PUCCINI: Tosca
Emily Magee (Tosca), Jonas Kaufmann (Cavaradossi), Thomas Hampson (Scarpoia); Valeriy Murga (Angelotti)_, Giuseppe Scorsin (Sacristan); Children's Chorus, Chorus and Orchestra of Zürich Opera House/Paolo Carignani, cond.
DECCA DVD VIDEO B0015483 TT: 125 min.
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BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 8 in C minor
Cleveland Orch/Franz Welser-Möst, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD VIDEO 101581 TT: 95 min. + 17 min. bonus
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BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3 in C, Op. 72a. TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35. SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 5 in E flat, Op. 82.
Joshua Bell, violin; Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orch/Sakari Oramo, cond.
ACCENTUS DVD VIDEO ACC 10215 TT: 91:25
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This Tosca has many values but, like so many other recent operatic productions, is weakened by the director, in this case, Robert Carsen. This is supposedly a "theater-in-the-theater" production,although it is difficult to tell which is which, confusing to watch. Sets are sparse, lighting is dark, sometimes characters are spotlit—but not Cavaradossi's "E lucevan le stelle," which is sung mostly in shade. Prior to that, director Carsen has Cavaradossi drawing images (of eyes?) with chalk on a brick wall. Kaufmann is a fine artist and deals with this in a most professional way. His singing is superb although often he resorts to crooning. Both Thomas Hampson and Emily Magee are seen in their first performances of their roles. Hampson, dressed in a business suit, is surprisingly effective as Scarpia, and Magee, who has been singing in European opera houses for a decade, is a stunning, vocally secure prima donna. This American soprano has sung a wide range of roles, and now seems to be focusing on Strauss. She sang Salome at this year's Salzburg Festival with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, and will sing the Kaiserin in Die Frau ohne Schatten in Zurich later this year . Her opulent voice is outstanding. Costumes by Anthony Ward show much of her, too much for some viewers. Video is satisfactory, presumably permitting us to see as much as possible considering the dark scenes, and audio is excellent. Not an essential recording of Puccini's masterpiece because of direction, but surely among the better performances of the music.

Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra seem to be in the process of filming all of Bruckner's symphonies. Already issued on Euroarts we have Symphony No. 5 recorded in September 2006 at the Stiftsbasilika during the St. Florian Bruckner Festival (REVIEW), Symphony No. 9 filmed in Vienna's Musikverein October 2007 (REVIEW), and on Arthaus Musik we find Symphony No. 7 recorded in Severance Hall September 2008. This latest edition contains the mighty Symphony No. 8 recorded in Severance Hall in August 2010. Prime interest here is the score used: Bruckner's original 1887 version which was changed considerably in later revisions. The disk includes interviews with the conductor and producer William Cosel; apparently these were presented on-stage prior to the performance. As Bruckner Eighths on video go, this one is easily superceded by Günter Wand and the NDR Orchestra (REVIEW), Carlo Maria Giulini and the World Philharmonic Orchestra (REVIEW), and the remarkable 1979 Karajan version with the Vienna Philharmonic (REVIEW). And, of course, there are non-video performances essential for any Bruckner collection, notably the 1944 recording by Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Vienna Philharmonic (REVIEW), as well as those by Van Beinum, Haitink and Jochum, to mention only a few. The new video is well photographed although perhaps because of lighting (or filters?) Welser-Möst's lips appear to be red. The 5.1 sound is very clear but not particularly surround. However, for a video of the original Bruckner Eight, this is it.

This site mentioned a DVD of the 2009 Nobel Prize concert featuring the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic conducted by Yuri Temirkanov with Martha Argerich as soloist (REVIEW). Now we have the following year's concert recorded December 8, 2010, with the same orchestra directed by Sakari Oramo and Joshua Bell as soloist in the Tchaikovsky's concerto. Finnish conductor Oramo has been music director of the Swedish orchestra since 2008 and has made a number of recordings with them and other orchestras. He collaborates with Lisa Batiashvili in the Sibelius concerto (REVIEW), accompanied Stephen Hough in the award-winning set of Saint-Saëns piano concertos, as well as many contemporary works by Scandinavian composers. The Prize concert is excellent in every way, with Bell a dynamic soloist in the familiar concerto. The Sibelius Symphony No. 3 is the only one by that composer Oramo has previously recorded (with the City of Birmingham Orchestra which he led from 1998-2008). Doubtless we can expect more Sibelius with Oramo, who obviously has uncommon insight into his compatriot's music. The Blu-Ray version includes brief interviews with the conductor and soloist as well as Mario Vargas Liosa, the winner of the 2010 Laureat in Literature. It seems odd this "bonus" is only on Blu-Ray; it easily could have been included on the regular DVD.

R.E.B. (June 2010)

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