Stern Classical

Provocative surprises, from “Carmen” to a tenor of the Reich.

Carmen (Two DVDs, Opera Comique, Fra Musica) So you thought you knew Carmen? Many provocative surprises are in store, from the less-garish sound of John Eliot Gardiner's period-instrument Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique to the original edition with fewer recitatives and more spoken dialogue. The wonderfully atmospheric Adrian Noble production stars Anna Caterina Antonacci (Carmen) and Andre Richards (Don Jose) as real people - as opposed to abstract archetypes - and evenly matched adversaries. ($43.98 at

Don Carlo (EMI Classics, two DVDs) Nicholas Hytner's stylized, dramatically intelligent production, now about to open at the Metropolitan Opera, was first produced at London's Royal Opera, and is beautifully photographed with a somewhat different team - Rolando Villazon (Don Carlo) and Antonio Pappano (conductor), who will no doubt make a fascinating contrast to the Met's Roberto Alagna and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. ($36.99 at

Dialogues des Carmelites (Arthaus Musik) Poulenc's opera about Carmelite nuns executed during the French Revolution, arrives without the usual placid religiosity in this aggressively dramatic, devastatingly spare Nikolaus Lehnhoff production from Hamburg. The cast includes Wagnerites such as Gabriele Schnaut - not always ingratiating but always commanding. Simone Young conducts. ($29.49 from

Berlin Philharmonic (Two DVDs, EuroArts) Though Daniel Barenboim's primary gig is the Berlin Staatsoper, he's a Philharmonic guest in these two videos, from Oxford and Athens. At Oxford, cellist Alisa Weilerstein is electrifying in the Elgar Cello Concerto. Playing on a stage amid Greek ruins, Simon Rattle conducts Barenboim in a performance of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1. (Oxford, Athens, $21.98 each,

Max Lorenz: Wagner's Mastersinger - Hitler's Siegfried (EuroArts DVD) Much lurid appeal in this shortish documentary about the leading Wagnerian tenor of wartime Bayreuth - a fool's paradise in Nazi Germany where Lorenz exemplified the Hitlerian ideal but was also part of a gay subculture that handily avoided persecution. ($22.49 at