Not a DVD review

Nixon in China at the COC

There are an awful lot of opera DVDs about.  It sometimes seems like there’s a new Tosca or Traviata out every week, often for no apparent reason.  It’s perhaps surprising then that some works don’t make it to DVD.  One particularly egregious case would seem to be John Adams’ Nixon in China.  It’s a good piece and has had plenty of productions both in North America and elsewhere.  A couple of years ago I saw it twice in 24 hours; on a Friday evening at COC followed by the HD broadcast from the Met the following afternoon and I’ve been listening to an audio recording of the COC version on my walk to and from work.  But there’s no DVD!  I guess that the Met probably planned to release the HD recording but James Maddalena, the Nixon in the recording, was so obviously ill I was actually surprised that he continued after the interval and I guess that scuppered that.

There are other omissions that surprise me too.  There’s no DVD of Birtwistle’s Gawain or The Mask of Orpheus for instance.  I know the BBC broadcast Gawain so there must be a tape somewhere.  I don’t think there are video recordings of anything by Aribert Reimann or Jake Heggie either.  When one looks at specific productions there are some odd gaps too.  Robert Carsen’s brilliant and much travelled productions of Orfeo ed Euridice and Iphigénie en Tauride aren’t available for example.

Which omissions from the catalogue most bug you?

6 thoughts on “Not a DVD review

  1. As I understand it it’s often due to problems with the individual artists’ recording contracts – no one can agree who should release the DVD.

    That said, I wish the wonderful Met Damnation de Faust, with Susan Graham, John Relyea and Marcello Giordani, in a brilliant inventive production by Robert LePage, would come out on DVD.

    • I’m sure that’s one of the problems. I wouldn’t mind seeing that Damnation of Faust again too. That was a good example of Lepage using technology to good effect. I get so fed up with people who seem to think the only thing he’s ever directed is that Ring.

  2. There is in fact a DVD available of Reimann’s Medea, put on at the Wiener Staatsoper recently ( There are also two tapes knocking about of Lear done at the Bay Staats (with DFD) and SFO in English (with Thomas Stewart), but those would be harder to get hold of. It’s the same Ponelle production that also travelled around Germany and to Paris.

    I was hoping that work would conspire to put me in Berlin this weekend for the Deutsche Oper’s new production of Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern, but alas, it hasn’t. I know Lachenmann purists who tut at live recordings but this work is properly Teutonic, integrated Musiktheater and needs to be seen as such. I doubt any DVD will come out of this production but I have fingers and toes crossed.

    I would be curious to see more of Sciarrino’s work on DVD, but am not sure that would work as well for me as my current mode of listening to his theatre works, which is headphones of the kind you really invest in and a studio recording (thankfully Vienna’s own col legno is obliging on that score). I’d go as far to say that his style rewards that kind of close proximity, even if it makes him unfashionable in certain circles for being one of those European high modernists whose music demands focus (obviously we can’t be having any of that). Still, very vivid scores, and he is not without a sense of humour either, if you ever saw this:

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