WAGNER: Tristan and Isolde.
Amdreas Schager (Tristan). Rachael Nichols (Isolde). Michelle Breedt (Brangänew). Brett Polegato (Kurvenal)). John Relyea (King Mrke). Andrew Rees (Melot). Rome opera Chorus and Orchestra / Daniel Gatti, cond.
C MAJOR DVD TT: 3 hours 59 min.

SAINT-SAËNS: Carnival of the Animals. RAVEL: Mother Goose. PROKOFIEV: Peter and the Wolf. BRITTEN: Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.
Britten-Pears Orchestra/ Marin Alsop, conductor / narrator
NAXOS DVD TT: 99 min.

VAN GOGH AND JAPAN - The Untold Story of VanGogh's Art

This new production of Wagner's masterpiece was durected by Pierre Audo , who for three decades was artistic director of the Dutch National Opera. Sets and costumes were designed by Christopher Hetzer. It is a minimalist productioh with limited scenery and much of the action is in silhouette. Costumes are ragged and hardly suggest royalty. What we experience here is taken from live performances in the Rome Opera House in 2016. . The real star here is the orchestra under Daniel Gatti. However, any Wagner production must have strong singers, surely not heard here. Austrian tenor Andreas Schagerhas been singing Wagner for several years now, but he is not a true heldentenor. His Isolde here, British dramatic soprano Rachael Nicholls, also has been singing leading Wagner roles for several years, but on this recording she surely does not impress. Her big narrative in Act I is tentative; she gets better afterwards. Michelle Brteedt as Brangäene also is vocally insecure. Watching the two portly sopranos interact in Act I, in tight unflattering cotumes, almost seems a parody of Wagnerian sopranos. Excellent video and audio. Skip this one

Music of particular interest to children is featured on this Naxos DVD with Marin Alsop both as conductor and narrator with the excellent Britten-Pears Orchestra. This ensemble was formed mo than four decades ago by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears as a training group for young artists. They often perform in the warm acoustics of the UK's Snape- Maltings Concert Hall, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, The program features Saint-Saën's Carnival of the Animals, with texts by Genevieve and Rebecca Helsby, Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf with the composer's text adapted by Alsop, and Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. A suite from Ravel's Mother Goose, without narration, completes he program. Alsop is an old-hand a narration; as Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony she prefaces many concert performances with comments about the music, and she is perfectly at home in these works directed towards youthful audiences. The orchestra is superb, excellent video spotlights he many youthful musicians. audio is excellent stereo; it is surprising this wasn't recorded multi-channel. Subtitles are provided in four languages.

When Japanese art first arrived in France in mid 19th Century, it had a profound effect on many painters including Monet, Degas and Van Gogh. Although the latter never visited Japan, that country's art influenced many of his works, and this fascinating DVD focuses on works created under the Japanese influence. High quality photos from various museums are featured along with Van Gogh's personal letters, accounts by friends. contemporaries and and museum authorities, we experience the great artist's work. An important issue, for sure.

R.E.B. (January 2020).