Stravinsky LSO is a video release on the LSO’s own label of a 2015 concert at the Barbican featuring music by Berg, Webern, Ligeti and Stravinsky conducted by Simon Rattle. It opens with Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra Op.6. Rattle produces a transparent, clearly articulated and structurally coherent account of this short work.
Billy Budd is the second of Britten’s large scale operas. Originally envisaged as a four act piece with prologue and epilogue it was later reorganised into two acts and that’s the version the BBC recorded and broadcast in 1966. That broadcast has now been released on DVD. Technically it shows it’s age. The picture is 4:3 black and white though there’s a remastered, and very decent, LPCM mono sound track. There’s also an enhanced Dolby mono track. The video too has been restored and looks pretty decent.
Making a film of an opera rather than filming an opera involves interesting choices and one of the strengths of the DVD of Penny Woolcock’s film of John Adams’ and Alice Goodman’s The Death of Klinghoffer is that includes 47 minutes of Woolcock, Adams and others discussing just how one takes a rather abstractly staged opera (the original staging was, inevitably, by Peter Sellars) and turn it into an essentially naturalistic film. Of course, naturalism will only go so far with opera but this goes a long way in that direction. The soloists are filmed mainly on location and they sing to the camera. The choruses, mainly backed by documentary footage, and the orchestra were recorded in the studio but the actors sing ‘live’. The one concession to “being operatic” is having a mezzo voice one of the Palestinians though he is played by a male actor.