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Mark Swed's alternative Grammys

February 11, 2007|Mark Swed

Live opera on DVD

Rossini: "La Gazzetta"

(Opus Arte)

A production of a seldom encountered Rossini comic opera directed by Nobel laureate Dario Fo as hilarious, anarchic vaudeville with effective, if little-known singers.

Handel: "Giulio Cesare"

(Opus Arte)

A Glyndebourne production of Handel's great opera brilliantly conducted by William Christie, with a first-rate cast including a riveting young soprano from Los Angeles, Danielle de Niese, as a decidedly sexy Cleopatra. The production by David McVicar is flashy and entertaining, if shallow and derivative.

Donizetti: "Roberto Devereux"

(Deutsche Grammophon)

In an updated production by Christof Loy, Edita Gruberova's Elizabeth I is more than a little like Margaret Thatcher.

Schreker: "Die Gezeichneten" (EuroArts)

This Salzburg Festival production of Franz Schreker's early-20th century opera conducted by Kent Nagano concerns a hunchback and a babe on an island of orgies and is a real discovery.

Vivier: "Marco Polo"

(Opus Arte)

From the Holland Festival comes this investigation into the incomplete opera by Claude Vivier. Rather than completing the work, the avant-garde production adds many other Vivier pieces, giving an excellent overview of the striking French Canadian composer. It also includes a vivid documentary of Vivier, a mysterious figure who was murdered in Paris in 1983 at age 34 by a young man he picked up on the street.

Opera film on DVD

Ades: "Powder Her Face"

(Digital Classics)

An, ahem, lascivious film of Thomas Ades' irresistibly lascivious opera by David Alden based on his lascivious production. It's a dazzler, and includes an hourlong portrait of the dazzling young British composer.

Britten: "Gloriana"

(Opus Arte)

This film is also based on a live production, here by Phyllida Lloyd. Commissioned for the current Elizabeth's coronation in 1953, it offers yet another controversial look at Elizabeth I.

Concerts on DVD

"P.D.Q. Bach in Houston: We Have a Problem!" (Acorn Media)

The only problems with this film of a live concert in Houston are the crummy video and the danger of laughing too hard.

Rameau: "In Convertendo"

(Opus Arte)

William Christie in a deliriously good concert of music by Rameau. The DVD includes a fine documentary on the French Baroque composer as well.

Scelsi: The Piano Works 3


The Italian mystic, who died in 1988, is represented by a video performance of some of his out-of-this-world solo piano pieces exquisitely played by Aki Takahashi and sensationally recorded in surround sound.

"The Ramallah Concert"


Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra of young Jews and Arabs plays in the West Bank and walls come down, at least figuratively. Included is an Emmy-winning documentary on the orchestra.

Documentaries, etc.

on DVD

Boulez: "Eclat" and "Sur Incices" (Ideale Audience International)

The Dutch film based around Boulez's "Eclat" is interesting. But the program in which Boulez explains one of his late, great scores, "Sur Incises," in great detail to a group of music students is priceless.

"Glenn Gould Hereafter: A Film by Bruno Monsaingeon"

(Ideale Audience International)

One hundred and six minutes of Glenn Gould, what more do you need to know?

"Keeping Score"

(San Francisco Symphony)

In three programs, Michael Tilson Thomas tells you all you might want to know (and a lot more than you might think you know) about Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" and Aaron Copland.

Music downloads

Hillborg: "Eleven Gates." Los Angeles Philharmonic; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (DG Concerts,

Andriessen: "Racconto dall'Inferno" and "De Staat." Cristina Zavalloni, soprano; Los Angeles Philharmonic; Reinbert de Leeuw, conductor (DG Concerts,

Beethoven: Nine Symphonies. Philadelphia Orchestra; Christoph Eschenbach, conductor (

Mozart: Symphony No. 33; Piano Concertos Nos. 17 & 18. Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano and conductor; Chamber Orchestra of Europe. (DG

Handel: Atalanta. Various soloists. Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra; Nicholas McGegan, conductor (

CDs released from

Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2006

Shostakovich: Sonata for Violin, Percussion and String Orchestra; Sonata for Viola and String Orchestra. Gidon Kremer, violin; Yuri Bashmet, viola; Kremerata Baltica (Deutsche Grammophon)

Lieberson: Neruda Songs. Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano; Boston Symphony Orchestra: James Levine, conductor (Nonesuch)

The Essential Martin Bresnick (Cantaloupe)

Mozart: Arias. Magdalena Kozena, mezzo-soprano; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; Simon Rattle, conductor (Deutsche Grammophon)

Schumann: Carnaval, Symphonic Etudes. Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano (Warner Classics)

My pick for best album

of 2006?

Old media, it just so happens, takes the day. "Neruda Songs" is it. There is a good chance the Grammys will likely think so too -- next year!

-- M.S.

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