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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Concert > Opera > Drama > Literature > Orchestral > Fantasy > Respighi: La Campana Sommersa/Renzetti (2016/Unitel/all Naxos Blu-ray)

Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini/Terry Gilliam (2015/Blu-ray + DVD)/Chailly: Mendelssohn Midsummer Night's Dream/Tchaikovsky (2017/Accentus)/Jommelli: Il Vologeso/Ferro (2015/Unitel)/Mozart: Lucio Silla/Guth (2017/Bel Air)/Respighi: La Campana Sommersa/Renzetti (2016/Unitel/all Naxos Blu-ray)

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

Here's another fine set of Classical Music releases....

We start with a new version of Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini recently taped in 2015. It compares well with this version on Blu-ray from a few years ago...


The twist is the director is no less than feature film auteur Terry Gilliam, with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Though this might have a bit more flare and energy than the other version, even with Gilliam helming on stage, this is still three hours long and you had better really be in the mood for this one like any program at that length. The cast (including John Osborn, Maurizio Murano and Laurent Naouri) are as good as the other cast and the sets are fine, but the length will be an issue for some and that includes this writer. Still, if I were to recommend a version, this would very slightly edge out the other one, though fans and those interested in a challenge might take on both!

Next is a Classical Music concert, Chailly: Mendelssohn Midsummer Night's Dream (2017) from Accentus, which compares well to what was Opus Arte's version, their first-ever Blu-ray release reviewed here...


Though we also get some Tchaikovsky here (Manfred) that is fine, I liked the other version of Midsummer a bit more for whatever reason and has little to do with the older edition's slightly better image quality. Still, having the extra music, the releases are even and just fine in either case. The whole disc runs nearly 100 minutes-long.

Niccolo Jommelli: Il Vologeso (2015) is a libretti gaining popularity along with its author and this version with conductor Gabriele Ferro is allegedly the first one on stage in two centuries!

For that, it is obviously a serious event for opera in general and should be lauded that way, plus to have it on this high-quality Blu-ray is a plus, something so many previous performances did not have the luxury of. From OperStuttgart, the political love triangle tale (Rome and Parthia are the countries involved) so we have had this kind of opera before. The makers here try to do interesting things with this and it is definitely worth as much of a look as anything on this list.

Running 183 long minutes, Sebastian Kohlhepp, Sophie Marilley, Ana Durlovski and Helene Schneiderman lead the cast.

Next is another version of Mozart's Lucio Silla (2017) not long after we looked at this version from a few years before, meaning the performances of this work are not as rare as once thought...


Well, for me, they both have fine talents and solid work, but 180 minutes is 180 minutes and both versions simply land up being on par with each other, no generalizing or tokenism intended. Claus Goth has a fine grasp of the material and the singers/actors are giving it there all. It was just not delivering any final results or points different from the previous version, but again, you can get both and compare if you are a fan or have a big interest.

Finally we have Ottorino Respighi's La Campana Sommersa (2016 aka The Sunken Bell) which we have not only never covered before, but is a 4K recording, even if it is not a 4K disc. This opera is a supernatural tale about a woman trapped in a man's world metaphorically using demons (et al) to tell the story as written in 1927 just before the rise of fascism and Mussolini in Italy. Some may compare aspects of it to Fritz Lang's similar feature films and even Metropolis (1926), though not all of Lang's films dealt with supernatural horror to say the least.

Taped at the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari based on a libretto by Claudio Guastalla and earlier Gerhart Hauptman work, this runs 140 minutes-long, so it is not as long as some of the release son this list, yet it is still long enough that you need energy and undivided attention to take it on and Conductor Donato Renzetti keeps it all going. If you can suspend disbelief over the spiritual characters, you're more likely to buy it.

Vocalists include Valentina Farcas, Maria Luigia Borsi, Agostina Smimmero, and Martina Bortolotti.

All Blu-rays are here in 1080i 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image presentations, save Campana, a 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer from a new 4K 2160p shoot, meaning we should get a 4K Blu-ray of it in the near future hopefully. Despite this, all the titles have some motion blur elements and Gilliam's Cellini is the least problematic throughout for some reason with the least blur. It is also here in its DVD version, an anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image that is passable for the format, but that pales to the Blu-ray.

Audio in all the Blu-ray versions, we get DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes with fine soundstages and lesser PCM 2.0 Stereo counterparts that are not as good, but are fine for such limited mixes (though Campana could sound a bit better). The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM 2.0 Stereo on the Cellini DVD is fairly good, but a little weaker than expected, especially as compared to the Blu-ray soundtracks.

Extras in all cases might include some superfluous trailers in a few cases, but the multi-language booklets for each release are the only extras, which is sad because you would think at least the Gilliam releases would have a featurette.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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