Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October '10 Music on Disc


Andre Previn: Bridge Between Two Worlds (Unitel Classica) is a smart, informative chronicle of the splendid career of one of the true renaissance men in 20th (and now 21st) century music, Andre Previn: he’s a composer, conductor, pianist, jazz performer, writer of music for a Tom Stoppard stage play, and husband to two famous former wives: violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and actress Mia Farrow. Lillian Birnbaum and Peter Stephan Jungk’s film skimps by only lasting 52 minutes, when we could have found out more about Previn from both himself and the insightful interviews with Mutter, Farrow, Stoppard and soprano Renee Fleming. Still, what we get is greatly satisfying. Two extras are included: an excellent performance from the 2000 Salzburg Festival of two Mozart quartets performed by Previn and other musicians.

Gian Carlo Menotti’s topical Cold War opera The Consul (Arthaus Musik) has lost none of its relevance, as this vintage 1963 German television production shows (lone extra: Menotti interview); Mozart’s effervescent comedy Cosi fan tutte (EuroArts Blu-ray) has never looked better than in this 2009 Salzburg staging, captured in hi-def: that Miah Persson and Isabel Leonard are simultaneously sexy and sizzling singers is a bonus; London’s Royal Opera House is the setting for a 2008 production of Verdi’s epic Don Carlo (EMI Classics), featuring a suitably dramatic cast led by Rolando Villazon, Marina Poplavskaya and Simon Keenlyside; An Evening with Renee Fleming (EuroArts Blu-ray) presents the star soprano in an outdoor summer concert with the Berlin Philharmonic: a few of the many highlights are Dvorak’s “Song of the Moon” and two Strauss selections; the two-hour Eric Clapton—The 1960’s Review (Sexy Intellectual) gives a good overview of the legendary guitarist’s most artistically successful decade, from the Yardbirds to Cream to Blind Faith (best extra: background on Cream’s song “Badge”); Evening Primrose (E1), a truly historic release, is a somber 1966 chamber musical created especially for television by composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, writer James Goldman and director Paul Bogart, with Anthony Perkins and Charmian Carr as two unlikely lovers (best extra: Bogart interview); Charles Gounod’s tragic Faust (EMI Classics) is seen in a strong 2004 staging from London’s Royal Opera House, with then real-life lovers Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu as Faust and Marguerite and a devilish Bryn Terfel as Mephistopheles; Julia Fischer—Violin and Piano (Decca) showcases the exciting Austrian violinist brilliantly dispatching both a Saint-SaĆ«ns violin concerto and a Grieg Piano Concerto (lone extra: Fischer interview); King Roger (Unitel Classics Blu-ray), Karol Szymanowski’s glorious operatic masterpiece, is barely heard or staged—so this strikingly abstract staging from Austria’s Bregenz Festival is a most welcome addition to Blu-ray; made up of interviews with and TV appearances by Aussie hit-maker Kylie Minogue, Kylie—Rare and Unseen (MVD) is a souvenir for the most undiscriminating fans; Joseph Haydn never wrote a hit opera, and this Vienna production of his fanciful Il Mondo della Luna (Unitel Classica Blu) can’t make a compelling case for a fatally flawed work, despite terrific orchestral playing and singing from a talented and game cast (lone extra: making-of featurette); two Menotti operas, The Old Maid and the Thief and The Medium (Arthaus Musik), are seen in provocative 1963 TV stagings by esteemed director Otto Schenk (lone extra: Schenk interview); Renee Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Decca) is part first-rate concert and impressive travelogue: two of the opera world’s grandest stars co-star with the mesmerizing city of St. Petersburg in a satisfying hybrid of music-making and travel show (lone extra: additional arias); Wagner’s early opera Rienzi (Arthaus Musik Blu-ray) is resurrected in this passionate Berlin production from earlier this year, captured in hi-def (lone extra: making-of featurette); Rigoletto (Virgin Classics), Verdi’s classic tragedy, boasts a killer cast (Juan Diego Florez, Diana Damrau, Zeljko Lucic), profoundly catchy melodies and a riveting 2008 Dresden production; The Metropolitan Opera’s delightful take on Puccini’s La Rondine (EMI/Met Opera) features Angela Gheorghiu at her starry best, while former paramour Roberto Alagna gives strongly sung support (lone extra: backstage cast interviews).

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