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This month sees the release of four tremendous new video entertainment recordings:
  • Der Freischütz, Weber's breakthrough opera, and the one that went on to be his most popular.
  • Nicola Vaccaj’s opera Giulietta e Romeo, his most successful stage work that sadly fell into neglect, until now.
  • Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, a classic of the Royal Ballet: ‘The current revival is vividly played and danced by some first-rate casts.’ (The Financial Times ★★★★★)
  • Shakespeare's King Lear featuring Kevin R McNally in the title role and stage direction by Nancy Meckler,
    ‘ … as wise as she is visionary.’ (WhatsOnStage)
WEBER, C.M. von: Freischütz (Der) [Opera] (La Scala, 2017) (NTSC)
2.110597 [DVD]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786–1826)
Der Freischütz
Libretto by Johann Friedrich Kind

Julia Kleiter and Eva Liebau, Sopranos • Michael König, Tenor
Günther Groissböck, Bass • Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala
Myung-Whun Chung, Conductor • Matthias Hartmann, Stage Director

Weber was at the forefront of the rise of German Romantic opera and sought to dethrone Rossini from his position as the leading operatic composer in Europe. In his breakthrough and most popular opera Der Freischütz (‘The Marksman’) composed in 1821, he succeeded in his aim of establishing a truly German form. Turning to the folklore and folk songs of his native land he took a story of a marksman who makes a pact with the Devil, vesting it with powerful intensity – not least in the famous Wolf’s Glen scene – and an astonishing control of orchestral colour and atmosphere.

Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0092V )

VACCAI, N.: Giulietta e Romeo [Opera] (Festival della Valle d'Itria, 2018) (NTSC)
DYN-37832 [DVD]
Nicola VACCAJ (1790–1848)
Giulietta e Romeo
Tragedia per musica in two acts
Libretto by Felice Romani

Leonor Bonilla • Raffaella Lupinacci
Leonardo Cortellazzi • Paoletta Marrocu
Vasa Stajkic • Christian Senn
Orchestra Accademia Teatro alla Scala
Sesto Quatrini, Conductor • Cecilia Ligorio, Director

Nicola Vaccaj belonged to the Neapolitan School. He was a pupil of Paisiello and a contemporary of Rossini, whose fame somewhat obscured his own. But he was well enough known and appreciated during his day that an extract from the last Act of his Giulietta e Romeo was chosen as a substitute for the same aria in Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi for an 1832 performance. This arrangement remained common practice until the end of the 19th century.

It’s hard to believe, therefore, that Vaccaj’s most notable success has been neglected for such a long time, since it is ‘an opera that could easily hold its own among the better-known works in the bel canto canon. It has a taut plot, with a strong libretto written by Romani, and is full of well-constructed ensemble pieces.’ (Operawire)

With a traditional 16th-century setting, director Cecilia Ligorio chooses to convey a sense of doom and tragedy which imbues the entire work, from the choice of costumes and settings to the stage lighting. ‘It really was a well-paced and visually pleasing production that successfully captured the love and hatred which drives the narrative forward.’ (Operawire)

Also available in Blu-ray Video (DYN-57832) and CD (CDS7832.02)

MACMILLAN, K.: Histoire de Manon (L') [Ballet] (Royal Ballet, 2018) (NTSC)
OA1285D [DVD]
The Royal Ballet
Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon

Sarah Lamb • Vadim Muntagirov
Jules Massenet, Music • Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Martin Yates, Conductor

Sarah Lamb and Vadim Muntagirov star as tragic lovers Manon and Des Grieux in this performance of Kenneth MacMillan's Manon, a classic of the Royal Ballet repertory. Nicholas Georgiadis's period designs set the ballet in the contrasting worlds of Paris luxury and Louisiana swampland, while the intense emotion of MacMillan's choreography is complemented by a score drawn from Massenet's music.

The impassioned pas de deux for Manon and Des Grieux drive this tragic story, and make Manon one of MacMillan's most powerful dramas. Recorded in true Surround Sound.

Also available in Blu-ray Video (OABD7255D)

SHAKESPEARE, W.: King Lear (Shakespeare's Globe, 2017) (NTSC)
OA1278D [DVD]
William SHAKESPEARE (1564–1616)
King Lear

Louisa Beadel • Emily Bruni • Burt Caesar • Ralph Davis
Joshua James • Kevin R McNally • Chris Nayak • Loren O’Dair
Thomas Padden • Saskia Reeves • Sirine Saba • Faz Singhateh
Kenton Thomas • Buom Tihngang • Anjana Vasan
Nancy Meckler, Director

King Lear has three daughters, but no sons. Boldly he makes a decision to divide his kingdom among his children, but fails to anticipate the consequences of his actions. His generosity is cruelly repaid and Lear finds himself adrift, wandering homeless and destitute. As he comes to realize the false values by which he has lived, he finally encounters his own humanity.

King Lear’s tempestuous poetry is shot through with touches of humour and moments of heart-rending simplicity, as the notion of familial love is questioned and torn apart.

With Kevin R McNally in the title role, Nancy Meckler’s production has ‘an underlying through-line of intelligence and sensitivity, and strong supporting performances abound.’ (The Telegraph)

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