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Category:    Home > Reviews > Special Interest > Music > Meditation > Documentary > Ballet > Classical Music > Opera > Biography > Histo > Amazing Space (2015/Film Chest Blu-ray w/DVD & CD)/Ballet 422 (2014/Magnolia Blu-ray)/Experimentum Mundi (2013/Battistelli/Naxos/EuroArts Blu-ray)/Le Corsaire (2013 aka The Pirate/English National Bal

Amazing Space (2015/Film Chest Blu-ray w/DVD & CD)/Ballet 422 (2014/Magnolia Blu-ray)/Experimentum Mundi (2013/Battistelli/Naxos/EuroArts Blu-ray)/Le Corsaire (2013 aka The Pirate/English National Ballet/Naxos/Opus Arte Blu-ray)/Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter (2014/First Run DVD)/Prometheus: Abbado/Argerich (1992/Naxos/EuroArts Blu-ray)

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

Here are some of the newest titles dealing with ballet and other classical music artforms you should know about...

Kristin Hoffmann's Amazing Space (2015) is an attempt to be another profound audio/visual experience in the mode of the Qatsi Trilogy or films like Chronos, Baraka and Samsara. Featuring some decent visuals and fairly good music, it accomplishes making this a meditative experience, but at 52 minutes and covering ground we have seen before, it is a good alternative to better versions of this, but offers not much else.

Film Chest has issued this as a rare Blu-ray, DVD & CD so it is all-around complete for fans and those interested in getting immersed into it to have several options in how to try it out. It is ambitious and takes itself seriously, but it did not really stay with me. Those curious should really take a look and listen, though.

Jody Lee Lipes' Ballet 422 (2014) is a documentary about how New York City Ballet member Justin Peck has landed up with the assignment to create the school's latest ballet work especially made for the school, thus the title. At 75 minutes, it would seem short, but because much of the audio is faint or filled with plenty of silence (your sound is not the problem) makes this drag on as you want to see and hear more than just someone taping 'everything' then trying to edit it into something you can watch and learn from.

Not that we don't get some interesting moments, but they are too few and far between, with this being a case where more interviews and questions should have been asked. Ballet fans might like it this way, but when all is said and done, it is not as much as I would have liked. Still, it is at least an honest-enough record.

Experimentum Mundi (2013) is Giorgio Battistelli's reportedly celebrated post-modern opera that mixes all kinds of styles, goes out of its way to break the narrative expectations of the form and also lasts about an hour. In this case, I can see how it breaks up the percieved stuffiness of the approach and there is no doubt we have some serious talent here, but some (like myself) might find this too fragmented and going too much in the other direction. Those who are not fans of opera in English will not find any of that here, but a bit of this goes a long way, so this too is for fans only and I would add that its length tells us even they knew to quit when they were ahead.

At least they tried something different.

Le Corsaire (2013) features the English National Ballet and runs only 100 minutes, but is a solid realization of the Lord Byron (with multiple authors in its formation) tale and is the first time we have encountered it in 12+ years of this site. Alina Cojocaru & Vadim Muntagirov head an amazing cast of dancers directed on by Chris Blaine for HD with choreography by Anna-Marie Holmes and music conducted by Gavin Sutherland. Though I think pirates in general have been played out of late all around, this is decent and has its moments, so even if it is a little uneven, those interested should catch this one.

Greg Vander Veer's Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter (2014) is the best of our ballet titles, telling the story of the incredible career of Martha Hill, a woman who loved dance, was way ahead of her time, faced hatred, sexism and arrogance throughout her career (where she never got the respect or thanks she deserved) and in the face of big money and big politics, saved the Julliard School of Dance from annihilation and backward thinking that is still with us to this date.

For rare (and very rare) footage, old interviews, still, new interviews and more, this is a strong 80 minutes-long program that should have gone on longer and where more questions asked and a few more updates could have really delivered even more. Nice to see Miss Hill finally get her due in such an excellent way, but we can never have enough works like this to show us the priceless history of the art in the USA... especially when it is ever under attack and reattack.

Highly recommended.

Not to be confused with the misguided Ridley Scott Alien prequel, Christopher Swann's Prometheus (1992) is our final title, an older, short 57 minutes performance of the classical music instrumental work with Martha Argelich on piano and the legendary Claudio Abbado conducting. This is a compilation of works by Abbado himself that have the title of this release in compositions by Beethoven, Liszt, Scriabin and Isola seconda.

Taped in 1992, it is good, yet no match for Abbado's best on Blu-ray, but completist should be happy.

All the Blu-rays here are presented in 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image save the 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Mundi and the upscaled 1.33 X 1 (in a 1.78 X 1 HD frame) transfer on Prometheus, sourced from an old standard (and likely analog PAL) video source and the poorest performer of the Blu-rays. The rest equal each other, but they all have some minor softness or detail flaws in all cases, so there is not standout performer here. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 DVDs of Space and Hill are just fine for their formats and actually tie the Prometheus Blu-ray for second/last place for playback quality.

Sound is a different story with all Blu-rays offering DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes and the classical titles also adding PCM 2.0 Stereo, though Prometheus is PCM Stereo only. Mundi's 5.1 is easily the sonic winner here with a fine recording, solid soundfield, depth & detail Corsaire has the next best mix with its 5.1 presentation, followed by the clear, yet lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on the Space Blu-ray. The DVD version has the same sound, but not as clear, but the PCM 2.0 16/44.1 Stereo CD is better and up to the Blu-ray. Wonder if this could sound better?

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Ballet and PCM 2.0 Stereo on Prometheus are surprisingly limited and flat, so the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Hill can actually complete sonically with them!

Extras in all releases include nicely booklets for all the Blu-rays, save Ballet, which has none and Space, which just has a paper slip with some text information, but its videodiscs add interviews as does Ballet; but they also add a feature length audio commentary track with Director Lipes & Dancer Peck, Original Theatrical Trailer, Deleted Scenes and 3 Making Of featurettes. Mundi has its booklet built into the DigiPak packaging, while its disc adds a remix section and a Behind The Scenes featurette, Corsaire adds a Cast Gallery, Hill adds three interviews and four rare vintage dance films and Prometheus adds trailers.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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