STRAVINSKY: Le sacre du printemps. Symphon of Psalms. Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra.
Michel Beroff, piano; English Bach Festival Chorus; London Symphony Orch/Leonard Bernstein, cond.
ICA CLASSICA DVD ICAD 5124 TT: 82 min. enhanced mono

FRANCK: Stradella
Isabelle Kabatu (Leonor). Marc Laho (Stradella). Werner Van Mechelen (Spadoni). Philipe Roullion (Le Duc). Xavier Rouillon (Pietro). Giovanni Lovino (Michael). Patrick Mignon ( Beppo). Roger Joakim (Un Officer). Chorus and Orchestra of Opéra Royal de Wailonie/Paolo Arrivabeni, cond.
DYNAMIC DVD 37692 TT: 115 min.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Eugene Onegin
Anna Netrebko (Tatiana). Elena Zaremba (Madame Laura). Oksana Volkova (Olga). Marius Kwiecien (Onegin). Piotr Beczala (Lemski). Alexei Tanvitski (Prince Gremin). Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DVD TT: 164 min. + 11 min bonus

This site mentioned a November 1966 concert performance of Le sacre du printemps with Leonard Bernstein and the London Symphony (REVIEW). For details about the conductor's long association with this music and recordings of it, please check that review. Now we have another video of Stravinsky's magnificent ballet, this time a performance recorded in Royal Albert Hall with the same orchestra April 8, 1972. The concert was all-Stravinsky opening with The Rite followed by Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra with Michele Beroff, and Symphony of Psalms, with the English Back Festival Chorus. This was a festive memorial concert marking the first anniversary of the death of Stravinsky, who died a year earlier at the age of 88. It seems surprising that The Rite opens the program, and the fine chorus is onstage for the entire concert. The LSO is in top form (9 French horns are used), but audio is somewhat disappointing, particularly when one considers that the BBC made a splendid stereo recording of Jascha Horenstein's definitive Mahler Symphony No. 8 in the same venue in 1959. We hear this concert in "enhanced mono," of sufficient quality to convey the superb performances but surely not what it should be. Producers explain that some sections of Symphony of Psalms were so technically inadequate they had to do some editing to provide video for the entire performance. Bernstein had requested that the audience not applause after the choral work. This is a fascinating DVD in many ways; it is just unfortunate sources were not better.

César Franck (1822-1890) was a leading organist and composer of his time, known primarily for his d-minor symphony, Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra, the symphonic poem The Accursed Huntsman, his Prelude, Chorale and Fugue for piano, the sonata for violin and piano, his setting of Panis Angelicus and, of course, his magnificent organ music. He also wrote four operas: Stradella, Le vlet de ferma, Hulda, and Ghisèle, all obscure. This DVD contains Franck's first opera, Stradella, composed 1840-1841. Franck lived in Paris, was only 15 at the time and was making a living by accompanying a leading French tenor and perhaps this influenced his writing an opera. Franck never orchestrated the opera; this was done by Luc van Hove and staged for the first time in September 2012 at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie, seen on this DVD. The plot, even by operatic standards, is unbelievable. The menacing Duke lusts after the young girl Léonor and hires the famous tenor Stradella to sing for her apparently thinking this will make the maiden desire him (!!), but Stradella and Léonor love each other. In the final scene, Stradella is to sing a Holy choral hymn in a church. In this scene the girl is so overcome with emotion that she falls dead (!). After singing, Stradella is murdered, and there is a final hymn. Stradella and Léonor are united in heaven as the crowd prays for and forgives the lovers. The music has moments of beauty, but little memorable. The production, directed by Jaco Van Dormael, has sets by Vincent Lemaire and costumes by Olivier Beriot. One costume worn by the duke in at the end of the second act features a 6 ft. cluster of black helium-filled balloons, looking quite ridiculous. This is the wettest opera you will ever see. It takes place in Venice, and water is not only in the canals, but everywhere, and sometimes it is even raining. Singers splash around in water, sometimes up to their waists (!), and some have umbrellas. Tenor Marc Laho and mezzo Isabelle Kabatu are adequate in their leading roles, other singers are unexceptional. The chorus is poor and orchestral playing undistinguished. There are some colorful lighting effects largely because of all the water, but this opera is hardly worth reviving. This is only for the most curious.

This Met production of Eugene Onegin was highly praised, a Met HD telecast October 5, 2013.. This new production by Deborah Warner updates the opera by a half-century. Singing is superb throughout, with Anna Netrebko a sensitive troubled woman who resists temptation and resigns herself to her comfortable life minus the passion she originally felt for One gin, and, of course, she is beautiful to look t. Mairusz Kwiecien is a handsome Onegin, Piotr Beczala an ideal Lenski. Sets and scenery work well generally. Director Fiona Shaw's Broadway experience is exhibited in the vigorous apache dancing sequence in the first act, overdone, inappropriate and distracting. . Video and audio are excellent, and as a "bonus" we have 11 minutes of interviews with the three principals and conductor Gergiev. I imagine most viewers would prefer the conductor's early Met performance recorded in February 2007 with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Renée Fleming and Ramón Vargas, reviewed on this site (REVIEW)..

R.E.B. (Aprl 2014)