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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Concert > Vocal > Opera > Drama > Operetta > Relationships > Royalty > Idil Biret: 75th Anniversary Concert (2016/IBA DVD)/Donizetti: Roberto Devereux/Devia (2016/BelAir Blu-ray)/Lehar: Das Land Des Lachelns/Luisi (2017/Accentus Blu-ray)/Verdi: Nabucco (2017/BelAir Blu-r

Idil Biret: 75th Anniversary Concert (2016/IBA DVD)/Donizetti: Roberto Devereux/Devia (2016/BelAir Blu-ray)/Lehar: Das Land Des Lachelns/Luisi (2017/Accentus Blu-ray)/Verdi: Nabucco (2017/BelAir Blu-ray/all Naxos releases)

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

Now to continue catching up on recent Classical Music releases...

We start with Idil Biret: 75th Anniversary Concert (2016) on DVD, the only one on this list and the first time we've had the well regarded pianist on video, as our only previous coverage was just on CD, like in this review...


Well, seeing is believing in this long 137 minutes release that is not bad, but does run on longer than expected and was a little much to endure versus the CDs, which were not seeming as long. The well-played music is fine, but there is just something about this where the show is not as packed with diverse music or different nuances that I would have liked from a long form video than we get. These standards are even played definitively, but I wanted something a bit more. Still, it is a talent worth celebrating with the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Toshiyuki Shimada and its her party, so her having fun is the most important thing. Fans will be happier.

Every time we cover Gaetano Donizetti, it is a work we have never covered before and we see and hear a talent that ought to be more well known and performed. This 2016 Roberto Devereux is a good example, a three-act tragic libretto about troubled royalty (Gregory Kunde is the title character) that runs a decent 137 minutes-long and deals with how he is a possible traitor trying to broker peace with Ireland. Queen Elizabeth likes him very much, but can that save him and can his sensible act save everyone from each other?

As relevant as ever, obviously some of the acts did not stop the conflict that still exists even today, but there is real heart and soul here in honestly dealing with the issues now and then (should England show that all-out power alone is not good enough to be a great country and try to have a productive, progressive peace with Ireland or just stoke up old hatreds for cheap control? This one is worth a good look. Made with the Teatro Real De Madrid.

Franz Lehar: Das Land Des Lachelns (2017, aka The Land Of Smiles) with Opernhaus Zurich is one of the darker operettas you are likely to encounter, made by the author in Germany in 1929, guess some early forebodings of the nightmare ahead were already surfacing (maybe out of unhappy WWI settlement terms?) and the new version changes some bad stereotyping from the time.

Running a brisk 103 minutes-long, I liked the change of pace and the idea that all such productions have to be happy, falsely so or otherwise. Some may still find the characters have a touch of some kind of stereotyping, but unless you portray all the characters from the original operetta, you cannot stage this production, so this is the best I felt we could get and I bet the makers agree. The sets are nice, costuming, too, singing solid and it is worth a look no matter what your reaction lands up being.

Finally we have Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco (2017) from the Arena di Verona, so this is an increasingly rare release taking place in an outdoor environment and it has been a while since we've encountered such a release. Conducted by the very able Daniel Oren, this tale of the King of Babylon (George Gagnidze as the title character) has captured Jerusalem, but one of his own is actually in love with another on the opposite side and this the conflict begins very slowly until the return of the repressed (et al) starts to surface.

However, why is it that often, live performances outside seem to have little more like than inside? I do not want to overgeneralize or stereotype, but there is something a bit bolder (especially these days) about doing this and it does add to the fun and even excitement. Cheers to the sound people for doing as good a job as they did capturing this sonically. Andy Sommer directed this for video and it is as recommended as any entry in this text.

Though credited often as 'Full HD' and these Blu-rays are not alone in this, the 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on all three discs here look good in color and you can see the staging well for the most part, but we get more than a bit of motion blur and soft spots. Still, it is not bad. Of course, the Biret DVD only offers an anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image which is even softer and has more motion blur and softness, but it is watchable at best.

As for sound, the three Blu-rays offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes with nice soundstages that are solid and just fine, plus PCM 2.0 Stereo that is passable, but not as good as the 5.1 mixes (save Lehar, with a little more to its PCM than the others). The Biret DVD only offers lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, but its sufficient and not bad.

Extras in all four releases are the multi-language booklets that give you information on the music and people behind them, but only Biret has Biret in a 2012 Yale concert as a bonus.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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