EUROPAKONZERT 1966
PROKOFIEV: Excerps from Romeo and Juliet. RACHMANINOFF: Cavatina from Aleko. BEEHOVEN: Romance No. l in G, Op. 40. Romance No. 2 in F, Op. 50. Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 93. TCHAIKOVSKY: Waltz of the Flowers from Nutcracker.
Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond.
EUROARTS DVD TT: 90 min. + 20 min. documenary
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EATON: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Pocket Opera Players/Ensemble/Karl-Kramer Johansen, director
ALBANY TROY 1366 TT: 100 min.
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MARIINSKY GALA
Including music of Prokofiev, Minkus, Rossini, Mozart, Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, and Tchaikovsky.
Performers include singers Anna Netrebko, Olga Borodina, Pácido Domingo, Alexei Markov, Mikail Petrenko and René Pape; dancers include Diana Vishneva Yekaterina Kondurova and Vladimir Lpatkina; Denis Matsuev, piano; Leonidas Kovakos, violin; Yuri Bashmet, viola; Marinsky Theater Chorus and Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD TT: 120 min.
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The Berlin Philhamnic has a long history of performances in Berlin, all outlined in detail in the Euroarts DVD. Claudio Abbado had conducted a number of concerts as well as the Europakonzert 1996, presented in the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. The program, enthusiastically received, began with excerpts from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and, as another tribute to Russia, the Cavatina from Rachmaninoff's Aleko with the remarkable Ukrainian bass Anatoly Kocherga as soloist. Kolja Blacher, concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, was soloist in the two Beethoven Romances, and the featured work was the composer's Symphony No. 7. Top-notch performances, of course, with excellent video and audio..

The DVD of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button suggests it is an opera and, indeed, it is produced by the Pocket Opera Players. Based on the odd short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the libretto was written by Estela Eaton, daughter of the opera's composer. Fitzgerald's story, published in 1922, tells the sad tale of Benjamin Button, born in Baltimore in 1860, at birth appearing as if he was 70 years old. As his life progresses, he continues to grow younger, living a tragic life. The story was made into a highly successful movie in 2008 starring Brad Pitt. This "opera" by Eaton does not impress in any way. Sets are minimal, the small instrumental ensemble is on stage right, and sometimes the singers/performers play as part of the ensemblethem. There's little melodic line to remember, no opportunity whatever for performers to actually sing. It is a rather dreary hour in the theater, although the audience was highly enthusiastic. The event was presented by the Center for Contemporary Opera as the opening event of the American Composers Alliance Festival of American Music on an unspecified date in 2010. I guess you had to be there. Audio is two=track stereo.

The Gala Mariinsky concert was presented in the grand theater May 2, 2013, and it was an extraordinary event, a varied program of ballet, opera and solo performances. Ballet often is featured, including excerpts from La Bayadère, The Swan, and part of The Rite of Spring. Denis Matsuev shows his remarkable virtuosity in a Ginzburg Rossini transcription, Anna Netrebko, Olga Borodna and René Pape sing arias, and Plácido Domingo, in poor voice, sings a brief excerpt from Walküre. We also have the grand coronation scene from Boris Godunov and a scene from Iolantha. Everything seems to be beautifully choreographed and all moves smoothly before an enthusiastic packed house. It is quite a show, beautifully filmed with excellent audio. Recommended!

R.E.B. (February 2015)

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