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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musical > Backstage > Comedy > Dancing > Concert > Jazz > Spritual > Classical > Opera > Ballet > 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 &

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 DVD)


Picture: 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…



Raoul 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.


She finds 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.



With more 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.


This is 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.



Richard 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.


This 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.



Heinz 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 Festival.



Another 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.


Inspired 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.


In both 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.



Richard 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.


For the record, we have covered several versions of the work ourselves, including this DVD box set of Michael Schultz’s version:





I narrowly liked that one more, a Zubin Mehta version a little less (link at that link) as well as at this one:





Then 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:




In all 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.



The 1.33 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.


The 1080i 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.


The 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.


A trailer 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 set.

To order Going Hollywood, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo\


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