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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Epic > Battles > Historical > Biopic > Politics > Latin America > Classical Music > Ballet > Opera > O > The Liberator (2014/Cohen Media Blu-ray)/Beauty & The Beast/Belarbi/Theatre Du Capitole Ballet (2005 aka La Bete et La Belle/Opus Arte Blu-ray)/Richard Strauss Also Sparch Zarathustra/Andris Nelsons (

The Liberator (2014/Cohen Media Blu-ray)/Beauty & The Beast/Belarbi/Theatre Du Capitole Ballet (2005 aka La Bete et La Belle/Opus Arte Blu-ray)/Richard Strauss Also Sparch Zarathustra/Andris Nelsons (2014)/Der Rosenkavalier/R. Strauss/Franz Wexler-Most (2014)/Last Songs/Letzte Lieder/R. Strauss/C. Thielemann (2014/Unitel Classica/C Major Blu-rays)/Verdi: Don Carlo/Gianandrea Noseda (2013/Opus Arte/Naxos Blu-ray)

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

Here's a set of foreign and historical Blu-ray releases including music strengths that seemed to go together...

Gustavo Dudamel's The Liberator (2014) is our only feature film, though not drama, ambitious in its production about telling and showing the story on how Simon Boulivar (Edgar Ramirez in perfect casting) created a military campaign against many powers that be in trying to unite Latin America and stop the oppression of many a regime. He was very successful, but in the end, he had to be stopped. How this happened is still a matter of debate and the two-hour film decides to only go so far in dealing with those questions, filling the lack of investigation with a character study that plays more like a biopic. As a result, it does none of the things it could have excelled at well under the circumstances.

The cast is really good, including U.S. actor Danny Huston, the production design, locales and costume design show money is in the film and it is shot on film. Despite not adding up to what it could or should have and having a few cliched scenes, there are more than a few sequences and scenes that work enough to give this one a look and it is a refreshingly ambitious epic versus action films with too much CGI. Those interested should check it out.

Extras include a Director's Introduction by Gustavo Dudamel, a Making Of featurette and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Now for other arts. We have the Ballet du Capitole at the Theatre Du Capitole with a new version of Beauty & The Beast that is neither based on the animated Disney hit or melodramatic TV shows (a recent remake/revival was not as successful as the older hit with Linda Hamilton and Ron Pearlman) staged and choreographed by Kader Belarbito decent effect. Running 105 minutes, it weaves in music by Louis-Claude Daquin, Joseph Haydn, Gyorgy Ligeti and Maurice Ravel straight form the mythos. It may be a little long and a bit uneven, but it succeeds more than not and is worth a look, especially as an alternative to recent versions noted.

The next three releases feature music by Richard Strauss, starting with Andris Nelsons version of Also Sparch Zarathustra which I thought sped up the composition a bit and did not pay off like his work usually does, reviewed often elsewhere on this site. He fares a little better on Macbeth, Op. 23 and Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche, Op. 28 and this runs only 80 minutes, so it is short overall, but decent.

Then we have the third version of Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier we have ever covered followed by our raves for these two versions...

Fabio Luisi/Medici Arts Blu-ray


Andrew Litton/Opera Australia Blu-ray


Though not as strong as those, this Franz Wexler-Moss/C Major/Unitel Classica edition is our best classical entry on this list and not just because of the material, but because the cast is solid throughout. Fans should compare all three versions and go all out, but I would not totally count this one out just because we rate it a little lower. Interesting production all around.

Finally we have Last Songs (aka Letzte Lieder) handled by no less than another genius, Christian Thielemann, running 103 minutes and featuring soprano Anja Harteros singing on the title selection and Malven, Strauss' last composition, orchestrated here by Wolfgang Rihm. Eine Alpensinfonie rounds out the set which is decent if not delivering a home run. I don't mean to be heard on Thielemann, but he is so good, I have very high expectations and this is not the title I would recommend as an introduction to him though it is solid. Still, worth a listen and a little better than the Also Sparch Zarathustra release above.

Finally we have Giuseppi Verdi's Don Carlo from 2013 conducted effectively by Gianandrea Noseda in the classic four-act father-son battle with tenor Ramon Vargas and Ludovic Tezier in this revival by Director Hugo de Ana. Hard to believe we have never really covered this work before and it is well-known enough, but it runs 217 minutes and has some trouble justifying it length, yet that is the work in its full presentation and we give them credit for no abridgments.

Extras for all five classical releases include multi-lingual illustrated booklet for each respective programs, with Beast and Carlo adding cast Gallery sections and trailers also show up.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Liberator is shot on 35mm film with Arricam cameras that often produce great results, though the best shots stand out against ones that look good to really good. This means it is not spectacular throughout, but has its moments. Some of it has its color downplayed, which works against it at times.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Beast is the second-best presentation with the most stable of the HD-shoots including good color, detail and depth for a stagebound production. Carlo is in the same format, but is a little weaker with some motion blur problems that the rest of the Blu-rays here in 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer presentations that simply show the limits of the older HD cameras despite some good shooting by the respective cameramen.

As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 Spanish lossless mix on Liberator is very impressive throughout with the best sound on an Spanish-language film I have ever heard outside of Guillermo del Toro's films. The recording is very clear and deep, then the sound really kicks in during battle scenes and the soundfield is exceptional all the way.

Most of the classical releases here are in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.0 lossless mixes, but only Carlo suffers with its restrictive soundfield and range. Songs and Beast have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes with solid soundfields, but nothing here can touch Liberator. All five classical titles also have PCM 2.0 Stereo mixes for simpler set-ups and playback, but none can match the DTS-MA multi-channel versions of the same music.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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