and carries her off into a Hollywood style vermillion sunset.
This is really a must see, a must have, for any lover of Opera. Even without the spectacle of costume and scenery, if one listens with closed eyes - Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko deliver vibrant mature gripping renderings of the music, rendered by the Staatskapelle Berlin, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

La Boheme - The Film [2009] [DVD]
La Boheme - The Film [2009] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anna Netrebko
Offered by DVD Vault UK
Price: £13.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A transcendent romantic Operatic Film., 27 Jun. 2014
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This is the best version of La Boheme that I have seen on DVD, or attended live, to date. Anna Netrebko illuminates the sweet loving nature of Mimi who is attracted to the aspiring Poet Rodolfo. Rolando Villazon portrays the student poet living in the rough Bohemian manner with his Painter and Actor and Musician Friends, in Paris, with intensity. Even the humour is intense and Anna and Ludovico take us on the breath-taking emotional roller coaster that has become the trademark of their collaboration.
Nicole Cabell is a delight as the beautiful fiery flirtatious Musetta enamoured of Marcello the Painter, performed by George Von Bergen. Their stormy relationship contrasts beautifully with the rapturous love affair of Rodolfo and Mimi especially in a clever quartet set in a snow scene.
This version was produced as a film in 2009 and is not a film of a stage performance. Director Robert Dornhelm hoped that the film would still be fresh in 5 years time, and here we are in 2014 and the film is not at all outdated, but quite fresh. Mercifully Mimi dies of Tuberculosis peacefully with her hands finally warm inside a muff which Musetta buys for her.
I am a great Puccini fan, but I must admit that La Boheme is still not one of my favourite Operas, even though I love the performances within it.
Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon always give 100% commitment whether they are performing Puccini, Mozart, Massenet, or Donizetti and seem to have inexhaustible talents of interpretation for whatever the music requires.
Rather strangely Robert Dornhelm calls live Opera a dying art, but surely the popularity of these two outstanding artists and the other excellent performers who accompany them in various productions, proves that Opera is very much alive.

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