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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Opera > Theater > Drama > Aida/Verdi – Carlo Rizzi (C Major/Unitel Classica Blu-ray) + La Boheme/Puccini – Royal Opera + Berg/Lulu – Royal Opera (Opus Arte Blu-rays + DVDs) + Strauss/Salome – Royal Opera (Opus Arte Blu-ray/Nax

Aida/Verdi – Carlo Rizzi (C Major/Unitel Classica Blu-ray) + La Boheme/Puccini – Royal Opera + Berg/Lulu – Royal Opera (Opus Arte Blu-rays + DVDs) + Strauss/Salome – Royal Opera (Opus Arte Blu-ray/Naxos)


Picture: B/B- & C+/B- & C+/B-     Sound: B     Extras: C+ (C on Aida)     Concerts: B (B- on Lulu)



Naxos is back with another set of Operas and they include new versions of titles we have covered and an upgrade to a work only previously released on DVD.



Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida is here from the C Major/Unitel Classica label and I liked the idea of doing it outside at night with its surreal set-up interesting contrasts of color.  Graham Vick staged it, Paul Brown designed it and Carlo Rizzi conducted the music (with the Werner Symphony Orchestra) in what is a less traditional version than the Arte Blu-ray, yet it works and makes for a fully realized alternate version of a much-performed and highly known classic.  The tale of the title character (Tatiana Serjan), an Ethiopian slave, marrying into the realm of the Egyptian Gods continues to be one of the most popular opera ever and it depth has allowed it to both endure and enjoy clever reinterpretations like this.  Anyone familiar or unfamiliar with the work will be impressed by this version.



We had previously covered a Blu-ray of Puccini’s La Boheme that was also released by Opus Arte, which you can read more about at this link for the Giancarlo del Monaco/Jesús López Cobos/BBC version:




This is The Royal Opera House version (issued at the same time on Blu-ray and DVD) as produced by John Copley and was performed in 2009.  Andris Nelsons conducted their orchestra and the results are impressive.



Alban Berg’s Lulu is here in an Opus Arte/Royal Opera House release in both the Blu-rays and DVD formats, telling the tale of the title character (Agneta Eichenholz) of the distinct, independent, able-bodied, beautiful, woman who could find a better tomorrow with her beauty and abilities, but is eventually the victim of no less than Jack The Ripper!


Directed by Christof Loy and conducted by Antonio Pappano, this German-language production is minimalist and deconstructive to some extent, but that did not always work for me.  Though the performers were good, there is something as a whole that does not add up to what the tale is capable of delivering, so impact in the end was not what I had hoped for.  This tale later became the basis for the silent classic Pandora’s Box with Louise Brooks in 1928, directed by G.W. Pabst.



We previously covered the Royal Opera House version of Richard Strauss’ Salome when it was issued a few years ago on DVD at this link with some other solid classical entries from Naxos:




This is the bold, heard-hitting version that takes place in Nazi Germany and was partly inspired by Pasolini’s highly disturbing classic Salo, so brace yourself for a particularly graphic and violent show, but it is very effective and very impressive.



The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on the four Blu-rays are good, if not great, with Aida the easy winner for overall picture definition and stability (sorry Opus Arte, but you have better Blu-rays out there for picture).  Color is still good in all cases and that includes some qualities a DVD could never deliver.  The anamorphically enhanced DVDs of Lulu and La Boheme are weaker than their Blu-ray counterparts, but again they have flaws in the higher format versions so that is to be expected.  Video Black is especially weak in both cases.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes (5.0 on Salome) on all the Blu-rays are just fine, though soundfield can be limited and none of them tried to push a 7.1 mix, which would have been ill-advised in all cases.  Sound is warm and sometimes rich, while soundfields are naturalistic for stage recordings.  The DVDs have regular DTS 5.1 mixes that are also strong, but do not have the smoothness of their Blu-ray MA equivalents, but the margin of difference in playback is narrow in these cases and acceptable PCM 2.0 Stereo tracks are also featured on all six discs for those who prefer simple stereo and for backward compatibility with older systems.


Extras on all discs include informative booklets inside the disc cases and cast galleries and interviews with principles on the productions are on all the Opus Arte releases and Salome retains its featurette David McVicar – A Work In Process.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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