10 essential DVDs for opera lovers

Whether you are a confirmed ballet lover or a beginner, whether you are looking for a famous production or for a forgotten gem, you will find here a selection of the most beautiful opera DVD (and Blu-rays) released by Bel Air Classiques…

Rimsky-Korsakov: The Snow maiden [DVD & Blu-ray]

Mikhail Tatarnikov | Dmitri Tcherniakov | Opéra national de Paris (2017)

Snegurochka (Snowmaiden), the daughter of Spring and Winter, dreams of a life amongst the humans; but thebitter Sun, looking for revenge, plans to use the fire oflove to make her melt away… Stage director Dmitri Tcherniakov, a highly regarded specialist in Russian opera, humanizes this marvellous and cruel coming-of-age tale, under the surface of which innocent eroticism and bitter jealousy boil furiously. He is surrounded by a very Russian cast, from Aida Garifullina to Mikhail Tatarnikov. A luxurious cast for the first-ever DVD recording of the opera.

Mozart : Le nozze di Figaro [DVD & Blu-ray]

Philippe Jordan | Giorgio Strehler | Opéra national de Paris (2010)

Any reprise of the Strehler Nozze di Figaro has to be a major event. And in 2010, thirty-seven years after its première, the work met with a fresh triumph at the Opéra Bastille, featuring a new generation of performers: Ludovic Tézier (Count Almaviva), Barbara Frittoli (Countess Almaviva), Ekaterina Siurina (Susanna), Luca Pisaroni (Figaro) et Karine Deshayes (Cherubino). As musical director Philippe Jordan reveals the Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris at the height of their powers.

Britten : Billy Budd [DVD & Blu-ray]

Ivor Bolton | Deborah Warner | Teatro Real - Madrid (2017)

800 liters of water, two sails, thirty pulleys, sixty hammocks : for the Bicentenary of the Teatro Real of Madrid, Deborah Warner coined a colossal production of Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd. A critically-acclaimed performance, praised for its depth and intelligence, and finally available on DVD & Blu-ray! With Jacques Imbrailo, Brindley Sherratt, Toby Spence and Thomas Oliemans.

Puccini : Turandot [DVD, Blu-ray & VOD]

Nicola Luisotti | Robert Wilson | Teatro Real - Madrid (2018)

After twenty years of absence, Puccini’s Turandot was revived on the stage of the Teatro Real in a new production by American stage director Robert Wilson. One of the most important theatre and visual artist of our times, the director who gave life to Philip Glass’s Einstein of the Beach and who reinvented Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande hadn’t worked on a Puccini opera in twenty-five years, since his ground-breaking Madama Butterfly commissioned by the Paris Opera in 1993. This new encounter between his powerful visual universe and Puccini’s evocative music was bound to be an outstanding event. Carried out by a brilliant cast of singers, dominated by Irene Theorin as Turandot, Gregory Kunde as Calaf and Yolanda Auyanet as Liù, this magnificent production is conducted by the Teatro Real’s associate musical director Nicola Luisotti – and has been met with universal acclaim.

Strauss : Elektra [DVD & Blu-ray]

Patrice Chéreau | Esa-Pekka Salonen | Festival d'Aix-en-Provence (2013)

Elektra comes in the wake of Salome with the same dimensions (a single act lasting approximately an hour and three-quarters), a story taking place in ancient times, extreme feelings, and devastating violence. Frenzied unity of place, time and action, with the drama unfolding in the courtyard of the palace in Mycenae, in real time. It tells how Elektra, daughter of King Agamemnon, keeps alive the memory of her father, murdered upon his return from Troy by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover, and dwells only on vengeance. And how this vengeance finally comes about. This production is led by three amazing singers: the German soprano Evelyn Herlitzius gave a tremendous, never-to-be-forgotten account of the title role, Waltraud Meier portrays a human and chilling Clytemnestra and Adrianne Pieczonka is a fantastic Chrysothemis. Everyone’s loneliness and intimate struggles are Patrice Chéreau’s favorites theatrical themes. With Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Orchestre de Paris, this production of Elektra becomes an unforgettable experience.

Tchaikovsky : Eugene Onegin [DVD & Blu-ray]

Alexander Vedernikov | Dmitri Tcherniakov | Palais Garnier (2008)

Three romantic heroes each with a solitary destiny: Tatiana, a Romanesque young woman seeking absolution, Onegin, a distant dandy hiding emptiness under affected haughtiness, and Lenski, abandoned by his literary idol. Between these three, barren affections presage the inexorable social ruin. All the resources of the Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow are brought to bear to ensure this opera performance is exceptional evening of theatre and song: a vocal line-up of the highest order with notably the baritone Mariusz Kwiecien and the Bolshoi Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Alexander Vedernikov. With a stage setting as sombre as it is effective – a great dining table appears in the middle of a salon – the director Dmitri Tcherniakov separates two different worlds and lends the drama a clarity rarely reached.

Berg : Lulu [DVD]

Paul Daniel | Krzysztof Warlikowski | Barbara Hannigan | Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie (2012)

The nuptials of eros and thanatos unveil their irresistible attraction in this second opera of Alban Berg who, following Wozzeck, describes the sometimes bright and often bestial intensity of human relations. Intoxicatingly enigmatic and deadly for those close to her, Lulu’s secret goes with her unto death. From the folly of love to the humiliation of vulgarity, she incites the excess. Krzysztof Warlikowski once again delves the innermost depths of the human psyche and chooses to tackle Lulu as a deeply moving requiem ‘to the memory of an angel’. Paul Daniel is conducted the Orchestre symphonique de la Monnaie and canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan gives a tremendous, never-to-be-forgotten account of the title role.

Haendel : Hercules [DVD & Blu-ray]

William Christie | Les Arts Florissants | Luc Bondy | Joyce DiDonato | Opéra de Paris (2004)

Hercules returns from the war with Iole, a princess he fell in love with. Mad with jealousy, Déjanire, his wife (Joyce DiDonato), ends up totally insane after poisoning her husband. Half theatrical performance, half secular oratorio, Hercules wasn’t originally meant to be performed in front of an audience. Luc Bondy chose to show the dramatis personae as ordinary people victims of their passions. The superb chorus of the Arts Florissants, both mediator and prosecutor, is the main witness of this tragedy of women’s jealousy. The Orchestre des Arts Florissants, conducted by William Christie, is at its best with Haendel, allowing Christie to support and accompany a stellar vocal cast.

Verdi : Falstaff [DVD, Blu-ray & VOD]

Daniele Rustioni | Laurent Pelly | Teatro Real - Madrid (2019)

Out of Giuseppe Verdi’s adoration for William Shakespeare three masterpieces were born : Macbeth, Otello and, as a musical testament, his only comedy Falstaff. It was high time that French stage director Laurent Pelly, an eniment specialist of the buffa repertoire, tried out his talents on this whimsical music drama : a task he performs with absolute maestria, highlighting with remarkable subtlety the numerous comic devices. He is, of course, helped in this endeavour by a wonderful team of singers : from the excellent baritone Roberto de Candia to the earthy mezzo soprano Daniela Barcellona as Mrs Quickly, without forgetting the exceptional Simone Piazzola as Ford, the wonderfully lyrical Rebecca Evans as Alice, or the candid Ruth Iniesta and Joel Prieto as Nannetta and Fenton, the young couple whose tender romance counterpoint Falstaff’s heroicomic gest.

Wagner : Parsifal [DVD & Blu-ray]

Daniel Barenboim | Dmitri Tcherniakov | Berliner Staastoper (2015)

Wagner’s last opera, Parsifal is a medieval epic story marked by Christian, Buddhist and esoteric references. It is about redemption and renewal, but this new production by Russian director Dmitri Tcherniakov adds a jarring note : revenge. This “Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage” is similar to a Medieval epic, a blend of metaphysical dreams and esoteric battles with constant spiritual references. This new production is directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov, conducted by Daniel Barenboim and sung by an international cast of excellent singers: Andreas Schager, Anja Kampe, Wolfgang Koch, René Pape, Tomas Tómasson and Matthias Hölle.

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