The House Of The Dead/Janacek/Young
Lake/Tchaikovsky/National Opera Of Ukraine
Clavier Book II/Bach/Schiff
(2018/BBC/Unitel/all Naxos Blu-rays)
B- (B: Bayadere)
Sound: B Extras: C (C+: Bayadere)
Main Programs: C+/C+/B-/B-/B-/B-
are our first classical music releases for 2020, six interesting
entries, including the latest versions of some popular and oft
it might look more like an annual Day Of The Dead event, but this
version of Leos Janacek's From
The House Of The Dead
(2018) takes place in a Siberian 'penal camp' where sadistic guards
run things and the prisoners are in all states of sadness and
trouble. An opera in three parts, many characters still turn up in
skeleton make-up, then we get S&M and male homosexuality rounding
out the telling of this long story. The mixing of older, analog-like
block-style video with the new HD shoot back and fourth and back and
fourth is a bit overdone.
it runs 97 minutes, it feels longer and when it was over, I honestly
did not totally get the point, unless it was just to portray the
situation as is and leave things without making a big statement or
point. Conducted by Simon Young and stage-directed by Frank Castorf,
it is consistent and dense, moody and consistently dark, not
necessarily wallowing in its events, but I had to take the
horror-genre costuming as a contemporary move (sexualities
notwithstanding) and just does not gel. The cast can sing, of
course, as the sets work well enough, but it did not work for me as
much. Produced by the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, we've seen
their great work before, so this is at least distinctive, but just
not for everyone and probably not for young audiences.
(2019) is a concert simply taped live, but instead of the usual
orchestra doing classical music, this is a smaller, more intimate
setting where the smaller group of musicians (with variation) play 20
classics by various composers, usually legends like Haydn, Handel,
Mozart and Vivaldi, as well as some lesser-known and heard composers.
The title locale is remarkably part of the Hotel de Toulouse in
Paris, but it is incredible on its own and a great place to do such a
Chauvin conducts with soprano Jodie Davis, luteist Thomas Dunford,
harpsichordist Justin Taylor, traversoist Tami Krausz and cellist
Atsushi Sakai on hand. Save some motion blur issues, this is a solid
77 minutes that could have gone on longer, but is solidly good for
what it is and recommended if you are interested.
only our second-ever time to cover a work by Ludwig Minkus, it is the
first time we have encountered La
and it is the Royal Ballet delivering this 2019 performance that is
pretty good, though I had never seen the work in its entirety until
this release. A consistent 129 minutes, that may be long for some
and this is not a bare-boned production, but a rather rich one as a
woman challenges a man's love for the title character, a temple
dancer named Nikiya (Marianela Nunez).
Makarova created the choreography after that of Marius Petipa, with
Boris Gruzin conducting, it impresses and has its moments, but
sometimes there were moments that were off or ways this did not
cohere as a whole versus some of the best ballets we've seen on
Blu-ray to date. Still, it is ambitious, well done enough and worth
a good look.
have covered Tchaikovsky's Swan
so many times, it is easy to loose track, but this new version by The
National Opera Of Ukraine
(2019) joins our long list that includes this early release with
that was one of our first, earliest classical Blu-ray releases and
one we liked...
Royal Opera House version (among many good ones in this review) was
as impressive and still holds up very well..
we have this Bolshoi version that also impresses and was issued more
recently with two other classics...
there's this Zurich Ballet version that is not bad, if not as great
as the others...
this Dutch National Ballet version that was a little disappointing...
new version here, choreographed by Valery Kovtun (based on the work
of Marius Petipa like Bayadere
above) with Natalia and Denys Nedak leading the cast is somewhere in
between those above, ranking probably fourth place, so it is not bad.
On its own, it is nice, but up against three stronger presentations,
you can see where it succeeds and where it does not. Mykola Dyadura
does as good a job conducting the music as the dancers deliver their
moves, but it is hard to do this classic and give it the immense
amount of energy it needs throughout. Still, this one is good and
big fans will want to check it out.
is the other classic work we have covered several times over the
years, so now comes this 2018 version that is a post-modern take
mixing talking and singing, characters and tries to say new things
about Violetta Valery (Judith Chemla) that tries to offer an
alternate and semi-feminist take on her life. Though not perfect, it
is not bad, so how does it compare to previously covered versions?
There is this early version by the great Lorin Maazel we enjoyed
years ago here...
Andrea Andermann version from a box set we covered here that was
Royal Opera House version that was not bad...
this Belcanto D'Amore version rom a Blu-ray box set that was not
new version ties with the latter two, good, but not the best and it
will stand out as unique for simply trying to do something different.
Fans will want to try it out, but most people should know it is not
the usual approach and they might not be as happy with it. You'll
have to see it for yourself if you really want to know.
with Sir Andras Schiff delivering another solid concert of Bach
classics, one of his specialties, in The
Well-Tempered Clavier Book II
(2018), but we should say we somehow missed the first installment,
but not what is likely his first such release from a few years ago
that I covered at this link...
was impressed then and still now as I guess he'll perform every Bach
composition to the best of his ability until he finishes them all.
Produced with the BBC, this one runs 142 minutes and is almost as
impressive as the first, but I think the earlier one had a little bit
more of an edge, but the differences are narrow just the same. Hope
we see more of his work soon.
six Blu-rays are credited roughly as 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High
Definition, but Bayadere,
the best performer here, is actually listed specifically as having a
1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image presentation. All have
good color, but all have motion blur, a little more than usual for
the most part. Otherwise, they are fine. As for sound, all six
releases offer both DTS-HD
MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes and PCM 2.0 Stereo lossless
mixes. The stereo is fine in all cases, but I liked the DTS a little
better in each, though I though the differences were a little
narrower than usual here.
include multi-lingual booklets for all six releases, but Bayadere
adds a Cast Gallery, intro piece and featurette: Kingdom Of