A music and dance film by Marikki Hakola based on Chen Gang and He Zhan Hao's "Butterfly Lovers" violin concerto
Takako Nishizaki, violinist; New Zealand Symphony Orch/James Judd, cond.
MARCO POLO DVD VIDEO 2.220002 TT: film 30 min. + documentary 40 min.

BERLIOZ: Roméo and Juliet
Hanna Schwarz, alto; Philip Langridge, tenor; Peter Meven, bass; Bavarian Radio Chorus and Orch/Sir Colin Davis, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIC DVD VIDEO 102 017 TT: 102 min.

PUCCINI: La Fanciulla del West
Barbara Daniels (Minni); Plácido Domingo (Dick Johnson); Sherrill Milnes (Jack Rance); Anthony Laciura (Nick); Julien Robbins (Ashby); Kim Josephson (Sonora); Charles Anthony (Trin); James Courtney (Sid); Richard Vernon (Bello); Metropoliton Opera Chorus and Orch/Leonard Slatkin, cond.

This performance of Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto is the same one issued some months ago on SACD and DVD audio; for more information about the music and its origin, see REVIEW). On this DVD we have a "music and dance film" of this, directed by Maikki Hakola, with choreography inspired by Chinese martial arts and modern dance. Unfortunately the film is interrupted by scenes of violinist Takako Nishizaki, and, surprisingly, the video representation of butterflies is rather amateurish. The 40-minute documentary features Nishizaki discussing the music and her long association with it (she has recorded it six times before), plus extensive commentary by Chen Gang, who co-composed it. Sonically and visually this DVD is superb, as are the previous multi-channel releases.

Berlioz specialist Sir Colin Davis can be seen leading Bavarian forces with three superb soloists in a 1985 concert performance of Berlioz' dramatic symphony Romeo and Juliet (the only place the date is given is in the closing video credits). This was directed for TV and Video by Klaus Lidemann, and he did a superb job. David made his first recording of Romeo and Juliet in 1968 with the London Symphony, and a 2000 live performance with the same orchestra was issued recently. It's fascinating to watch Davis conduct this music he obviously loves and knows intimately. It's quite a performance, a major addition to the DVD catalog. Tenor Philip Langridge is extraordinary in the scintillating scherzetto. Arthaus Music has made no attempt to provide fake surround sound; the regular stereo is just fine, with uncommon richness to strings, sonority to the brass. Highly recommended!

Some months ago this site covered an Italian Radio production of La Fanciulla del West presented in 1991 (see REVIEW), Here's another DVD of Puccini's idyllic look at the Old West, in a production from the Metropolitan Opera the following season and once again featuring the remarkable Plácido Domingo as the outlaw Dick Johnson. This issue has the advantage of Sherrill Milnes handsome evil presence as Jack Rance, and Barbara Daniels in a role that suites her perfectly. No question that Leonard Slatkin's conducting is superior to Lorin Maazel's in the rival version. The handsome Met production is by Gian Carlo Menotti with set and costumes by Michael Scott. Photography is excellent, sonics rich and full, although hardly true 5.1 surround sound. A brief bonus is inclusion of a photo gallery of previous Met performanes of Fanciulla including the world premiere December10, 1910 conducted by Arturo Toscanini with Enrico Caruco, Emmy Destinn and Pasquale Amato in the leading roles—quite a cast indeed!

R.E.B. (April 2006)