Friday, June 28, 2013

Around the World with the Wichita Public Library

My husband and I have vicariously visited four European capitals in the past couple of weeks: Paris, London, Rome, and Prague--via Naxos Musical Journey DVDs combining video of famous sights in each city with appropriate classical music. We thought two were very effective and two less effective. We have been to all but one of the cities, Prague.

The DVD on Paris, which also includes Chantilly, Versailles, and Chartres, was one of the effective presentations, with scenes from all the famous sights, including Notre Dame, the Musee D'Orsay, Sacre Coeur, etc, and of families in the parks at Luxembourg, the interior of Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon (we ate dinner there twice on business trips to Paris). Good detail in Chantilly, Versailles, and Chartres, too. The music ranges from Marais to Wagner; Mozart to Satie; Meyerbeer to Puccini--all appropriately chosen for the venue and choreography of the video presentation.

The DVD on Rome we thought less effective, primarily because the video concentrated so much on street scenes, the Spanish Steps (we thought we'd never stop seeing them), and did not even visit all four major basilicas in Rome--no St. Mary Major, St. Paul Outside the Walls or St. John Lateran at all. The views of the Roman Forum were effective. The musical selections were great, however:

The music here included is all associated in one way or another with Rome and its traditions. It ranges from the overture to Mozart's Roman opera La clemenza di Tito to Wagner's Tannhäuser, whose hero seeks pardon for his sins in the Eternal City, from Puccini's opera Tosca, set in Rome dominated by a corrupt chief of police, to Berlioz's evocation of the city in the age of Benevenuto Cellini, his Roman Carnival Overture.

Again, the DVD for London we thought was great: lots of sights, including both Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey and the bonus of Oxford, including Christ Church and Christ Church Cathedral. The music was beautiful, with many selections from the Enigma Variations by Elgar, including "Nimrod" during the scenes of Christ Church. The Verdi selection was interesting--the chorus of the Scottish Exiles from Macbeth (accompanying images of the Tower of London). The video ends with a bang: fireworks and Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks!

But the DVD for Prague seemed a little dull--not even a good view of the Charles Bridge! The video did include many beautiful scenes along the river and of countryside and parks--and again, the music was great:

The music included here is associated in one way or another with Prague or Bohemia. It includes works by the Bohemian composers Smetana and Dvořák, by the Moravian composer Janáček, and by Fibich who, with Mozart, always found a ready welcome for his music in Prague.

There are more DVDs in the series, including Salzburg (lots of Mozart), Vienna, and Madrid, and DVDs that encompass highlights from the entire country, like Finland, Germany, and Uzbekistan, as well as two videos dedicated to regions of France, the chateaus of the Loire and Brittany & Normandy--the easy way to armchair travel, without luggage or crowds, or really being there!

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