PUCCINI: La Bohème
Olesya Golovneva (Mimi). Joachim Bäckstöm (Rudolfo). Vladislav Sulimsky (Marcello). Maria Fontosh (Musetta). Daniel Hällström (Schaunard). Miklos Sebestyén (Colline). Malmö Opera Chorus and Orchestra / Christian Badea, cond
NAXOS DVD TT: 117:58

Royal Swedish Ballet
BEL AIR CLASSICS DVD TT: 97 min. + 17 min bonus

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 "Pastorale." Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra / Herbert Blomstedt, cond.

There are so many superb videos available of Puccini's masterpiece that there is little reason to have yet another one. Recorded at the Malmö Opera May 18, 2014, this production was designed by Leslie Travers. The two-level set works well, and effective lighting focuses on the action. The cast is strong, but unexceptional. All the notes are there, but there are no great soaring Puccini moments, and Musetta's waltz is among the slowest ever. Video is excellent as is the audio, but this is not a memorable performance of Bohème. This site mentioned more than a half-dozen DVDs of this opera. All are preferable to this latest entry.

The Royal Swedish Ballet is featured on this version of Shakespeare's comedy adapted by Alexander Ekman. The musical score was composed by Mikhael Karlsson, for string quartet, percussion and piano with a singer. Sets and costumes are by Ekman and Bregje Van Balen. Location of this "dream" has been moved to Sweden, with summer festivities highlighted by a maypole. This concept[t is eons removed from Mendelssohn's magic masterpiece. There is much vigorous dancing, the sets are colorful and imaginative, but the music, although highly rhythmic as it must be, does not impress. The singer, Anna Von Hauswolf croons much of it. This is contemporary ballet on the edge. I'd suggest you sample it on YouTube before investing.

Venerable master conductor Herbert Blomstedt (b. 1927) has enjoyed a remarkable; career. He has been music director of a number of orchestras including the San F?Francisco Symphony (1985 - 1995), of which he is Conductor Laureate. During his career he has made countless recordings, many of which have won awards. This year, at the age of 90, he continues to conduct leading orchestras of the world, with no loss of vigor or musicianship. In the past few years he has led a Beethoven series with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and these performances are now issued on CD and DVD. Of course they are grand performances, and it is a pleasure to watch Blomstedt make music. The CD issue is budget price, but the DVDs (some Blu-Ray) are premium price. The DVDs are poorly produced, with no program booklet and only the briefest information about the performances. If you are an admirer of Blomstedt you might wish to investigate these; he has made previous recordings of all of this music. The DVD multi-channel recording is superb. You can sample some of these on YouTube.

R.E.B. (August 2017)