Going Hollywood (1933/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/Santana
& McLaughlin: Live At Montreux 2011 – Invitation To Illumination (Eagle
Blu-ray)/Ariadne auf Naxos (2006/von
Dohnanyi/R. Strauss/ArtHaus)/Dance &
Quartet (2012/Spoeril/Unitel Classica)/Benjamin
Britten’s Death In Venice (2008/Bartoletti/Dynamic/Naxos Blu-rays)/Der Frankfurter Ring (2012/Oehms/Naxos
C+/B-/B-/B-/B-/C+ Sound: C/B+/B/B/B/C+ Extras: C-/C/C+/C+/C/B- Main Programs: C/B-/B+/B/B/B
PLEASE NOTE: Going Hollywood
is only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can
be ordered from the link below.
Here is a
nice cross-section of recent music releases…
Walsh’s Going Hollywood (1933) was a
star vehicle for Marion Davies, the co-owner of producer Cosmopolitan Pictures
and out her in an interesting pairing with a very young Bing Crosby in his
early prime. The plot (what we get of
it) has a schoolteacher sick of the oppressive atmosphere of her live-in
teacher life (she cannot even listen to a radio!) and when she hears Bing sing,
she leaves the school for good to go into show business.
Bing as Bill Williams, the biggest singer around and follows him (stalks him?)
to the land of dreams. The film is
loaded with many sudden music performances and a few with dancing as well
(think dream sequences) but story is thrown out the window. Miss Davies shows up in “disguise” (read
blackface) playing a slave woman on a plantation so she can get next to Williams
and she has a rival in a French actress who likes to slap her often, including
when her film keeps getting interrupted!
It is a
backstage musical with some Folk Musical moments (as inanimate objects, like
sunflowers, come to life) and all involved want to squeeze everything they can
into the 78 minutes we get, which seems longer than it is. It is not a good film or a bad film, but it
is an odd one as even MGM was trying to find their way into making full length
musicals now that sound was here for good.
We get other odd moments and the money is on the screen, plus the
pairing of Crosby and Davies is strange enough so see it for yourself. A curio worth your time if you like musicals
or the stars, Going Hollywood is worth a look.
standards and some jazz of its own, Santana
& McLaughlin: Live At Montreux 2011 – Invitation To Illumination is the
latest of many Santana releases from Eagle and again, it is something different
and unexpected. Spirituals, standards,
jazz classics and near torch songs (most from the 1973 Santana album Invitation To Illumination) fill the 2+
hours of this show that offers 16 tracks (including two medleys) and that also
includes a Cindy Blackman Santana Drum Solo, A Love Supreme and even (done in irony?) Stairway To Heaven.
not the usual Santana show and certain fans may not be happy with the content
of music choices (I had a mixed reaction myself), but the band is top rate and
in top shape, so you will find a concert of pure music no matter the genres if
that is what you are looking for here.
It also shows that Carlos Santana never allowed himself to be bound or
pegged into a corner, which is why he is considered one of the greats.
Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos
has been issued on Blu-ray in an exceptionally strong 2006 performance Stage
Directed by Claus Guth with Conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi at the Zurich
Opera House with Emily Magee as the title character. The dark, foreboding work deals with
relationships, anxiety and death, figuratively and literally in a Strauss work
that is not performed enough for my tastes, yet is one of his key works.
production runs 127 minutes, but is remarkably consistent, rich, moody,
powerful when need be and once it starts, it instantly brings the work to life
and never quits until the final scene.
That is not easy, but the makers and performers really pull this one off
and the costumes & sets by Christian Schmidt are a big plus. A real winner, this is my favorite release on
the list and is highly recommended.
Spoeril has created a trio of ballets and they have been released on Blu-ray in
the over-simply entitled Dance &
Quartet (2012) with the Hagen Quartet in the following acts: Lettres intimes (Leos Janacek’s String
Quartet No. 2), In Spillville
(Antonin Dvorak’s String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96 “American”) and Der Tod und das Madchen (Franz
Schubert’s Death & The Maiden,
String Quartet in D Minor, D810) running 94 minutes and offering
dance/choreography combos that work.
It is one
thing to just add dancing to long-established classic works, but these actually
work and combine a flow with narrative point-counterpoint that shows real
talent all around and makes for one of the most pleasant ballet surprises of
the year. This was recorded at the Saltzberg
pleasant surprise is Benjamin Britten’s
Death In Venice (2008) continuing the terrific presentations of the opera
creators powerful works, sung in English and proving you can do operas in that
tongue. Based on the Thomas Mann story,
conducted by Bruno Bartoletti, choreographed by Gheorghe Iancu and running 155
minutes, this final work from Britten dealt with myth, death, beauty, sexuality
and mortality in very final and dark ways.
by the same novella that Bernardo Bertolucci used to make his famous and highly
influential 1971 major motion picture of the tale (one that visually influenced
James Cameron’s Titanic), Britten
avoided seeing the film so he could get his interpretation on stage as his work
and it would be his last before his untimely death in 1976. Marlin Miller has the lead role here that
Dirk Bogarde had in Bertolucci’s film where he was made to look like Gustav
Mahler, whose music is in the film version.
cases, the adaptations have links not just to classical music, but to larger,
more profound themes that only higher arts can address. While the Bertolucci film is long overdue on
Blu-ray and for major rediscovery, Britten’s version is not even as well known
and makes a strong Blu-ray here in what is dubbed the works “world Premiere” in
the format. It is another remarkable
Britten work and is also highly recommended.
Wagner’s Ring Cycle is so popular,
it is no surprise we get so many variants of it being issued all the time. Der
Frankfurter Ring (2012) comes from Frankfurt
in an 8-DVD box set featuring Conductor Sebastian Weigle from Oper Frankfurt
that wants to be an epic presentation, but also be realistic, slightly
modernized and somewhat deconstructive in an attempt to get to the bareness of
the 14-hour work.
record, we have covered several versions of the work ourselves, including this
DVD box set of Michael Schultz’s version:
narrowly liked that one more, a Zubin Mehta version a little less (link at that
link) as well as at this one:
there is the Blu-ray of a Staatskapelle
Weimar version that was good, but had some limits that made it miss the mark
despite how well it was done:
that, this version holds its own, though I would have preferred it be on
Blu-ray, but I was curious enough to check it out because it is such a hard
work to do because of its complexity, popularity and eventually, infamy. I would still recommend the Schultz version
the most, but this version tries to make its mark and has its moments.
X 1 black and white image on Hollywood is
not bad for being 80 years old form a decent 35mm print with MGM’s usual gloss,
but it still has its softness and shows its age. Still, some shots are nicely done.
1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Blu-rays have some good color,
good shots and good camera work overall, but also have some motion blur, detail
issues and sometimes Video Black is lacking and Santana has the closest set of shots as expected. That is still better than the anamorphically
enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the Ring
DVD box which is softer overall throughout and can be a trying viewing at
times, though not just because one may say we have been spoiled by HD on
Blu-ray for these programs.
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix on Ariadne is well mixed and presented, but is too quiet and refined
at times to take total advantage of the multi-channel possibilities, so the
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on Dance and Venice can
more than compete and all the have good soundfields, are very well recorded,
have a sense of warmth and also come with PCM 2.0 Stereo counterparts that are
not as good, but are fine for such limited mixes. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix
on Santana just passes them all as
the sonic champ here with an amazing soundfield, exceptionally articulated
fidelity and dynamic range, so expect some impressive playback there and its
PCM 2.0 Stereo is not bad. It’s just no
match for the DTS. The lossy Dolby
Digital 5.1 and PCM 2.0 Stereo on the Ring
DVD box are about even with each other, but both disappointed (comparatively to
the Blu-rays) and do not have the impact we are sued to for such releases,
though I wonder if a lossless 5.1 mix would help. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Hollywood
is more aged with a lower volume than I would have liked (especially
considering al the music here) and some distortion and wear one would expect.
is the only extra on Hollywood,
while extras on the other five releases include nicely illustrated booklets on
the shows, with the Ring box having
four booklets to go with the four parts.
Ariadne and Dance add trailers, while the Ring box adds a Making Of documentary in the Rheingold
To order Going Hollywood, go to this link for it
and many more great web-exclusive releases at: