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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Music > Piano > Classical > Opera > Ballet > Martha Argerich: Evening Talks (2002/Ideale Audience Blu-ray)/Wagner: Der Ring/Des Nibelungen/Lothar Zagrosek (2002 - 2003/EuroArts Blu-ray Box)/Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker/Sleeping Beauty/Swan Lake - Tea

Martha Argerich: Evening Talks (2002/Ideale Audience Blu-ray)/Wagner: Der Ring/Des Nibelungen/Lothar Zagrosek (2002 - 2003/EuroArts Blu-ray Box)/Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker/Sleeping Beauty/Swan Lake - Teatro Scala/Dutch National Ballet (1989 - 2011/ArtHaus Blu-ray Set/all Naxos)

Picture: B-/C+/C+ Sound: B- Extras: C+/C/C Main Programs: C+/B-/B-

Now for more Classical Music releases for you to be in the know about...

Georges Gachot's Martha Argerich: Evening Talks (2002) is a decent, if too short at 63 minutes-long documentary on the great Classical Pianist in action, on life, on the arts and on her career. Shot in Argentina with some great outdoor footage weaved into the new and vintage footage, Gachot does a great job getting a rare inside view of the artist in all kinds of ways, which is why it is all the more unfortunate this does not go on long enough

The portrait we do get rings true, has her always making room for other artists, including new ones and I can see why this show got so many accolades in its time. It is also a look inside the world of Classical Music and how it too is its own industry. A text biography is included in the booklet enclosed inside the Blu-ray case, but see more below for details.

Next we have an older HD recording of Wagner: Der Ring/Des Nibelungen (2002 - 2003) in its classic four parts (Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, Gotterdammerung) with conductor Lothar Zagrosek delivering a deconstructed, paired-down version that tries to make commentary on the 20th Century and Wagner's influence for better and worse. These shows with Staatsopher Stuttgart will not make purists happy and this is still 14 hours (!), but it is a faring variant, though I only thought it worked so well versus the following versions we have seen before as follows:

Gotterdammerung only in a superior Blu-ray presentation


This Das Rheingold/Die Walkure combo Blu-ray is almost as good...


This DVD box of the whole 14 hours looks and sounds as good, but the overall shows are better...


And this sampler of the work by Zubin Mehta on Blu-ray is not bad...


This version is for diehard fans and those looking for a real alternative version only, but I was a bit underwhelmed.

Finally we have a trilogy in Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker/Sleeping Beauty/Swan Lake - Teatro Scala/Dutch National Ballet (1989 – 2011) which includes two older shows that are not filmed or in HD, so they are upscaled. At least they will keep better on Blu-ray than the inferior DVD format, but these shows are so-so in overall performance. We have only covered one Nutcracker before here with the San Francisco Ballet that I liked a bit better...


This is the first time we actually covered any version of Sleeping Beauty, but I just wished it was recorded more clearly. As for Swan Lake, it was not bad, but we covered this several times and in comparison...

This version on Blu-ray Production Design by the ingenious Dante Ferretti and choreography by Rudolf Nureyev from Opus Arte is hard to beat:


Then there's the Blu-ray of the Royal Opera House version that is almost as strong:


And the Zurich Ballet did this more serious take that also impressed on Blu-ray:


The version in this new set is good and has some beautiful moments of its own, but the other three worked even better for me, yet fans should see them all.

The 1080i 1.78 X 1 image on Martha is better than that of the four Ring Blu-rays and Nutcracker Blu-ray with the same presentation, plus upscaled 1080i from standard definition video because the upscales on the other Tchaikovsky Blu-rays are limited and issues of motion blur, detail, depth and slight picture breakup affect the true 1080i performance programs. Martha is more stable and flaws in good archive footage and slight motion blue in newer footage is less noticed throughout.

The upscaled Tchaikovsky Blu-rays only offer PCM 2.0 Stereo, while the rest of these releases offer DTS-HD Master Audio (MA) 5.1 mixes, but sound is even with the soundfields of the 5.1 mixes never offering consistent soundfields save the Ring set, whose big problem is that the singers and orchestra are not quite miked closely enough to capture warmth or depth.

Extras in all cases include multi-lingual booklets on the respective programs, Martha adds 5 bonus music performances at about 38 minutes, Ring adds trailers for 4 other Blu-ray releases and Tchaikovsky adds a 27-minutes-long behind the scenes program for Nutcracker.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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