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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Concert > Choir > Instrumental > Opera > Drama > Fantasy > Fairy Tale > Melodrama > Royalt > Ein Deutsches Requiem/Brahms/Jarvi (2018/C Major/Unitel)/Euryanthe/Von Webber/Trinks (2018)/La Bella Dormente nel Bosco/Respighi/Renzetti (2017/Unitel)/Les Contes D'Hoffmann/Offenbach/Rizzi (2019/C Ma

Ein Deutsches Requiem/Brahms/Jarvi (2018/C Major/Unitel)/Euryanthe/Von Webber/Trinks (2018)/La Bella Dormente nel Bosco/Respighi/Renzetti (2017/Unitel)/Les Contes D'Hoffmann/Offenbach/Rizzi (2019/C Major/Unitel)/Nabucco/Verdi/Ciampa (2019/Dynamic)/Victoria/Marston/Lo (2019/Opus Arte/all Naxos Blu-rays)

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

Our latest group of Classical Music Blu-rays are on the basic side, but all deliver decent shows, if a bit long in some places and sometimes off in others...

I admit that we do not get every Classical Music release on home video that get released each month and could not cover them all if we did. In that, we still cover plenty of titles and yet, we have too few releases of the work of the great Johannes Brahms, one of the greatest composers ever. Hope he is not losing favor, but the new release of Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op 45 (2018) on Blu-ray by conductor Pavvo Jarvi (whom we have seen and heard often enough) with Valentina Farcas, Matthias Goerne and The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen State Choir Latvia may only run 71 minutes, but it is a rich program.

Recorded inside the actual Bremen Cathedral, it reminds us how talented Brahms was and how complex his work could be. Though not my favorite work from him, it is obviously still a remarkable work and this is a solid performance delivers it well. This might not be for everyone, but it is worth seeing and hearing.

Carl Maria Von Webber's Euryanthe (2018) is an opera with brighter setups than we have been seeing lately, the tale of how the title character (Jacquelyn Wagner) is slandered to no end and how she deals with the situation musically. As an opera, this works just fine, though it is a very long 167 minutes and manages to use most of that time well.

Constantin Trinks conducts the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra by the Theater an der Wien with the Arnold Schoenberg Choir, all these talents cohere very well and more so than many such releases we have recently covered. This may also be viewed as slightly updated, slightly modernized and even a little post-modern, but even that approach works and so, see it if you can handle its length.

Ottorino Respighi's La Bella Dormente nel Bosco (2017) is a recent version of Sleeping Beauty that was produced with 4K cameras and is as elaborate as anything here, costumes, singing, sets and colorful, color-lit sets. This runs only 88 minutes (how long could it run?) and is not totally predictable, which is a plus, conducted nicely by Donato Renzetti via the Teatro Lirico di Caligari Fondazione (and their orchestra) and choir master Gaetano Mastroiaco. It is ambitious and that pretty much pays off throughout.

Some may want something more traditional (or is that cliched or obvious?) but I liked the change of pace and this has its share of heart and soul. Vocals are just fine and the dancing (choreography by Luigia Frattaroli) never seems, fake, forced or phony. Thus, this is worth a look if you are interested and I hope we see it in an actual 4K disc sometime.

Jacques Offenbach's Les Contes D'Hoffmann (2019) is an interesting, but very deconstructed version of Tales Of Hoffmann that runs a long 165 minutes, but gets the source material and is a nice twist on the original material. Staged by Tobias Kratzer, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carlo Rizzi and recorded with the Dutch National Opera, John Roberts and Irene Roberts lead a very capable, talented cast. The production's style stays true and consistent throughout and this was a pleasant surprise as this could have faltered and just not worked. It does work and you'll be impressed that it works to should you check it out.

Visually, this is more well-lit and brighter than usual, with plenty of white light in many scenes and after a few people have criticized these productions as a little darker (visually, not necessarily thematically) that have seen Blu-ray release, it is a welcome change in itself.

Next up is a new version of Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco (2019) from the Teatro Regio di Parma, recorded for their Verdi Festival, choreographed by Marta Bevilacqua, conducted by Francesco Ivan Ciampa and running a long 146 minutes, it is very comparable to this stage production of the same Opera we reviewed on Blu-ray a few years ago at this link...


Usually when comparing two big productions based on the same source material, we find some differences and find it easy to choose between the two when asked, but despite a list of basic differences, they really even out to be as good as each other, and we are not saying that to be trite, nice, kind or be at the risk of sounding phony. It is a case where it is a draw and we'll have to see when and if another version comes along to see how it compares.

Lastly, we have Cathy Marston's Victoria (2019) with the Northern Ballet about the title character (Abigail Prudames) aka Queen Victoria pits her legacy against her daughter Beatrice (played by two actresses to cover the long timespan of the narrative, though this program runs 115 minutes) and how the death of Victoria's beloved Albert really throws things awry.

Of course, Victoria keeps showing up in feature films and TV productions, including Dame Judy Dench more than once in recent years, then that is among so many royal turns by so much talent. Thus, when you get a stage production like this, it is haunted by all that cinema and upscale TV, yet this is well done and more than holds its own. In addition, it is not the same story we have seen before, which is another plus. Jonathan Lo conducts the music by Philip Feeney, and is recommended, especially for those interested and especially for those addicted to royal mania.

Now for playback performance. Four of the productions are in 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers as they were produced with the older HD cameras and infrastructure, but Euryanthe and the 4K-shot Bosco are here in 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers. Oddly, Bosco has a little more blur than it should have, a reduction issue perhaps, and Victoria can have some motion blur issues. Otherwise, they all have fine color and save some underlighting, play back fine and I hope to see a 4K Bosco release at some point.

All discs offer PCM 2.0 Stereo and better DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes that offer more depth, detail, range and soundfield, even if some are a little better than their PCM versions than others, it is still narrowly so. Nothing was sonically exceptional, but they are all well-recorded and deliver high quality playback few could complain about.

Extras include the usual multi-lingual, slightly illustrated booklets in all six releases and some have a few trailers for other shows, but only two titles have anything else, with Nabucco having a 5-minute clip of a Ricci/Forte interview and Victoria adds a little more in the very short Cast Gallery and Creating Victoria featurette clip. I wish all were a little longer.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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