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This month's audiovisual releases take us on a journey through time and genre, from an outstanding Baroque keyboard recital (Sir András Schiff's live BBC Proms performance of Book II of J.S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier) to an engaging documentary that tracks a season in the life of one of today's dance superstars, Natalia Osipova.

In between we present three stage works: Weber's German grand opera Euryanthe (1823), the iconic 19th-century Russian ballet La Bayadère (1877) to music by Ludwig Minkus, and the opera Pagliacci (1892) by the Italian composer Ruggero Leoncavallo.

BACH, J.S.: Well-Tempered Clavier (The), Book 2, BWV 870-893 (A. Schiff) (NTSC)
2.110654 [DVD]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685–1750)
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II

Sir András Schiff, Piano

Distinguished Bach specialist Sir András Schiff returned to the BBC Proms in 2018 to present Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier. Extending the variety already evident in Book I (available on 2.110653), Bach’s effortless brilliance and new-found sonorities push harmony and counterpoint further than ever with a combination of ancient and modern styles, church austerity and galant lightness. Schiff has said that ‘no-one combines the sacred and the secular as Bach does’, and this is comprehensively demonstrated in Bach’s fascinating and challenging sequence. This performance in the Royal Albert Hall was described as ‘a musical meditation for our troubled times’ by the Independent.

Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0105V)

WEBER, C.M. von: Euryanthe [Opera] (Theater an der Wien, 2018) (NTSC)
2.110656 [DVD]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786–1826)
Libretto by Helmina de Chézy

Jacquelyn Wagner and Eva-Maria Neubauer, Sopranos
Theresa Kronthaler, Mezzo-soprano • Norman Reinhardt, Tenor
Andrew Foster-Williams, Bass-baritone • Stefan Cerny, Bass
Arnold Schoenberg Choir • ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Constantin Trinks, Conductor • Christof Loy, Stage Director

Weber’s ‘great heroic-romantic’ opera Euryanthe premiered in Vienna in 1823. It concerns the wronged Euryanthe, victim of a plot to establish her unfaithfulness, but her love imbues her with colossal strength which Weber characterises with acute psychological insight. Through-composed and dispensing with spoken dialogue, its chivalric plot provides opportunities for a series of arias, ariosos, duets, cavatinas and choruses that contain some of his greatest operatic music. This production employs the opera’s original version with a few, very minor cuts.

Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0107V)

LEONCAVALLO, R.: Pagliacci [Opera] (Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, 2019) (NTSC)
37863 [DVD]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857–1919)
Dramma lirico in two acts

Valeria Sepe • Angelo Villari • Devid Cecconi
Matteo Mezzaro • Leon Kim
Orchestra e Coro del Maggio Musicale Florentino
Valerio Galli, Conductor • Luigi Di Gangi and Ugo Giacomazzi, Directors

Premièred on 21 May 1892 at Milan’s Teatro Dal Verme under the baton of Arturo Toscanini, Pagliacci was an immediate success, and today it remains Leoncavallo’s best known opera, just as Vesti la giubba is perhaps one of the most famous operatic arias of all time.

The composer drew inspiration from a real incident that had occurred in a Calabrian town, an incident steeped in love and death, which inspired him to write his personal contribution to the new stylistic-aesthetic trend in Italian opera. In the Prologue, Leoncavallo inserted a clear manifesto on verismo (real theatre). His aim was to ‘paint a scene from real life’ and since ‘the artist is a person, […] he should write for the people. Therefore, he took inspiration from real life.’

In the story of Nedda, Tonio and Canio we therefore find a well managed mix of art and reality, operatic theatre and life, with the latter almost superseding the former, to the extent that the chorus exclaims towards the end: ‘This scene seems so real!’

This production, recorded at Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in September 2019, was critically acclaimed.

Also available in Blu-ray Video (57863) and Digital Exclusive (7863)

MINKUS, L.: Bayadère (La) [Ballet] (Royal Ballet, 2018) (NTSC)
OA1296D [DVD]
La Bayadère
Marianela Nuñez • Vadim Muntagirov • Natalia Osipova
Natalia Makarova, Choreography after Marius Petipa
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Ludwig Minkus, Music • Boris Gruzin, Conductor

Natalia Makaova’s acclaimed production of this 19th-century classic ballet brings an exotic world of temple dancers and noble warriors to life. Featuring opulent sets by Pier Luigi Samaritani and beautiful costumes by Yolanda Sonnabend, it stars Marianela Nuñez as the bayadère (temple dancer) Nikiya, Vadim Muntagirov as Solor, and Natalia Osipova as Gamzatti, whose alluring presence challenges Solor’s love for Nikiya.

Also available in Blu-ray Video (OABD7263D)

OSIPOVA, Natalia: Force of Nature Natalia (Dance Documentary, 2019) (NTSC)
OA1307D [DVD]
Force of Nature
Portrait of dance superstar Natalia Osipova

Gerry Fox, Director
Justine Waddell, Alexandrina Markvo and Gerry Fox, Producers

An in-depth portrait of dance superstar Natalia Osipova directed by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Gerry Fox.

Force of Nature Natalia follows a season in the life of dance superstar Natalia Osipiva. With unique access to Natalia’s personal archive, we follow her preparations for a fifth season as a principal of The Royal Ballet as she continues to champion contemporary dance with some of the world’s greatest choreographers. This compelling portrait chronicles the rehearsal process of two new works, The Mother by Arthur Pita, and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Medusa, and follows legendary ballerina and choreographer Natalia Makarova as she directs a revival of her classic production of La Bayadère for the Royal Ballet.

Natalia opens up about her life and history, her childhood in Russia, her time with American Ballet Theatre and her journey to the Royal Opera House. It is as unparalleled opportunity to get up close and personal with the leading ballerina of our generation and understand why critics and audiences all over the world call her a ‘force of nature’ of the dance world.

Also available in Blu-ray Video (OABD7269D)

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