Opera news: Opus Arte to release world premiere of Birtwistle's Minotaur on DVD

Royal Opera House brings more productions to DVD in coming months

22 August 2008

The Minotaur at Covent GardenOpus Arte, the DVD company owned by the Royal Opera House, is to release Covent Garden's acclaimed production of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur on 1 October 2008.

Given its world premiere in April of this year, The Minotaur opened to almost universally positive reviews: The Independent described it as 'a glittering success', while Stephen Graham, writing for this site, said that it was 'a moment in which contemporary music could demonstrate its vitality and pertinence'.

Since joining The Royal Opera as Music Director in 2002, Antonio Pappano has encouraged the world premiere of several pieces including Maw's Sophie's Choice and Ades' The Tempest (which was successfully revived last year), but The Minotaur marked the first time he had overseen one of these new works with himself as conductor. The cast, as seen on the new DVD, included a number of favourite British singers such as Sir John Tomlinson, Christine Rice and Philip Langridge, with promising newcomer Amanda Echalez as Ker and the estimable Danish bass-baritone Johan Reuter as Theseus. (Reuter's preparations for the role were discussed in an interview that took place with MusicalCriticism.com: click here to read it.) The production was directed by Stephen Langridge, whose father Philip played the role of Hiereus.

The Minotaur will be available as a double-DVD set lasting 175 minutes and including the documentary Myth is Universal.

The ROH's dedication to bringing more of their work to DVD doesn't stop there, though. The last few months have seen the rerelease of previously-available titles such as Otello with Domingo, Te Kanawa and Solti, Aida with Studer and O'Neill, Romeo et Juliette with Alagna and Mackerras, and Stiffelio with Carreras and Downes, at roughly half the price they were originally on sale for (they can now be bought for around £12.50 from Opus Arte's website). Recent performances by The Royal Ballet of La fille mal gardée and The Sleeping Beauty have also been brought to the label.

Salome on Opus ArteThe future months look more active than ever, though. 1 September brings three titles to DVD: David McVicar's production of Strauss' Salome, with Nadja Michael; Peter Wright's classic Giselle with Johan Kobborg and Alina Cojocaru; and a rerelease of the Gold and Silver Gala from 1996, now entitled Great Opera Arias, in which Placido Domingo celebrated a quarter-century with the House alongside several major singers who were then at the start of their careers, including Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu and Susan Graham. Additionally, the label continues its commitment to the Blu-ray format with releases of the Paris Ballet's Jewels and Rameau's Zoroastre from the Drottningholm Court Theatre.

Four new releases in October include The Minotaur, Prokofiev's Cinderella from the Paris Opera Ballet, Rameau's brilliant but rarely-heard Castor et Pollox from De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam, and Frederick Ashton's Tales of Beatrix Potter recorded at Covent Garden last December. The 1993 ROH Tchaikovsky Winter Gala will also return to DVD under the title Opera and Ballet Favourites, with performances by the likes of Placido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa.

Running complimentarily to Opus Arte, ROH Heritage – The Royal Opera's CD label – will continue its varied output of classic live recordings from the company's archives by releasing Parsifal with Goodall and Il trovatore with Gwyneth Jones. Another Royal Opera production also comes to DVD in September, with the massively popular film of Carmen starring Anna Caterini Antonacci and Jonas Kaufmann being released by Decca. 

All of this comes at a time when, in spite of cynicism from many in the press, there is an extraordinary bevy of new opera releases to look forward to in September. These include six DVD titles filmed live at the Met – The First Emperor with Placido Domingo, Manon Lescaut with Karita Mattila and Marcello Giordani, La boheme with Angela Gheorghiu (reviewed live here), Peter Grimes with Anthony Michaels-Moore, Macbeth with Lado Atenali, and Hansel and Gretel with Alice Coote – all of which come to us from EMI Classics, who (through their Virgin Classics wing) also release Daniel Harding's recording of Britten's Billy Budd, captured live with the LSO and Ian Bostridge last December (reviewed here). Universal Classics has Renee Fleming's new recording of the Four Last Songs coupled with Strauss arias, Magdalena Kozena's new album of songs from her homeland, Rene Pape's album of opera arias entitled Gods, Kings and Demons, Bryn Terfel's new album of British folk songs, Anna Netrebko's new album of Souvenirs, and Thomas Quasthoff's Haydn Italian Arias. In the new year, Deutsche Grammophon will release a disc of Placido Domingo singing Leoncavallo arias and songs, and a DVD of Romeo and Juliet with Rolando Villazon.

Renee Fleming: Four Last SongsMyto releases three archival recordings to celebrate the life of the late Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer in the coming weeks, including Rigoletto, Caterina Cornaro and Anna Bolena, while Chandos' Opera in English series expands with highlights from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers starring Rebecca Evans and Simon Keenlyside in a new edition by Brad Cohen that restores some of the text – including the ending of the famous duet – to its original condition. Arthaus releases three new DVDs, including Orlando from Zurich, Werther from Karlsruhe and Angela Gheorghiu's debut as Violetta at La Scala under Lorin Maazel, and Dynamic's exciting forthcoming schedule comprises titles such as a DVD of Boito's Mefistofele starring Ferruccio Furlanetto and Mariella Devia in Lucia di Lammermoor. Naxos brings us Wolf-Ferrari's La vedova scaltra; Opera Rara releases its studio account of Bellini's La straniera which culminated in a concert performance at the Royal Festival Hall last year; Phoenix Edition brings the premiere DVD recording of Kurt Weill's Arms and the Cow; Naïve has a recording of Nabucco from Verona with Maria Guleghina and Renato Bruson; Harmonia Mundi has Blow's Venus and Adonis with Rosemary Joshua; and the new Signum Vision label has Tony Britten's personal take on Verdi's Falstaff.

In short, there's plenty to look forward to, even in these beleaguered times for the classical music record industry.

Editorial by Dominic McHugh

Coming soon: reviews of The Pearl Fishers (Chandos), Parsifal (DG), Tannhauser (DG), Dichterliebe (Hyperion) and much more.