Sunday, February 27, 2011

February '11 TV/Music on Disc


Medea (Arthaus Musik Blu-ray), German composer Aribert Reimann’s latest opera which had its premiere in Vienna last year, alternates a lot of strident musical moments with intermittently powerful sections, much like his equally ambitious earlier operas, Lear (after Shakespeare) and The Castle (after Kafka). Michael Boder conducts the Vienna State Opera Orchestra with intensity, the formidable cast is headed by the impossible-to-overpraise Marlis Petersen and Marco Arturo Marelli’s staging, while occasionally wrongheaded, generally does its job updating and universalizing a classic tragic tale. This is another example of 21st century recordings: instead of a CD release, it’s a Blu-ray with hi-def visuals and superb surround sound to give us the chance to hear and see a brand new opera. More, please!


After the Fall: A World United (PBS), which goes over the critical events of 1990, the year following the end of the Berlin Wall and Communism, is a decent overview of an important time in recent world history; Rossini’s Armida (Metropolitan Opera) has the perfect interpreter in soprano Renee Fleming, whose enchanting musical presence partially compensate for director Mary Zimmermann’s routine 2010 production (lone extra: Backstage at the Met); the entertaining 1989 mini-series Around the World in 80 Days (e one) stars Pierce Brosnan as the irrepressible Phileas Fogg, along with an array of colorful guest stars from Jack Klugman and Roddy McDowell to Lee Remick and Jill St. John; Beauty and the Briefcase (Image) stars an appealing Hilary Duff in an otherwise lightweight romantic comedy about a journalist who finds love in the unlikeliest of places: the fashion industry; Depeche Mode: 30 Years at the Edge (MVD), a two-disc set that clocks in at over 2-½ hours, documents the history and legacy of the most popular and enduring synth band to come out of Britain with vintage interviews and performance footage galore; Elsa’s Legacy (PBS Blu-ray), another terrific Nature episode, tells the still-heartwarming if cautionary true story about the author of Born Free, Joy Adamson and her husband George and their relationship with “tamed” lions like the famous Elsa; How the Earth Was Made—Season 2 (History Blu) once again utilizes interviews with experts, staggering location shooting and top-of-the-line computer graphics to present 13 stories of the formation of our planet, from the Grand Canyon to Mt. Everest; Ice Road Truckers—Season 4 (History Blu) again follows the big-rig drivers through some of the most dangerous terrain in all of already dangerous Alaska, all shown in pristine hi-def (best extra: additional footage); The Longoria Affair (PBS) persuasively brings to light a largely unknown civil rights struggle: Mexican Americans’ fight for equality after a family was not allowed to use a Texas funeral chapel for the remains of their dead son, a World War II private; Maria Stuarda (Unitel Classics Blu-ray), Donizetti’s popular bel canto opera, is seen in a starkly beautiful 2010 staging in Venice featuring a fiery Fiorenza Cedolins in the title role; Siddhartha (Arthaus Musik Blu-ray) is wunderkind choreographer Angelin Preljocaj’s inspired take on the story of Buddha in its 2010 world premiere in Paris, shot in spectacular hi-def; Spin City—Season 4 (Shout Factory), all 26 episodes of which were originally broadcast in 1999-2000, was Michael J. Fox’s final season on the sitcom, ends in a two-part “Goodbye” episode that was Fox’s last appearance before briefly returning in season six (Charlie Sheen, of all people, replaced Fox for season 5); the four-disc set Top 100 NFL Players (Warners), originally shown on the NFL Network, counts down the best players in NFL history, with a surprise at no. 1 (hint: it’s not Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor or Joe Montana, who are 2, 3 and 4) (lone extra: outtake footage/extra interviews); What Ever Happened to Pink Floyd (MVD), an informative 80-minute documentary, chronicles the band’s breakup with Roger Waters at the helm and reformation with David Gilmour leading it (lone extra: When the Wall Came Down featurette about Waters' Berlin concert).

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