BEETHOVEN: Missa Solemnis
Mariis Peterson, soprano. Elisabeth Kulman, contralto. Werner Güra, tenor. Gerald Finley, bass. Netherlands Radio Chorus. Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Nikolaus Harnoncourt, cond.
C MAJOR DVD TT: 99 min.
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JANACEK: The Cunning Little Vixen
Lucy Crowe (Vixen). Emma Bell (Fox). Sergei Leiferkus (Forester). Mischa Schelomlanski (Badger/Priest). Adrian Thompson (Schoolmaster/Mosquito). William Dazeley )(Harasta). Jean Rigby (Forester's Wife/Owl). Colin Judson *(Pasek/Inkeeper). Sarah Pring (Innkeeper's Wife). Sebastian Davies (Cricket). Beratrice Watkins (Grasshopper). Orlando Woscholski (Frog). Glyndebourne Chorus. London Philharmonic Orch/Vladimir Jurowski, cond.
OPUS ARTE DVD TT: 97 min. + 22 min. bonus0
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BRITTEN: Peter Grimes
John Graham-Hall (Peter Grimes). Susan Gritton (Ellen Orford).Christopher Purves (Captain Balstrode). Felicity Palmer (Auntie). Peter Hoare (Bob Boles).La Scala Chorus and Orch/Robin Ticciati, cond.
OPUS ARTE DVD 154 min + 15 min. bonus
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This site previously has mentioned two excellent videos of Missa Solemnis, a historic Salzburg performance with Herbert von Karajan (REVIEW), and a very recent Dresden presentation with Christian Thielemann on the podium (REVIEW).This latest performance of the mighty Missa Solemnis is edited from concerts in the Concertgebouw April 19-25, 2012. Nikolaus Harnoncourt first conducted the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1975 and has conducted them often, making dozens of acclaimed recordings. He is now honored as the Honorary Guest Conductor. This is his second recording of Missa Solemnis—his first was a live recording from the Salzburg Festival about a decade ago. Harnoncourt has made some questionable decisions about repertory, particularly his recordings of Gershwin and Verdi, but he is on home ground here in this glorious performance. Soloists are perfect, the chorus committed, and the famous orchestra gives their best. An outstanding release. I viewed it on the Blu Ray edition, which is state-of-the-art—but one cannot help but wonder why the Blu Ray version should cost almost twice as much as the regular DVD. This also applies to the Britten opera mentioned below, but the Janacek opera is the same price for regular or blu-ray. What thought process determines this? Often the difference between regular DVD and blu ray are minimal if noticeable at all.

About two years ago, this site mentioned a remarkable historic video of Janacek's Cunning Little Vixen, a 1965 German film directed by Walter Felsenstein (REVIEW). Now we have a brand new production of Janice's opera about life and death in the forest filmed at the Glydenbourn Festival in June 2012. It is a magnificent presentation of the opera, realistic in design and perfectly sung. Melly Still directed and makes certain that there are many animal antics—always a lot to watch. Tom Tye's design is effective, a single large many-branched tree that can be wither beautiful or menacing, depending on circumstances. Dinah Collins' costumes work well, and lighting recreates changing scenes effectively. A brief bonus features Jurowski talking about the music and the production, and the DVD booklet contains a helpful track by track synopsis of action. Video is brilliant, audio excellent although not particularly surround. This is a quality presentation of an opera that meant much to the composer; he requested that the final scene be performed at his funeral in 1928.

There already are a number of fine videos of Britten's Peter Grimes: three have been reviewed on this site:
the historic 1966 BBC production conducted by the composer with Peter Pears, for whom the leading role was written (REVIEW), the fairly recent Met production with Anthony Dean Griffey as the doomed fisherman (REVIEW), and a Zurich production conducted by Franz Welser-Möst (REVIEW). Now we have yet another superb production of Britten's opera, this one from LaScala taped during what apparently was the premiere of this new production May 19, 2012. The production is stark with appropriate sets and costumes by Stewart Laing. Director Richard Jones keeps action realistic, and sometimes the set rocks gently, perhaps to suggest the dark sea. A major element in the success of this performance is the conducting of Robin Ticciati. Video and audio are state-of-the art—there are many effective top-view shots the audience could not have experienced. An outstanding issue, in a highly competitive field.

R.E.B. (June 2013)

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