"Evelyn Glennie in Luxembourg"
BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3. MÁSSON: Konzertstück for Snare Drum and Orchestra. SCHMITT: Six Miniatures for Marimba Solo. VIVALDI: Concerto in C, RV 443
Evelyn Glennie, snare drum/marimba/vibraphone; Luxembourg Philharmonic Orch/Bramwell Tovey, cond.
EUROARTS DVD 254398 TT: 68 min.

VERDI: La traviata
Patricia Ciofi (Violetta); Roberto Saccà (Alfredo); Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Germont); Eufemia Tufano (Flora); Elisabetta Martorana (Annina); Salvatore Cordella (Gastone); Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro La Fenice/Lorin Maazel, cond.

PROKOFIEV: Ivan the Terrible (ballet)
Irek Mukhamedov (Ivan IV, Czar); Natalya Bessmertnova (Anastasia); Gediminas Taranda (Prince Kurbsky); Bolshoi Ballet; Children's Choir of Bolshoi Theatre; Bolshoi Theatre Orch/Algis Zhuraitis, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD 101 107 TT: 114 min

PROKOFIEV: Ivan the Terrible (ballet)
Nicolas Le Riche (Ivan); Eleonora Abbagnato (Anastasia); Karl Paquette (Kurbsk); National Opera Children's Chorus; National Opera Ballet and Orch/Vello Pähn, cond.

Euroarts' Evelyn Glennie DVD is fascinating and one that I will watch often. Forget about he opening Leonore overture, competently played, but hardly exceptional. The focus here is on Glennie, a master of all percussion instruments. Deaf since birth (1965), she has rightfully enjoyed astounding success on the concert stage in solo performances as well as with orchestras. A composer and writer, Glennie has commissioned many percussion works from leading composers probably including, although not so stated, the remarkable snare drum concerto by Icelander Áskell Másson, a 16-minute work that totally explores what can be achieved with the instrument. Also on this concert is music of Matthias Schmitt (b. 1958) who wrote six brief pieces for marimba which explore all aspects of the instrument. We also hear Glennie's own transcription of a Vivaldi concerto originally composed for sopranino recorder, and it is a total delight. Glennie's virtuosity on all instruments is astounding and it is a pleasure to watch her dedicated performances, beautifully captured both aurally and sonically on this vivid-sounding DVD. Camera work generally is satisfactory although often we see members of the Luxrmbourg orchestra when it would be more intriguing to watch Glennie work her magic. Rather short playing time—even with the 8-minute bonus feature on the artist, total time is but 68 minutes. However, this is a DVD to cherish. Get it!

La traviata is seen in a production from Teatro La Fenice filmed November 18, 2004, the organization that commissioned the opera and premiered it March 6, 1853. This production was presented to commemorate the inauguration of the rebuilt Fenice. It was decided to perform the work in its original form and, as DVD notes say, "even if the result does not represent a wholly new work, the clearly audible differences allow one to experience this perhaps sometimes overly familiar opera once again as something completely fresh and pristine—just as on the day of its premiere." Sets and costumes by Patrick Kinmonth surely differ from the premiere; this is a mod approach less offensive than many reworkings of standard operas. Alfredo here is a photographer and constantly is snapping photos. The second act doesn't take place in Violetta's home, it takes place in her front yard where money keeps falling from the trees. In the third act we find ourselves, instead of Violetta's bedroom, what appears to be a warehouse with scaffolds and a television set with test patterns. Original production, indeed! The strongest performance is from soprano Ciofi who physically and vocally meets the wide-ranging demands of the role. Tenor Saccà is adequate, and baritone Hvorostovsky coasts through his role. Maazel keeps tight control of the orchestra and chorus, photography is fine, but sound favors the orchestra. This production is primarily of "historic" interest.

Prokofiev wrote music for Eisenstein's film Ivan the Terrible, which premiered in 1945. Abram Stassevich, who conducted the film score, proposed to the young choreographer Yuri Grigorich that he prepare a ballet on the subject. Mikhail I. Tchulaki, director of the Bolshoi Ballet, was asked to assemble a ballet score for Grigorich's production using music Prokofiev composed for the film. Tchulaki used 377 fragments of the original film score, along with other works by Prokofiev (who died in 1953), including music from Alexander Nevsky, Symphony No. 3 and the Russian Overture. The ballet didn't have its premiere at the Bolshoi until 1975, where it was a great success. The Arthaus Musik DVD is a production from the Bolshoi Theatre in 1990, with Grigorich's wife, ballerina Natalya Bessmertnova as Ivan's first wife, Anastasia. Bessmertnova was also involved in the December 2003 Paris production, as one of the "assistant choreographers." Grigorovich's choreography is dynamic to the extreme with much going on constantly (as was the case with his production of Spartacus—see REVIEW), and his "crab walk" for Ivan when ascending to and descending from his throne must be a nightmare for those portraying the Tzar. Both productions are excellent, with a special nod to the 1990 production; Irek Mukhamedov is a possessed Ivan, Geminas Turanda a sterling Prince Kurbsky. The Paris production has the advantage of Eleonora Abbagnato's exquisite Anastasia. Photography for both is excellent, but the Paris production has the finer sound, effective 5.1 as compared with regular stereo for the Bolshoi presentation. The TDK gives a clear explanation of the story, not to be found in the Arthaus Musik DVD.

R.E.B. (November 2005)