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)
& 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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