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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Concert > Opera > Drama > Instrumental > Ballet > Multi-Channel Music > Ciro In Babilonia (Rossini/Crutchfield/Opus Arte/Unitel Classica)/Duo W: Entendre (Sono Luminus w/CD)/Giuseppe Verdi: Un ballo in maschera (aka A Masked Ball/Leipziger Ballet/EuroArts)/La Fanciulla De

Ciro In Babilonia (Rossini/Crutchfield/Opus Arte/Unitel Classica)/Duo W: Entendre (Sono Luminus w/CD)/Giuseppe Verdi: Un ballo in maschera (aka A Masked Ball/Leipziger Ballet/EuroArts)/La Fanciulla Del West (Puccini/Morandi/EuroArts/Unitel Classica)/Mozart: Requiem (Abbado/Accentus/Naxos Blu-rays)


Picture: B- (No image on Entendre)     Sound: B/B+ (CD: B)/B+/B/B     Extras: C+ (C: Entendre)     Main Programs: B/B/B/B-/B-



Now for the latest Classical Music releases with both High Definition sound and picture…



We start with Ciro In Babilonia, a Gioachino Rossini work we have never covered before in a terrific version from the Opus Arte/Unitel Classica label conducted by Will Crutchfield from the Rossini Opera Festival.  Davide Livermore directs Ewa Podles, Jessica Pratt, Michael Spyres, Mirco Palazzi and a solid cast in this tale of the warrior Cyrus/Ciro and Baldasarre/Belshazzar’s feast and the conflicts between the two men, et al, from the Book Of Daniel in the Holy Bible.


The nice twist here is that the performance starts as an audience watches silent black and white films in a cinema of the 1920s, whose block-style, monochromatic images start to come alive off the screen in color, surround and with living people as reference to Biblical Epics both silent and in large frame formats (70mm, VistaVision) that celebrates the genre beyond film.  This is a very clever approach done beautifully, authentically, effectively, lavishly and in a way that helps give the deeper irony of the situation of conflict between the three Semite religions of today additional depth.  Bravo!



Our first all-audio Classical release in a while is Duo W: Entendre which features the duo of cellist Meta Weiss and violinist Arianna Warsaw-Fan playing a wide variety of instrumental pieces that mix newer, lesser-known composers (Zolan Kodaly, Johan Halvorsen, Adrien-Francois Servais and Herbert Leonard) with well known work by John Philip Sousa (joined by Bruce Dukov on Stars & Stripes Forever) and Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello.


It is as well played as it is well recorded and many who love this music will be impressed by the sonics of the recording, while those bored by this music will find this moiré exciting than similar performances and recordings thereof.  The duo is very proficient for their youth and we’ll likely be seeing and hearing more from them soon.



Giuseppe Verdi: Un ballo in maschera (aka A Masked Ball) is only the second version of this work we have covered, here with Leipziger Ballet from EuroArts and it is pretty good, but our first version was from no less than Teatro Real and The Royal Opera House, which we covered at this link:




I still liked that one slightly more, but very narrowly as both are strong interpretations.  The Leipzig Opera and Conductor Riccardo Chailly deliver their own top rate version of the Verdi work and it could be argued that this work has not been recorded enough.  Fans might want to get both to compare, but no one will be disappointed by either.



It is the same case with La Fanciulla Del West, the bold Puccini work this time with Conductor Giorgio Morandi and issued by EuroArts/Unitel Classica.  The first version we looked at and liked was a Carlo Rizzi version from Opus Arte with The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra directed on stage by Nikolaus Lehnhoff that we covered here where I stated my thoughts on the work:




Though I liked that version quite a bit, this one is almost as good and the touch of recreating what looks like Spaghetti Western films could have been a disaster and made this look stupid and amateurish in the worst way as so many bad films in the last 15 years (save Tarantino’s Django Unchained, which actually understood the cycle) could have backfired.  Instead, it adds to the originality of approach, ambition and fun of this version with The Royal Swedish Opera House with the Royal Swedish Opera Orchestra.


Nina Stemme, John Lundgren and Aleksandrs Antonenko are among those directed by Christof Lai on stage and Hannes Rossacher for HD.  Nice!



Finally, it is remarkable, but for all the Mozart we have covered over the years, we have never covered Mozart: Requiem until now, but now in an hour with no less than Conductor Claudio Abbado waving the wand, we get an instantly definitive version including the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Choir, Swedish Radio Choir, Anna Prohaska, Sara Mingardo, Maximilian Schmitt and René Pape delivering the entire piece.


Admittedly, this might not be the most upbeat work and is more explicitly religious than many a Classical work, but as far as the text goes, it is solid and is about as good as moist of the Abbado works we have raved about on this site, which you can find by simply entering his name in our search engine.  Fans of the written work itself will be most impressed.




The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on all Blu-rays but Entendre, which only has a menu being an all-audio release, have fine color images, but also run into minor, tiny staircasing and tiny detail issues.  Color can be less impressive in shots and we get crushed Video Black in other shots, but these are all shot well enough and of course, Ciro and West have faux motion picture footage degraded to look like slightly worn film prints, so those flaws are intended.


Entendre is one of the two sonic champions with a Blu-ray that offers three audio options: DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 96/24 lossless surround, DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 192/24 lossless surround and PCM 2.0 192/24 lossless Stereo.  They all sound really good, are very well recorded and have exceptional clarity, depth and range that will not disappoint.  Even the PCM 16.44.1 2.0 Stereo on the CD is clearer than you usually get in that format. 


Ciro has DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.0 lossless surround that could potentially sound weaker than its LFE/.1 subwoofer-able rivals, but it is a very naturalistic recording with a smooth sound whose surrounds are very pleasant and seamless.  Of the remaining Blu-rays, all with DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless surround mixes, Masked is the best performer and is only matched by Entendre for exceptional recording quality, though West and Requiem can more than hold their own.  All the Blu-rays also offer PCM 2.0 Stereo that sounds fine, but is no match for their DTS-MA counterparts.


Extras in all five releases include the usual text-rich, partly illustrated booklets on their programs and music history, though the booklet in Entendre is a little thinner.  All but Entendre also offer trailers for other Classical Blu-rays save Ciro, which only has a Cast Gallery.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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