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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Opera > Ballet > Concert > Drama > Show Business > Exploitation > Tabloid > Scandal > Murd > Turnage’s Anna Nicole (Opus Arte)/Europa Konzert from Madrid 2011 w/Canizares/Rattle (EuroArts)/Janacek: Jenufa (Opus Arte)/Mahler 2 + 8/Gewandhaus Orchester/Chailly (Accentus/Naxos Blu-rays)

Turnage’s Anna Nicole (Opus Arte)/Europa Konzert from Madrid 2011 w/Canizares/Rattle (EuroArts)/Janacek: Jenufa (Opus Arte)/Mahler 2 + 8/Gewandhaus Orchester/Chailly (Accentus/Naxos Blu-rays)


Picture: B- (Europa: C+)     Sound: B (Janacek: B-)     Extras: C+     Main Programs: B



Once again we look at some of the latest Blu-rays from the Classical Music distributor Naxos including a surprise that should soon get more attention.



As hard as it is to believe, Anna Nicole Smith is now the subject of an Opera and not just any opera Turnage’s Anna Nicole (Opus Arte) was commissioned by no less that the Royal Opera House and makes its debut as an examination of media gone wild and what a woman with nothing to lose could make happen as unique opportunities came her way she took full advantage of.  Eva-Maria Westbrook plays her in every stage of her adult life to amusing effect and the work pull few punches, with more explicit language than most Opera fans might expect.  For those unfamiliar with her story, this link should give you an idea:




Though not the usual prestigious piece in the usual manner, it is nice when it works and a howler in several different ways (their mistake, irony they missed, irony others would miss, etc.) when it does not quite work.  The problem is that no opera has ever had to deal with such overexposed material in the history of the art form, so that is why many people will not even believe me when I tell them it happened.  I wonder if this will catch on.  Extras include a booklet on the Opera that includes notes, while the Blu-ray adds a Cast Gallery and Production Insights.



Next we have Simon Rattle returning to Blu-ray with the Europa Konzert from Madrid 2011 (EuroArts) with the Berliner Philharmoniker and guest musician Canizares on guitar.  The last time we covered Rattle was with the Joaquin Achúcarro Blu-ray at this link:




That leads to our other Rattle links.  This concert features works in concert by Emanuel Chabrier (España), Joaquin Rodrigo (Concerto de Aranjuez) and the giant Sergei Rachmaninov (Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Opus 27) in a good show that almost becomes uneven at times, but works.  Extras include a booklet on the concert that includes notes and bonus featurette running 8 minutes.



For the second time we get a Leos Janacek work on Blu-ray as Janacek: Jenufa (aka Her Foster-Daughter, first performed 1904) follows Cunning Little Vixens as covered at this link:




This Teatro Real Madrid production is decent and might be too deconstructionist and/or basic for some, but I still think it conveys an effective enough what the author intended.  Amanda Roocroft is the title character (a woman alone wondering where her future lies and is about to find out) backed by a fine singling cast, Stephane Braunschweig directs and Ivor Bolton conducts the music.  Extras include a booklet on the concert that includes notes and technical information, while the Blu-ray adds a Cast Gallery and Illustrated Synopsis of the work itself.



And finally we get what amounts to a third series of releases featuring performances by Gustav Mahler, this time from the Accentus label in two separate Blu-ray release of Mahler 2 and 8 by the Gewandhaus Orchester by Riccardo Chailly following these composers with their own impressive Mahler showings starting at these links:


Pierre Boulez



Claudio Abbado



Though these installments are good and competent as expected (in paperboard cases instead of the usual blue plastic), they are not as good as the other entries which tended to be richer, especially the Abbado series I really like.  Still you could do worse and big fans will still want to see and hear for themselves.  Each has previews for other Blu-rays from the company and booklets on the concerts.



The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition transfers have motion blur and some other depth limits, but I have to single out Europa this time for even having more blur and break up image issues so if you have problems it is not your HDTV or HD projector.  All five releases have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes with solid playback, though nothing sonically exceptional and the Janacek release is a little more limited than expected.  All also offer PCM 2.0 Stereo mixes, but they are not as good as the DTS-AA versions.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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