26 movies

June 1, 1973

Live 1973 concert performances by celebrated Polish-American virtuoso concert pianist Arthur Rubinstein, with the Concertgebouw Orchestra under conductor Bernard Haitink. Filmed in August 1973 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the performances include Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto, in C minor, op. 37; and Brahms's First Piano Concerto, in D minor, op. 15. These are followed by four short pieces for solo piano, by Schubert, Brahms, and Chopin. The 2008 DVD release by Deutsche Grammophon also includes a short documentary, "Rubinstein at 90", an interview with Robert MacNeil, filmed at Rubinstein's home in Paris in 1977.

January 1, 1978

The gypsy Azucena (Fiorenza Cossotto) takes revenge for her mother who was accused of putting a curse on one of the old Count di Luna's two sons: she decides to abduct the younger child and throw it in the flames. But when she is about to carry out this fatal act, the gypsy sacrifices her own child and keeps the old Count’s son, whom she names Manrico (IL TROVATORE, Plácido Domingo). Later, as adults, the troubadour Manrico and the Count di Luna’s elder son (Piero Cappucilli) do not know each other, but become rivals for the beautiful Leonora (Raina Kabaivanska). Manrico succeeds in winning the young woman’s heart, and she sacrifices herself for him, deceiving the Count’s son. Mad with jealousy, the latter orders the execution of the troubadour in front of his mother. Azucena reveals to him that Manrico was his brother. This legendary performance of Giuseppe Verdi's most successful opera was recorded at the Vienna State Opera under the baton of Herbert von Karajan.

January 1, 1983

An excellent performance of this delightful opera. The principals are superb, especially the sisters. Bruscantini as Don Alfonso is past his prime, but he knows and understands the role inside out, so one does not even notice his vocal limitations. Araiza is in top form as Ferrando, and Morris makes virile Guglielmo. The only disappointment is Battle as Despina. Unlike her partners, she does not have feel for the Mozart ensemble, and her vocal mannerisms are totally unbecoming. How the producers allowed that to happen is a mystery. Muti's conducting is terrific, much better than on his La Scala video, where he is uninvolved.

December 1, 1986

Recorded live at the Vienna State Opera, Placido Domingo and Eva Marton star in a sumptuous recording of Ponchielli's famed four-act melodrama, a story of tyranny and intrigue set in semi-historical and ever-romantic Venice. The action is projected by strong characters whose fundamentally sound instincts become distorted by raw passion. The performance draws upon both human and technical resources including a large ballet and varies in mood from the happy carnival to scenes of the darkest gloom and horror.

June 19, 1987

Macbeth" was Giuseppe Verdi's first attempt at music drama and also the first manifestation of his profound love for Shakespeare's work. Verdi took great pains with this opera, displaying special enthusiasm for it as he concentrated on the main characters of Lady Macbeth, Macbeth and the witches. This recording of Luca Ronconi's production is conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli, who brings fresh color to Verdi's score. The cast, headed by Renato Bruson and Mara Zampieri, are strongly supported by a fine-toned and adaptable chorus who ably meet the demands of Verdi's great "chorus opera.

December 1, 1987

Live performance from the Schwetzinger Festspiele, 1987. At the age of 21, Italian composer Giacchino Rossini penned the masterful comic opera “L’Italiana in Algeri” (“The Italian Girl in Algiers”) in less than a month. The composer’s youthful exuberance comes across in this infectious 1987 performance. Though she’s known mainly for her Wagner roles, acclaimed German mezzo-soprano Doris Soffel shines in the title role of Isabella. Ralf Weikert conducts, and Mauro Pagano oversees sets and costumes.

November 21, 1990

Beethoven's opera Fidelio.

June 1, 1992

Live performance from Schwetzinger Festspiele, 1992.

Based on Voltaire's tragedy, TANCREDI is a story of innocence wronged set against a backdrop of Turks at war with Syracuse. Amenaide, the daughter of Argirio, leader of the senate, is in love with the exiled knight Tancredi. Argirio offers Amenaide's hand in marriage to Orbazzano, the leader of a rival faction, as a token of reconciliation. Amenaide resists this and sends a letter to Tancredi, who is back in Syracuse in hiding. The letter is intercepted, and it is mistaken as an invitation to the Turk Solamir to enter Syracuse. Amenaide is sentenced to death for treachery, but Argirio allows a champion to fight for her vindication... will her beloved Tancredi save her? Bernadette Manca di Nissa, Maria Bayo, and Raul Gimenez star in this Rossini opera with Gianluigi Gelmetti conducting the Radio Symphony Orchester Stuttgart.

January 1, 1996

Ballet in two acts. Corps de Ballet of the Teatro Alla Scala. Music by Adolphe Adam.

January 1, 1997

Marc Minkowski conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Opera National de Lyon in this 1997 production of Offenbach's opera starring Natalie Dessay, Yann Beuron, Jean-Paul Fouchecourt and Laurent Naouri.

Musically, this is a superlative performance: Paul Groves is a sympathetic Faust, Willard White is an appropriately menacing Mephistopheles, and Vesselina Kasarova is an exquisite Marguerite. Sylvain Cambreling sensitively conducts the Staatskapelle Berlin, and two excellent choirs' vocal contributions should not go unnoticed. (However, condolences to those choir members stuck in that ludicrous cylinder.) Both visual presentation and sound are, as usual for Arthaus Musik discs, first-rate; only the staging itself comes off as less than worthwhile.

December 7, 2001

This was Domingo's last set of performances as Otello in La Scala. In spite of his relatively advanced age, he is still in excellent form, both vocally and in terms of stage presence. Nucci is also his usual self, delivering a performance of very high standard. Barbara Frittoli is an excellent Desdemona, in good voice and gives a very moving performance. Muti conducts with great emotion and tight accuracy, conveying the full orchestral drama of the score.

October 16, 2002

The opera: Nina, o sia La Pazza Per Amore itself, is an extra-ordinary sad and touching story, and seems very difficult to be performed if the singer has no acting talents. Therefore we adore Cecilia Bartoli for the magnificent performance as the crazy Nina who lost her mind totally. Her magnificent singing, we don't doubt at all, but her acting is amazingly such that it expressed a real situation of a girl becoming crazy and losing her mind caused by painful incidents in her love life. It is also supported by the other singers who are singing matching as perfectly and splendidly as the diva Cecilia Bartoli, especially the baritone Laszlo Polgar with his deep rich voice as the cruel father who has remorse and came back to see his daughter Nina and the young tenor Jonas Kauffmann with his clear light voice, resulting in a surprisingly beautifully performed opera.

October 22, 2002

One of the lesser known works by Giuseppe Verdi, Simon Boccanegra is regarded by most opera lovers as one of his finest. The action takes place in the 14th century and deals with the political and personal rivalry between the corsair Simon Boccanegra, who has been elected Doge of Genoa with the help of the plebeian vote, and the local nobleman, Jacopo Fiesco. Arthaus presents a visually alert, musically sensitive and disturbingly coherent (Der Standard) production of the piece on DVD. The staging was directed by one of the giants of the European theatre, Peter Stein. His fondness for atmospherically dense spaces in which the characters can fully develop is particularly well brought out in his Vienna production, not least because he had at his disposal two remarkable singing actors for the principal male roles, Thomas Hampson and Ferruccio Furlanetto.

February 4, 2005

This DVD of a live 2005 performance from the Zürich Opera under the musical direction of Franz Welser-Möst has many things to recommend it -- the young tenor Piotr Beczala as Alfredo, the marvelous Thomas Hampson as Giorgio Germont, the playing of the Zurich Opera orchestra, the simple but effective sets by by Erich Wonder, the uncluttered stage direction by Jürgen Flimm. It also has some flaws: strangely variable volume level of the recorded sound sometimes coming on so loud as to make one reach for the volume control, and the uneven performance of the Violetta, Eva Mei who, for all her merits, gives a dramatically effective performance marred by occasional difficulties with vocal production. Still, overall I felt this was a moving production, one that I would recommend, although perhaps not as an only DVD of one of Verdi's most popular operas.

November 5, 2005

Filmed at the Vienna State Opera in 2005, Andrei Serban's production of Massenet's opera with a late 18th century setting pushes the action forwards to the 1950's,with the visuals exemplifying that decade with precision.With as much delicacy on display as naked passion,his(Alverez)morbid poet is outstandingly realised both vocally and dramatically. Together with Erod's dour Albert and Ileana Tonca's Sophie-clearly in love with Werther herself-the drama is set out with unusual clarity and realism.Philippe Jordan ensures that Massenet's pent-up emotion explodes exactly on cue,its expressive power providing impossible to resist.

Not much is known about Jan Vermeer. He only produced around 35 works of art, yet they made him immortal. He was born in Delft and never left the town; he married there, worked as an art-dealer and died in debt. Michael Gill delves into the master's world and talks about the camera obscura and Vermeer's interest in science and cartography. Together with experts, he explores Vermeer's secrets of perspective, space, allegory and symbolic relationships in his works.

December 1, 2006

Live performance at Opernhaus Zürich in 2006. Nello Santi conducting Orchester der Oper Zürich and Chor der Oper Zürich. Directed for the stage by Gilbert Deflo.

April 16, 2010

Coming just before the mature final works, Verdi's Simon Boccanegra - along with Un Ballo in Maschera, Les Vêpres Siciliennes, La Forza del Destino and Don Carlos - occupy a strange but fascinating hinterland in the career of the composer. Each of the operas, influenced by Verdi's political involvement in the Risorgimento for the reunification of Italy during the period, are very much concerned with the exercise of power, but they all rely on typically operatic conventions of bel canto and French Grand Opéra in their use of personal tragedies and unlikely twists of fate to highlight the human feelings and weaknesses that lie behind their historical dramas. Written in 1859, but revised by the composer in 1881, Piave's libretto given an uncredited reworking by Arrigo Boito, Simon Boccanegra is consequently one of the more interesting works from this period, certainly from a musical standpoint. Live from Teatro all Scala, Milan 2010.

June 12, 2010

Early Rossini has a youthful, buoyant vibrancy about it, even in the dark swirls of drammi per musica like Sigismondo. The work, centered on a mad king and his delusions, was rarely played after its premiere in 1814. This performance marked the first from the critical new edition at the 2010 Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro and was hailed as a "perfect symbiosis of music and stage work" resulting in "truly brilliant theatre." Complete with a cast of sought-after Rossini singers, this is not to be missed.

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