Philip Langridge (Oedipus); Jessye Norman (Jocasta); Bryn Terfel (Creon); Min Tanaka (Oedipus Dancer); Tokyo Opera Singers; Shinyu-Kai Chorus; Saito Kinen Festival Dancers; Saito Kinen Orch/Seiji Ozawa, cond.
PHILIPS DVD VIDEO B0003883 TT: 58 min (opera); 59 min (features)

ELGAR: Enigma Variations, Op. 36
BBC Symphony Orch/Sir Andrew Davis, cond. + A Hidden Portrait

Excerpts from La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, Adriana Lecouvreur, Cavalleria Rusticana, and La Gioconda. Concerto Italiano (Renata Tebaldi and Louis Quilico): arias from Gianni Schicchi, Il Tabarro and Tosca plus music of Tosti, Mascagni and Rossini
VAI DVD VIDEO 4324 (2 disks) TT: 76:28 & 53:09

RENATA SCOTTO In Concert and Recital. Excerpts from Otello, Macbeth, Don Carlo, Le Villi, La Wally, Manon Lescaut, Tosca and Gianni Schicchi. Songs and arias by Handel, Scarlatti, Rossini, Verdi, Liszt, Respighi, Puccini, and Mascagni
VAI DVD VIDEO 4306 TT: 155 min.

This presentation of Oedipus Rex is a knock-out! The imaginative production was staged at the Saito Kinen Festival in 1992, with designs and direction by Juli Tamor, whose concept of the tragic opera/oratorio is Japanese Haniwa along with European Cycladic sculpture. The stunning set was designed by George Tsypin, and the unique clay makeup was the idea of Reiko Kruk. The cast could not be bettered: Philip Langridge as Oedipus, a young Bryn Terfel as Creon, and Jessye Norman as a demonic Jocasta. Narration is by Japanese actor Min Tanaka in an appropriately dramatic style. Camera work is perfect, and the 5.1 surround sound outstanding. Subtitles in five languages are provided, and bonuses include a lengthy conversation between director Julie Taymor with leading performers, along with many rehearsal and performance photos. This is an outstanding releases.

Opus Arts offers a CD devoted to Sir Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations, Op. 36. There's a very fine complete performance of the work recorded in the warm acoustics of Worcester Cathedral June 30, 2004. Also there is a lengthy interview with the conductor in which he describes his feelings about each of the variations, along with information and photos of those depected in the music. The 5.1 surround is effective.

The Tebaldi DVD is superb, combining two previous VHS issues, and more—it includes two arias from Madama Butterfly from a 1961 Bell Telephone Hour telecast that never before was issued. The grand diva is at her best in these performances, photography and sound are sufficient to convey the soprano's artistry—indeed a reminder of great days past. Highly recommended!

Admirers of soprano Renata Scotto (and they are legion) will wish to acquire this Vai Video DVD that combines two previous programs issued on VHS. Scotto, born in 1934, made her debut at the age of 18 asVioletta in La Traviata and since that time has had a distinguished career in major opera houses. Her voice developed a wide vibrato and harshness over the years (even in the superb Butterfly recorded in 1966 the high D-flat at the ending of the heroine's entrance was rather painful to the ears), and these problems are obvious in these programs recorded in 1984 (recital) and 1986 (concert). Often her soft singing is almost a whisper, and it's remarkable how often she sounds like Callas, complete with unattractive sound and inability to sustain notes in the high register. The climactic B-flat in her encored Vissi d'Arte is just about enough to take the paint off the ceiling, but delights her devoted fans. However, Scotto is always dramatically effective and surely knows how to work her audiences. For Scotto fans only. Video and sound are excellent.

R.E.B. (July 2005)