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Monteverdi: L'incoronazione di Poppea

Monteverdi: L'incoronazione di Poppea Lowest new price: $16.52
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Model: 5099992899193

Emmanuelle Haim conducts this production of Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea, which was recorded in 2012 at the exquisite opera house in Lille. First performed in 1643, Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea tells the story of Poppaea, the mistress of the Roman emperor Nerone, who, in an unlikely turn of events, is eventually crowned empress.

The French director Jean-François Sivadier takes a relatively minimalist approach to this production, with the characters in an eclectic mixture of modern and Ancient Roman dress. Nerone, here an almost punk-like figure with peroxide blond spiky hair, is portrayed by star countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic. Poppea is sung here by the glamorous Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva, who won Plácido Domingo s Operalia competition in 2010 and is a former member of William Christie s academy for young singers, Le Jardin des Voix.

Emmanuelle Haim is renowned as a conductor of vocal works in historically informed performances. She began her career studying piano with Yvonne Lefébure and then organ with André Isoir. She came to focus on the harpsichord, which she studied with Kenneth Gilbert and Christophe Rousset, and was awarded five first prizes at the Paris Conservatoire. As a continuo-player and musical assistant, Haim spent time at a number of opera houses, acquiring an exceptional knowledge of the Baroque and Classical repertoire through her work with, among others William Christie, Sir Simon Rattle and Daniel Harding. Emmanuelle Haïm regularly works as a guest conductor, appearing with, among others, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

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The Original Three Tenors Concert

The Original Three Tenors Concert Lowest new price: $18.07
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Brand: Universal Music & Video Distribution
Model: 2227891



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Gilbert & Sullivan - The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, Iolanthe (Stratford Festival, Canada)

Gilbert & Sullivan - The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, Iolanthe (Stratford Festival, Canada) Lowest used price: $19.95

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Wagner: The Ring of the Nibelung ( Das Rheingold / Die Walküre / Siegfried / Götterdämmerung) (Boulez/Chereau Ring Cycle)

Wagner: The Ring of the Nibelung ( Das Rheingold / Die Walküre / Siegfried / Götterdämmerung) (Boulez/Chereau Ring Cycle) Lowest new price: $64.39
Lowest used price: $66.99
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Anello Del Nibelungo (L') / Der Ring Des Nibelungen (8 Dvd)

The first opera (the prologue) in Wagner's Ring Cycle, Das Rheingold, is a beautifully conducted and thoughtfully staged performance. As soon as the clouds of mist have dissipated, while the daring, long-held opening chord is still reverberating, the screen clears to show not only the River Rhine and the three maidens (dressed like prostitutes in this production) assigned to guard the gold hidden there. It also shows an enormous dam (not mentioned in Wagner's text). This is the underwater base of a hydroelectric plant, and its presence tells us two things immediately: that this production takes the story out of the vaguely medieval fantasy world in which Wagner had placed it, and that a basic theme of the four-opera cycle would be power. Alberich, the Nibelung, is willing to renounce the love of women, after stealing the gold from the Rhine, to become the ruler of the world. Another basic theme is greed. The cast is uniformly excellent. The approach of stage director Patrice Chereau carefully balances realism, symbolism, and fantasy. The two giants (Matti Salminen and Fritz Hübner) tower over the gods who are waiting to enter the newly constructed Valhalla; Loge (brilliantly played by Heinz Zednick) appears in a burst of flame; the subterranean lair of the Nibelungs looks something like a prison and something like a mass-production sweatshop. In contrast, the gods look like members of a rather aimless leisure class. Freia, the goddess of youth (Carmen Reppel), whose fate is one of the basic items in the plot, is presented as a lovely but helpless beauty queen. Pierre Boulez conducts this episode. like the entire cycle, with power and precision.

Wagner's ideas of "racial purity" reach a logical conclusion in Act I of Die Walküre. Siegfried, the tragic hero of the cycle, is begotten in an adulterous, incestuous mating of Siegmund (Peter Hoffmann) and Sieglinde (Jeanne Altmeyer), a twin brother and sister. No miscegenation here. Siegfried will not be seen until the next opera in the cycle. For now, the Valkyries (after their famous, musically spectacular ride) are asked to protect Sieglinde, his pregnant mother-to-be, until he can be born. His father is killed in a fight with Hunding, Sieglinde's brutish husband, with Wotan intervening against his will to help the wronged spouse. Wotan has been forced by his wife Fricka, who is the goddess of marriage, elegantly played by Hanna Schwartz. Her victory is a striking display of Wotan's diminishing powers. Brunnhilde, Wotan's daughter and leader of the Valkyries (Gwyneth Jones), disobeys a paternal prohibition, rescues Sieglinde and hides her in safety to wait out her pregnancy. For this, she is punished by losing her divine status and being left asleep for years, surrounded by a circle of magic fire, until a hero (Siegfried, who has not yet been born) will come to rescue her. This episode is extremely well-sung, with particularly notable work by Hoffmann, Altmeyer, Schwartz, Jones and Donald McIntyre as Wotan, while conductor Pierre Boulez and director Patrice Chéreau work smoothly together to define the opera's overall form and continuity.

Siegfried is the most eventful of the four Ring operas: the hero of the cycle grows to maturity, forges his father's broken sword Notung, kills the dragon Fafner and the dwarf Mime, takes the cursed ring, frees Brunnhilde from the spell that has kept her asleep, and falls in love with her. It is all presented, powerfully and as efficiently as the self-indulgent text will permit. Not seen in the cycle's previous operas are Manfred Jung (Siegfried) and Norma Sharp (the Forest Bird), the central figure of the cycle and one of the most peripheral. Sharp is lovely in her brief appearance. Jung is the most controversial bit of casting in the cycle; his voice and acting have been criticized, but they seem to be up to the standard for this role, Perhaps the criticism really applies to Siegfried, who is neither intelligent nor compassionate, but a naive youth who knows nothing of the world and has never seen a woman. Jung conveys these qualities effectively. Wagner's ideal hero turns out to be a bit of a proto-Nazi in his own naive way, swaggering arrogantly, killing the dragon Fafner and the dwarf Mime with hardly a second thought, and blithely assuming that he deserves all the good fortune that comes his way. Wagner may have thought he was inventing another sort of hero, but this Siegfried rather faithfully reflects his creator's personality. Jung's characterization faithfully follows the text of the opera and it is compelling for those who can take their Wagner without illusions, those who have come to terms, for example, with the self-centered, unsympathetic personality that emerges from his wife Cosima's voluminous and blindly adoring diaries.

According to director Patrice Chereau, "Götterdämmerung undoubtedly presents a world in which no values exist any more... a world in which it is difficult for anyone to believe in anything any longer." It is truly, as its title proclaims, "The twilight of the gods." Siegfried is tricked, drugged, and treacherously murdered by power-hungry humans, deceived into betraying Brunnhilde, who remains faithful without hope. An air of weariness and decadence pervades the action and much of the music (though the score includes two of Wagner's finest instrumental inventions: Siegfried's Rhine journey and his funeral music.) A new note is the introduction of a chorus of humans (effectively used by Chereau) for the first time in the cycle. The heyday of the gods is over; now, world domination is sought by a human family, the Gibichungs. The cursed ring is stolen from Brunnhilde, who has kept it as a token of Siegfried's love. Siegfried, who has taken the ring in disguise, has been drugged and deceived into wooing Gutrune, a Gibichung. Brunnhilde is forced to marry Gunther, another Gibichung, but still faithful to Siegfried she commits suicide on his funeral pyre. The fire spreads to destroy Valhalla. The ring, snatched from Siegfried's dead hand, is dropped into the Rhine, where it is restored to its rightful place, and the situation returns to the normality of the time before Das Rheingold. The Gibichungs, new to the cycle, are well-portrayed by Franz Mazura and Jeanne Altmeyer, and Fritz Hübner is impressive as the treacherous Hagen. Gwemdolyn Killibrew stands out as Brunnhilde's ally Waltraute. As always, Pierre Boulez conducts with a clear vision of the total work. --Joe McLellan

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Rossini - La Cenerentola / Frederica von Stade, Francisco Araiza, Paolo Montarsolo, Claudio Desderi, Laura Zannini, Claudio Abbado

Rossini - La Cenerentola / Frederica von Stade, Francisco Araiza, Paolo Montarsolo, Claudio Desderi, Laura Zannini, Claudio Abbado Lowest new price: $14.20
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Paolo Montarsolo, Frederica Von Stade, Francisco Araiza, and Claudio Desderi star in this production of the Rossini opera with Claudio Abbado conducting the Orchestra E Coro Del Teatro Alla Scala.


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Bernstein: Candide [DVD Video]

Bernstein: Candide [DVD Video] Lowest new price: $13.03
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Model: 29085162

Quick Shipping !!! New And Sealed !!! This Disc WILL NOT play on standard US DVD player. A multi-region PAL/NTSC DVD player is request to view it in USA/Canada. Please Review Description.


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Puccini - La Boheme / Freni, Pavarotti, Severini, San Francisco Opera

Puccini - La Boheme / Freni, Pavarotti, Severini, San Francisco Opera Lowest new price: $27.11
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Brand: Kulter

Puccini's bittersweet opera of high-spirited bohemians and the doomed love between Rodolfo, the idealistic poet and Mimi, the consumptive flower-maker, is a beautifully balanced series of tableaux.

In 1989 when this production was taped, Luciano Pavarotti and Mirella Freni had already enjoyed long, distinguished careers. In other words, they were considerably older than La Bohème's romantic young couple, Mimi and Rodolfo. If you find this consideration important, it might be wise to skip this Bohème and invest instead in the bright, youthful, and energetic Sydney Opera production or the visually striking 1998 Metropolitan Opera production. So far, La Bohème has fared better on DVD than any other opera, and the San Francisco Bohème faces serious competition.

But this is a vintage production deserving attention on its own merits. As a matter of survival, veteran singers learn how to make experience compensate for the loss of youth, and Freni and Pavarotti are outstanding examples of how this can be done. They are aided by a sensitive stage director, a visual treatment responsive to the opera's changing moods, and an expert supporting cast deeply involved with the story and the music. They fit convincingly in roles with which they have been living for decades; both are still in good vocal condition, and the emotions are convincingly conveyed. In the supporting cast, note the excellent performances of Gino Quilico and Nicolai Ghiaurov. --Joe McLellan


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Bizet: Carmen

Bizet: Carmen Lowest new price: $12.99
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List price: $24.98
Model: 4444396

Jonas Kaufmann and Anna Caterina Antonacci bring rare erotic intensity to the drama of Don José and Carmen in this darkly passionate reading of one of the most popular operas. Kaufmann uses his burnished tenor and smouldering good looks to portray the man undone by Carmen's love. As the object of his desire, Antonacci gives a physical and compelling performance.

This Covent Garden production of Bizet’s Carmen, makes a vivid musical and dramatic impression. Director Francesca Zambello creates a properly Spanish atmosphere, filling the stage with a profusion of detailed characters. In Act One’s town square each of the many soldiers, strollers, cigarette factory girls, and children are individuals, so there’s a bustle of continuous, realistic activity. That attention to detail carries over to the rest of the opera, involving viewers in the action. Tanya McCallin’s sets are a perfect foil for the direction: simple, movable panels that serve as lightly sketched backdrops for the town square, a tavern, the smugglers’ mountain hideaway, and the final scene in front of the bull ring. But what makes this Carmen special is the singing and acting of the principals. Carmen is Anna Caterina Antonacci, a soprano known for the intensity she brings to her performances. Without taking anything to excess, her Carmen is a fiery temptress, sexy, insistent on setting her own terms for love and personal freedom. She sings all the set pieces well and, with tenor Jonas Kaufmann as her besotted lover, Don José, makes the final scene a hair-raising experience. If anything, Kaufmann trumps her with a beautifully sung, rounded portrait of the village boy turned soldier ensnared in a world beyond his experience. Kaufmann conveys the complexity of the character and etches his slow descent into obsessive madness. His rendition of the Flower Song is extraordinary for beauty of tone, phrasing and the soft singing essential to make this aria’s full impact. The toreador, Escamilio, is finely sung and acted by Ildebrando D’Arcangelo. He makes his entrance on horseback, sings the Toreador Song with brash arrogance, and projects this haughty, self-absorbed figure to perfection. And Norah Amsellem, as the village girl who loves Don José, uses her attractive soprano to depict her purity and innocence. Smaller roles are well done, with special mention due to bass Matthew Rose as Zuniga, the lieutenant of the guard. The vibrant conducting of Antonio Pappano is a big plus here; pacing is perfect, rhythms vibrantly precise, and melodies shaped with care. Under his baton, the Royal Opera House chorus and orchestra complete a rich, well-detailed performance of Bizet’s masterpiece. Lighting designs of Paule Constable add to the atmosphere of each scene, while television director Jonathan Haswell’s cameras always seem to be where they should be. --Dan Davis

Carmen is an all-regions disc in 16:9 ratio. Sound options include PCM Stereo and DTS 5.1 Surrdound. Sung in French, subtitles include English, French, German, Spanish and Chinese.


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Faust Lowest new price: $14.88
Lowest used price: $22.99
List price: $39.98
Model: 28930131

Double Tony Award winning stage director Desmond McAnuff s production, hailed by the New York Times as rich with ideas and theatrically daring , presents Faust as an atomic scientist inhabiting a dark world shot through with Cold War resonances.

Alongside Kaufmann, a typically gold-standard Met cast includes the phenomenal René Pape as Méphistophélès and the ideally-suited Marina Poplavskaya as Marguerite.

Star conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin draws an elegant, darkly textured performance from the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.

Also released in March 2014 is Werther on Blu-Ray featuring Jonas Kaufmann


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Donizetti: L'elisir D'amore

Donizetti: L'elisir D'amore Lowest new price: $16.19
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Filmed in 1981, live from the Metropolitan Opera, Luciano Pavarotti sings Nemorino in Donizetti's comic opera. One of Pavarotti's most famous roles, he sings it here at the peak of his powers, joined by an all-star ensemble. Nemorino is a peasant, in love with the beautiful and wealthy Adina. Unfortunately he has a rival; the sergeant Belcore, whom Adina seems to favour. Desperate, Nemorino buys what he believes to be a love potion from travelling doctor Dulcamara (in reality a quack). This fails to win Adina's heart, and she announces that she will marry Belcore. Nemorino has not given up hope yet, however, and buys another potion in time for the wedding celebration.

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