Christmas is clearly in the air with two of our audiovisual releases this month, as Marcus Creed conducts the SWR Vokalensemble in live performances of favourite carols, while Frankfurt Opera gifts us a wonderful performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Christmas Eve. (‘A perfect seasonal tonic.’ The Financial Times) There’s also a festive air underpinning Scottish Ballet’s The Secret Theatre, in which the worlds of the Snow Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy collide during an hour-long spectacular.
In more serious operatic mode, Sir Donald Runnicles conducts Wagner’s monumental Ring cycle, while a production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore from last year’s Donizetti Festival in Bergamo demonstrates why it has remained one of the world’s most popular and frequently performed operas. Finally, Verdi fans will be keen to explore a recording of Verdi’s Rigoletto, in which director Oliver Mears makes his Royal Opera debut with a ‘thrilling new production.’ (The Times ★★★★)
The tetralogy of four operas that form Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) explores the conjunction of love and power in a mythic landscape in which true power resides in possession of the ring. Composed over more than a quarter of a century, monumental in scale, and structured after the precedent of Greek drama, the cycle was first performed in 1876. Staged by the award-winning director Stefan Herheim, this innovative new production from Deutsche Oper Berlin features a leading international cast conducted by Sir Donald Runnicles.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0156VX)
Composed using his own libretto, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov created this magical opera based on the short story by Nikolay Gogol ‘The Night before Christmas’ in which Vakula the handsome blacksmith wants to marry the rich farmer’s daughter Oksana, who in turn demands that he must first bring her the Tsarina’s shoes. Meanwhile a witch on her broomstick gathers the stars and the devil steals the moon – demonic forces trying to hinder this romantic union. There is little repertoire in musical theatre in which enchantment and enlightenment come together so happily as in Rimsky-Korsakov’s fairy-tale operas, and this Oper Frankfurt production was considered ‘a perfect seasonal tonic’ by the Financial Times.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0154V)
Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore is a melodrama giocoso in two acts and has remained one of the world’s most popular and often performed operas. Nemorino is in love with Adina, who is indifferent, but eventually falls for him, helped by the huckster Dr Dulcamara’s elixir (in reality, cheap red wine). This performance restores cuts and is heard in full, as Donizetti intended, played on original instruments of the time at the original pitch. This allows one to hear more fully how he turned a traditional opera buffa into a masterpiece of characterisation and theatrical power.
In a deserted city, a young boy stumbles into a theatre. He wanders through the auditorium, where rows of velvet chairs, draping curtains and chandeliers seem to lie in lonely wait for audiences to return. The theatre may be empty, but the show will go on…
Starring characters from Scottish Ballet’s most popular festive ballets, the worlds of the Snow Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy collide when the theatre bursts into life. In this spectacular, hour-long film, you’ll be treated to an extraordinary show filled with acrobats, snowflakes, clowns, princes and – of course – beautiful ballerinas.
The Secret Theatre features the choreography of Scottish Ballet founder Peter Darrell and CEO/artistic director Christopher Hampson, co-directed for the screen by Jess & Morgs. With set and costumes designed by Lez Brotherston, music by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky recorded live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, new additional music by Frank Moon, and performances from the full Scottish Ballet Company, this Christmas special is an unforgettable adventure for the whole family.
Rigoletto is the sharp-tongued jester to the serial womaniser, the Duke of Mantua. But when the Duke turns his seductive ways towards Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda, the jester learns that he is powerless to protect her. What follows is an epic tale of deceit, revenge and, above all, love.
Director Oliver Mears makes his Royal Opera debut with his ‘thrilling new production’ (The Times ★★★★), which frames Verdi’s masterpiece as a modern morality play, pitting power against innocence in a decadent world of corruption and social decay. Antonio Pappano conducts an outstanding cast that includes an ‘utterly compelling’ Carlos Álvarez in the title role, Lisette Oropesa as ‘a matchless Gilda’ (The Guardian ★★★★) and tenor Liparit Avetisyan as the Duke of Mantua.
Verdi’s epic masterpiece shines in this new production from The Royal Opera.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (OABD7303D)
These special concerts featuring the award-winning SWR Vokalensemble represent two Christmas gifts from the Gaisburg Church, considered to be one of the most beautiful churches in Stuttgart. Michael Praetorius’ In dulci Jubilo exemplifies an ancient European tradition for Advent music that has inspired composers to express seasonal beauty and joy from medieval times to the present. English conductor Marcus Creed brings a real depth of experience to both these works and the fine selection of popular Christmas Carols from the British Isles.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (SWR19126BD)