The Royal Ballet presents a stellar cast in Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling, filmed in 1994, with John Lanchbery's sumptuous scoring of music by Franz Liszt. The dramatic soundscape is matched by MacMillan’s penetrating interpretation of the events surrounding the double suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary and his young mistress, Mary Vetsera, at Mayerling in January 1889.
Stage Director Giancarlo del Monaco (the son of the famed dramatic tenor, Mario) flat-out rejects the notion that Cavalleria rusticana or Pagliacci should be performed with anything except each other. In an interview included on this Opus Arte Blu-ray release, del Monaco emphatically notes that these operas represent “the fundamental diptych of realist theater;” that they are “two sides of the same coin.” As with many other productions, del Monaco presents Pagliacci ’s Prologue before the Mascagni work, Tonio appearing in the midst of the audience to underscore that the verismo evening ahead is meant to connect to everyone’s real-world experience. A seamless integration of the two dramas is further highlighted when Turridu’s lifeless body is driven off the stage just as the first chords of Pagliacci are sounding.
In the disc's liner notes we're urged to judge Vivaldi's place "in the pantheon of great baroque composers" on the "stand-alone quality of his music" and not on errant or offhand claims of this or that musicologist. Well, owing to violinist Rachel Podger's stunning, fiercely energetic, ardently expressive, and technically assured performances and the ravishing orchestral support from the Polish period-instrument ensemble Arte Dei Suonatori, our task as listeners certainly is an easy and prodigiously enjoyable one. And that's not all the good news: this is truly one of those sonic "events" where the performers have an almost palpable presence, their sound is absolutely faithful and natural, and the balances are right on. Go ahead and turn this one up–you'll be immediately bathed in glorious, vibrant string sound, and be pleasantly surprised by the potential of Vivaldi's music to actually hold your undivided attention for an hour–maybe more.
Opera lies at the heart of Rimsky-Korsakov’s colourful idiom, but performances are few and far between; this realisation of his penultimate and grandest stage work is a very rare and special experience. Kitezh is known as ‘the Russian Parsifal’, which encapsulates its mystical flavour and steady unfolding of a legend of redemption. A largely Russian cast (headed by the stunning Svetlana Ignatovich) and production team works within a set that moves from opulent naturalistic scenery to some startling theatrical coups worthy of Rimsky’s underrated dramatic instincts.