JANACEK: Jenufa
Amanda Roocroft (Jenufa); Deborah Polaski (Kostelnicka); Miroslav Dvorsky (Loca Klemen); Nikolai Schukoff (Steva Buryja); Metee Ejsing (Grandmother Buryjovka); Marta Libieta (Korolka); Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Real/Ivor Bolton, cond.
OPUS ARTE DVD BD 7089 TT: 128 min. + 8 min. synopsis
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RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh
Mikhail Kazakov (Prince Yury Vsevolodovich); Vitaly Panfilov (Heriditary Prince Vsevolod Yuryevich); Tatiana Monogarova (Fevronya); Mikhail Gubsky (Grishka Kuterma); Gevorg Hakobyan (Fyodor Poyarok); Marika Gulordava (Page); Valery Gilmanov (Bedyay); Alexander Naumenko (Burunday); Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Lirico di Cagliari/Eimuntas Mekrosius, cond.
NAXOS DVD 2.110277-78 (2 disks) TT: 187:28
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NEUMEIER: The Little Mermaid
Yuan Yuan Tan (The Little Mermaid); Lloyd Riggins (The Poet); Tiit Helimets (The Prince); Sarah Van Patten (The Princess); Davit Karapetyan (The Sea Witch); San Francisco Ballet/Martin West, cond.
C MAJOR DVD 708704 TT: 119 min. + 35 min. bonus
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Jenufa was Janacek's first successful opera, It receives a magnificent performance in this production from Teatro-Real filmed December 22, 2009. This site mentioned a fine DVD from Liceu featuring Nina Stemme and Eva Marton (REVIEW). This new one is even better.Sets, by Stéphane Braunschnenbroecke (who also directed), are basic and effective with a stark quality perfectly suited to the tragic plot. Thibault Vancraenenbroeck's costumes could not be bettered. What a magnificent opera Jenufa is, particularly when it boasts the fine cast seen here. Amanda Roocroft and Deborah Polaski are perfect in their demanding roles of the betrayed Jenufa and her demanding stepmother. Polaski, often a bit over-taxed recently in Wagner and Strauss, has no problems whatever with the role of Kostelnicka; her imperious portrayal gets to the core of the troubled woman. The entire cast is superb. Major pluses here are the chorus and orchestra under director Ivor Bolton who is a master of Janacek's score. Andy Ross' audio could not be improved, and video supervised by Angel Luyis Ramirez has the camera always in the right place. I've seen the Blu Ray version, and it is a feast for the eyes. This is an essential release!

Rimsky-Korsakov's penultimate opera, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh (Le Coq'd'Or was his last), is a rarity in U.S opera houses. It never was given at the Met., which has ignored this composer aside from scattered performances of Le Coq d'Or, Sadko and The Snow Maiden. I had the privilege of seeing a production of Kitezh when the Bolshoi Opera visited Expo 67 in Montreal (I also saw their stunning Boris Godunov,but missed their Prince Igor, War and Peace, and Queen of Spades). Both Kitezh and Boris were given spectacular performance using full resources of the Bolshoi. I still remember the stunning tableau during the battle scene of Kitezh, which evoked cheers from the audience. . This first video of Kitesh from Cagliari, filmed in Sardinia, Italy May 2 and 4, 2008, doesn't even suggest the grandeur of the opera. Marius Nekrosius' sets and Nadezhda Gultiayeva's costumes suggest a limited budget—there is no spectacle here. A gloomy, dark atmosphere prevails, not helped by the dim lighting. The only outstanding singer is soprano Tatiana Monogarova as the Russian "flower child." The orchestra is so-so, the audio sometimes is slightly out-of-sync. Video is often fuzzy, and sometimes focuses on inconsequential bits, i.e. the orchestra milling about between scenes. Let us hope the Bolshoi Opera's performance of Kitesz will soon appear on DVD.

Don't expert Walt Disney's The Little Mermaid when you watch this San Francisco Ballet production designed and choreographed by John Neumeier who also did the costumes and lighting. The distinctive score was written by American composer Lera Auerbach. Commissioned by the Royal Danish Ballet to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Hans Christian Andersen's birth, The Little Mermaid had its premiere in Copenhagen in April 2005. Since that time, Neumeier revised the work and this is what is seen on this DVD filmed when the San Francisco Ballet presented it earlier this year. In this version, we see Anderson as a character reflecting on and participating in the plot, not hiding Anderson's bisexuality. This ballet is a brilliant success with tasteful, effective visual effects. The dancing, particularly Yuan Yuan Tan as the Mermaid, is superlative. Audio is excellent, but Thomas Grimm's video direction leaves much to be desired. There are entirely too many extreme close-ups, and Grimm seems to have forgotten that a dancer's entire body should be seen most of the time. A lengthy (35 min) feature gives us backstage scenes discussing both the staging and the music. Recommended!

R.E.B. (January 2012)

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