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Classical Music Videos List
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The Metropolitan Opera/James Levine
- Augustine Came to Kent
by Barbara Willard
It is 597 and young Wolf has journeyed many miles from Rome. He witnesses the historic meeting between the King of Kent and the man who would be known as St. Augustine of Canterbury, an event that would replant the cross in English soil
The Royal Ballet Version 1969
Cinderella may be Sergei Prokofiev's most accessible ballet, both musically and visually, and in the hands of a master choreographer, it can be a thrilling experience. And so it is with this 1969 Royal Ballet performance, with then-resident genius Frederick Ashton pulling out all the stops in a staging guaranteed to please fans and win new converts. Ashton's particular ability to couch his innovative moves within a conventional framework is in evidence here. The back cover calls this "an acclaimed historic performance," and historic it certainly is. Several Royal Ballet dancers are shown in top form, including Ashton (as one of our heroine's ugly stepsisters!), Anthony Dowell as the prince, and the wonderful Antoinette Sibley as Cinderella. The production itself is filled with colorful sets and vivid costumes, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House plays Prokofiev's enchanting music under the steady baton of John Lanchberry. The video itself is simply rendered, and the unspectacular sound does the job. --Kevin Filipski
- Handel's Messiah
This performance of the best-loved of all oratorios, played on original instruments, provides us with a new musical experience. The renowned conductor Roger Norrington--a leading proponent of authentic performance practices--leads the London Baroque Players and the Cardiff Polyphonic Choir in this concert, which was the highlight of the Cardiff Festival of Choirs in Wales. Handel wrote Messiah for a combination of winds and strings, not the large orchestras of the late 19th and 20th centuries. In this program, the work is performed to the original scoring. This Messiah on original instruments is a performance that truly increases our understanding of this magnificent work. 113 minutes.
- Leonard Bernstein - Young People's Concerts
New York Philharmonic (1961)
Leonard Bernstein earned glory as a composer, conductor, and pianist (classical and jazz), but nothing gave him more pleasure than the joy of teaching. He presented the unique blend of spoken words and music known as the "Young People's Concerts" throughout his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic and for several years after. His enjoyment, and his audience's, can be seen vividly captured by the video cameras. He is an intensely interactive teacher, getting his audience to sing, springing a quiz full of trick questions, and singing a Beatles song to demonstrate a point.
Bernstein is completely at ease talking to his audience. He can take the most abstruse subject - the meaning and function of intervals, tonality and atonality, the links between Gustav Mahler's troubled life and his music - and present them to a young audience with clarity, without condescension, and with a clear sense of the material's value. His subject-matter is enormously varied. For Igor Stravinsky's 80th birthday, he simply tells his audience the story of Petrouchka while conducting a dazzling performance of the colorful ballet. For a program on "Folk Music in the Concert Hall," he plays some of Canteloube's folk song arrangements and the boisterous finale of Ives's Symphony No. 2, full of borrowed pop and folk melodies. The influence of folk music is shown in folk song imitations by Mozart and Carlos Chavez.
The sound and images, taped over a 15-year span when the art of recording was rapidly advancing, are varied in quality; the series begins in black-and-white and ends in vivid color. Not all of the programs are equally compelling, but all are worth close and repeated attention. --Joe McLellan
- Leonard Bernstein: Four Ways to Say Farewell - VHS
Leonard Bernstein discusses Gustav Mahler's 9th Symphony while rehearsing the piece with the Vienna Philharmonic.
- Love of Three Oranges
The ostensible subject of Prokofiev's surrealistic comedy The Love for Three Oranges is a fairy tale similar to Mozart's The Magic Flute : a prince on a quest for a beautiful princess with whom he has fallen in love from a distance; villains of horrifying (though comic) nastiness; magic charms and enchantments (for example, the princess is turned into a rat); and a titanic struggle between the forces of good and evil. But in its subtext, it is an opera about opera, beginning with a near-riot. The chorus is divided into two groups--opera patrons in tuxedos demanding a serious drama and stage hands in working clothes who insist on a comedy. In one dimension, this work is a discussion of operatic styles and conventions, and this is the level on which the Opera de Lyon production triumphs most decisively. Its style is self-consciously brilliant, as it should be. The performers' acting style is as important as their voices, and they have refined every verbal nuance, every gesture, to perfection, including a lot of pure slapstick. This opera, in this production, will appeal particularly to two types of audience: sophisticates who will relish its subtexts, parodies, insider jokes, and chic staging, and children who will be attracted by the story of a prince (son of the King of Clubs) who angers a witch and suffers a terrible curse: he will fall hopelessly in love with three oranges. --Joe McLellan
Georg Solti, The Royal Opera
(1992) - English subtitles
For those who want a home video that preserves the kind of treatment Verdi's Otello gets in a first-class international opera house, this Solti-Domingo-Te Kanawa production from Covent Garden looks like the best bet. Neither Georg Solti's conducting nor Elijah Moshinsky's stage direction pulls any punches; this is presented clearly and forcefully as a drama of jealousy (Iago's and Otello's) destroying innocence (Otello's and Desdemona's), in which a military man from a primitive background is plunged into situations and perplexities that his life has not prepared him to handle. What matters most is the casting of the three leading roles. When this production was taped in 1992, Plácido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa were the Otello and Desdemona of choice, and in this production they show why with effective singing and strong characterization. Sergei Leiferkus is, on the whole, a convincing villain, but not quite on the level of the two stars. The orchestra and chorus are outstanding.
Otello was even more spectacularly represented in a 1986 film also using Domingo in the title role. It was directed by Franco Zeffirelli with more concern for visual and emotional impact than for operatic fidelity and, as such, must be judged as a movie, not as an opera in the traditional format. I would not want to be without that unique vision of Verdi's masterpiece, though his cavalier treatment of the music (most notably his omission of the beloved "Willow Song") has alienated many hard-core opera lovers. --Joe McLellan
- Otello - DVD
- Prokofiev Fantasy With Peter and the Wolf, A
Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf featuring the voice of Sting and the British puppeteers "Spitting Image." Narrated by Sting and conducted by Claudio Abbado
- Verdi - La Traviata - DVD
Levine, Stratas, Domingo
Franco Zeffirelli's breakthrough version of Verdi's opera is an exquisitely designed, lavish production made expressly for this film. Domingo makes his cinematic debut with Stratas.
- Verdi's Rigoletto
Chailly, Pavarotti, Wixell, Gruberova, Vienna Philharmonic
This extraordinarily powerful 1983 production may be the best-sung performance by Luciano Pavarotti on DVD, but when acting values are counted in, Ingvar Wixell manages to outshine the tenor star. Verdi gave the Duke two of Italian opera's most brilliant arias ("Questa o quella" and "La donna e mobile"), but he gave the deformed jester Rigoletto a depth and complexity of character that is reflected in music of great variety and enormous emotional impact: the cruel mockery of the opening scene, the self-doubts inspired by his dialogue with Sparafucile, the paternal anxieties and final despair at his daughter's sad fate, and the burning, self-destructive thirst for revenge. All these motives work their way into music of great dramatic richness, variety, and intensity. Wixell rises to its challenges, not only in the title role but in a cameo appearance as Rigoletto's nemesis Monterone. Location filming provides an atmosphere unavailable in staged productions. --Joe McLellan