As The Audible Past points out, a studio recording is a peculiar thing anyway – not so much a performance as a construct. So, there’s a question of whether to bury Caesar or to praise him in this article about the economics of studio CDs vs. live DVDs — Twilight of the CD Gods? A Studio ‘Tristan’ May Be the Last Ever
The mood can be judged from comments in the cafeteria: “Make the most of it,” and “There won’t be many more like this.”
And what is “this”? It’s a gargantuan, million-dollar recording of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde,” put together as a now-or-never enterprise for the tenor Plácido Domingo but also as a last, heroic stand from a classical CD industry so crushed by economic pressures that many consider it in terminal decline.
[…] But in truth, this probably represents the end of the line for large-scale studio recordings of familiar operas, which have increasingly been shunted aside by the newer, flashier and – above all – cheaper medium of live DVD, filmed onstage, in performance.
“The public listens with its eyes today,” said Peter Alward, who has just retired as president of EMI Classics after 34 years with the company and who planned this “Tristan” as his parting shot. A giant in the classical recording world, Mr. Alward has watched the business boom and (very nearly) bust, scaling down from a time when EMI made four or five studio operas a year, to now, when there are hardly any.
“So don’t expect any more studio ‘Carmens’ or ‘Toscas,’ ” Mr. Alward said in a rapid machine-gun voice that has called several generations of wayward recording artists to order. “It’s straightforward economics. An average opera might cost $600,000 in the studio, and this one, being large-scale Wagner and involving extra sessions, is nearly double. An average DVD deal these days can be got for $200,000. And that somewhat dictates our course of action.
“I don’t believe there’s any compromise on sound quality. DVD may not be as pristine as studio recording, but with digital technology and new microphone techniques it’s pretty good.”