(2016/Royal Opera House/Opus Arte Blu-ray)/Don
(2016/both C Major/Unitel Blu-rays)/Handel:
(2015/Rai/C Major Blu-ray)/Shakespeare:
(2016) + The
Tempest (2017/both Royal
Shakespeare Company/Opus Arte Blu-rays)/Tosca:
Wagner: Everything Is A Little-Hat's Fault/Munich
(2015 aka An Allem Ist
Opera House/Opus Arte Blu-ray/all Naxos distribution)
B-/B-/B-/B-/B-/B/B/C/C/B Sound: B/B/B/B/B/B/B/B/B-/B- Extras:
C+/C/C/C/C/B-/B/C/C+/C+ Main Programs:
now for another great group of Classical Music releases on home
thing different in this Classical group from others is that we have a
few we never covered before after all this time and many here have
only been seen as dramatic feature films before, so expect links to
that effect. Kenneth Macmillian has delivered a pretty good ballet
version of the story of Anastasia
(2016) via the Royal Opera House that asks the classic question, is
she or isn't she... the daughter of overthrown royalty from
pre-Soviet Russia or not.
this day, no one ever seems 100% certain and the story keeps
surfacing in new forms (like Fox's hit animated version a few years
ago) so making this work as a viable ballet was not easy. Using
music including that of Tchaikovsky under conductor Simon Hewett
(very formidable) with Natalia Osipova in the title role, this
version too proves the story (113 minutes here) continues to endure,
intrigue and fascinate. The dancing and choreography always
compelling and even if the mystery is ever solved, this will still be
highly watchable. Definitely catch this one if you like ballet.
more on the story, see our coverage of the limited edition Blu-ray of
the hit 1956 film with Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergman at this link...
(2016) is another ballet of a classic tale that keeps getting told
(Terry Gilliam's version seems to be finally finished) and this has
music by Ludwig Minkus and is conducted by Kevin Rhodes, but the
choreography here is by legendary Marius Petipa. Despite all this
and a reasonable running time of 122 minutes, this just did not
always work for me, seeming a bit off at times and sometimes trying
to hard or not hard enough. The Wiener Stattsballet is a great
organization, but this was just not convincing and for hardcore fans
of the above only. For another take on the story, try this link...
we have Franco Faccio's take on Hamlet
(2016) with the Wiener Symphoniker conducted by Paolo Carignani and
is based on the Shakespeare version. With a libretto by Arrigo Boito
(the other music contributor here, both connected to Verdi), this
Opera is not a bad version at all with some good moments, but is a
bit long at 145 minutes and the great singing helps, but when telling
a classic tale like this, you have to keep things going. Not easy
for anyone (we've seen versions that throw out parts of the book,
like the Mel Gibson version that some have rightly dubbed 'Lethal
Hamlet'; this version is better), but you are taking on a seriously
classic text. It is worth a look for fans, but I would just advise
that said viewers we well awake to take on this version.
a look at the still-remarkable 1996 70mm feature film version by
Kenneth Branagh, try this link...
tough part of any version of Handel:
is that you are dealing with the space of faith, which can get easily
politicized and hijacked, but this 2016 version by Ruben Dubrovsky is
richly religious, so anyone complaining on that level is a goof,
though even an atheist would consider its 125 minutes running time a
bit long in the tooth for this version. In my case, it is hard not
go go on and on and on and on with this work, but no doubt it is a
classic of its kind just the same and a key work of music with
vocals. No version after all these years has ever stayed with me or
had any particular impact, but it gets covered more than most.
can read more here about the Spinozi version released by C-Major...
even this 1999 feature film version if you are interested in further
the rarer side is Mozart:
(2015) which is our first time coming across this tale of the title
character (Kresmir Spicer) dictator who must deal with the return of
the repressed and challenges to his power, plus love and passion that
dictators may find incompatible with cold rule. A solid opera, this
is still very long at 186 minutes and will require more energy, time
and attention than you might be used to. However, that is the
investment it takes to take the work in, plain and simple. Marshall
Pynkoski directed the stage version, Makhar Vaziev directs the Ballet
Company of Teatro All Scalia, Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg is the
onsite choreographer and the conductor is Marc Minkowski, so this is
a big production all the way.
we have a thorough performance worthy of the original work.
to the bard for the next two releases, we have Shakespeare:
(2016) and The
(2017), both from that Royal Shakespeare Company that no doubt grasp
the works well. Cymbeline
is the rarer of the two of course and deserves more exposure as the
title Queen (Gillian Bevan) must do what she can to save and hold
together a Britain in danger. However, this runs 188 minutes, so
you'll have to get in gear to take it on.
can watch it cold or try out this 2014 feature film version of
with Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris and Milla Jovovich we reviewed at this
is a more well known, obvious classic about as legendary and
successful as Hamlet, here in one of the best releases on the list,
hitting the nail on the head and delivering the story with energy,
honesty and without compromise. Can a man alone get revenge and make
a personal return to the world? Can he find happiness or any life
worth living? Add the twists and turns and you get some great drama.
This one may run 145 minutes-long, but it more than justifies it and
is a reference performance.
would (before or after seeing this release) recommend Paul Mazursky's
1982 feature film version of The
that was highly underseen and has a great cast here...
is back in this 2001 version by Conductor Antonio Pappano that has a
decent 125 minutes-long running time, but falls short of its intents
by being very uneven despite the singing talent and taking place at
no less than the Royal Opera House (again!), though huge fans of the
work will forgive its shortcomings, I feel we've seen better
versions. You can see for yourself by checking out either
this Blu-ray version we gave a rave years ago...
this more recent version from a Blu-ray box set...
Wagner: Everything Is A Little-Hat's Fault
(2015 aka An
Allem Ist Hutchen Schuld!)
is new to us despite the deluge of Wagner we've covered over the
years and the comedy runs nearly three hours!!! However, you never
see it and despite my many issues with it not staying consistent, it
is the first version we've seen of this tale of fantasy in the fairy
tale mode. Despite Wagner's later association with fascism, this is
not a stretch from his other works and and was first seen in 1915!
cast is no doubt giving it their all and Lionel Friend of the Bochum
Symphony Orchestra in Munich grasps the material, but it is just not
the easiest work to deal with and I'd like to see another version in
the future to compare. For those interested, it is still worth a
look, but be awake to deal with it.
as hard as it is to believe, we have never covered Rossini's William
in the over 15 years we have been live with the site, but now, we
have the 2016 Royal
Opera House version (they're on a roll!!!) conducted by Antonio
Pappano and though you can now put the all-time classic Overture
context, I was more disappointed with this version than expected. At
a whopping 201 minutes-long (over 3 hours!!!!) it is a long haul
despite being one of the only 1080p modern productions here.
production has fine singing and music, but may be too
deconstructionist, modernized and minimalist for its own good, but it
is likely a long work outside of this program and I again would have
to see another for context. Thus, it is worth seeing if you REALLY
are interested, but I though it just went on way too long and is the
worst offender in that sense on the whole list.
for playback technical performance. Most of the Blu-rays are here in
1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image presentations that have
their share of motion blur (even at times) and even slight picture
breakup or detail issues. Cymbeline,
have the best playback image at 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High
Definition image transfers that show more stability, detail, depth,
natural movement and better color range. As we head into the 4K
2160p Ultra HD Blu-ray era, et al, I realize so many of these Blu-ray
releases will not hold up as well just as the classic DVDs now mook
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the Tosca
DVDs were expected to be soft, especially as compared to all these
Blu-ray releases, but they are even more so than usual with motion
blur and other flaws that can make them sometimes difficult to watch.
If you have a larger screen, be warned, playback will look worse.
for sound, all the Blu-rays have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1
lossless mixes, save 5.0 on Quixote
(with lesser PCM 2.0 Stereo backup tracks for older systems) and they
all sound just fine with solid surround performance and fine
recordings, even if none of them stun sonically, except William Tell
is a bit off, but its 5.1 is still better than its 2.0 Stereo mix.
DVD has PCM 2.0 Stereo, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and its best tracks,
lossy DTS 5.1 surround in its older form, but that is more impressive
than expected. Wagner
only has PCM 2.0 Stereo and is the other release that is a bit
underwhelming. Otherwise, this is really not a bad group of releases
include illustrated booklets including informative text (often
multi-lingual) in the case of all ten releases as expected, while on
the actual discs, some slip in previews for other releases, Anastasia
adds an Introduction, clip on the Sets and interview, Cymbeline
adds a Director's Audio Commentary Track, Cast Gallery, Interview
with Director Kelly Still and featurette Shakespeare's
also adds a Director's Audio Commentary Track, Cast Gallery,
Interview with Actor Simon Russell Beale and two Making Of
adds a Photo Gallery & Behind The Scenes featurette and finally,
adds and Introduction, Cast Gallery and two featurettes about the