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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Ballet > Documentary > Biography > Concert > Opera > Fantasy > Instrumental > Multi-Chan > Der Prinz Von Homburg: Henze/Meister (2020/BelAir/*all Naxos Blu-rays)

I Am A Dancer (1972/Film Movement Blu-ray)/Der Messias/Handel/Mozart: Minkowski (2020/Unitel*)/Missa Solemnis (2018*)/Juan Diego Florez: Mozart/Minasi (2019/C Major*)/Peer Gynt/Grieg/Clug: Hewett (2018/Unitel/C Major*)/Der Prinz Von Homburg: Henze/Meister (2020/BelAir/*all Naxos Blu-rays)

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

Now for our latest arts and classical releases...

We start with a vintage, classic documentary, Pierre Jourdan's I Am A Dancer (1972) featuring one of the greatest male dancers of all time in his prime: Rudolf Nureyev. Jumping (no pun intended) between backstage practice, constant training, hard work, personal moments and extended stage performances, it is a rich 92 minutes featuring a legendary talent who left us way too soon.

John Pervical is a good narrator, but in keeping with the times, it is almost too much talk and many of these sequences would have been better off with less or no talk. You can always mute the sound to see what I mean. However, it is also one of the few comprehensive visual records of Nureyev we have, making it more priceless than ever.

It is almost unreal how well he moves, what he does, what he is physically capable of doing (like say, Bruce Lee) and is a once in a lifetime talent, probably rarer. This is my favorite new release on this list and is a must-see for anyone serious about dance, ballet and even physical movement and martial arts, though he does no fighting like that here. Great to see this film saved and preserved for good as it is here.

Last year, Ralph Fiennes made a film about him (now looking even more accurate after seeing this documentary) called The White Crow and you can read more about our coverage of that release at this link:


Next up is Der Messias (2020), stage directed by Robert Wilson and conducted by Marc Minkowski. Running 2 hours, 15 minutes, this very, very deconstructionist presentation features music by Mozart of Handel's Messiah we've reviewed several times, but does not always gel or work despite the solid talent involved. It is not to say we think Mozart did not create an impressive version of the legendary work, but that this stage version is just not that strong and takes deconstruction too far. Those curious will likely want to see it, but I was disappointed, though the singing does make up for some of its many issues.

I felt the same way about this combination concert and documentary release of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis (2018) directed by Uli Aumuller and conduced by Frieder Bernius. For starters, it cannot compete with this grand version we covered as an outright performance on Blu-ray a few years ago:


The performance here is a simple-but-decent 71 minutes performance and the documentary (with overlap) runs an hour. It is still fine for what we get, but not grand, yet the people involved love the music and can play it and sing it, as it is an opera. The conductor has an advanced grasp of the work as you would expect, yet this is a work that asks to be larger as the other version is. It at least makes a nice companion to the other version I really liked and serious fans might want to get both.

An impressive vocalist takes on one of the great composer in Juan Diego Florez: Mozart (2019) running 13 tracks and running a solid 75 minutes, the length of a CD, but sounding much better. These arias sound as fine as ever, Riccardo Minasi does an excellent job conducting and of course, one wonders why this is not a show twice as long. Still, this delivers just enough and is recommended for those interested, but just remember it is on the short side.

Next, we finally get to cover a musical version of Edward Grieg's Peer Gynt (2018) as the only previous version was this piece of silent cinema from 1941 (yes, you read that right) with Charlton Heston we reviewed years ago at this link:


While we wait for a restored version of that to arrive on Blu-ray, we have this interesting, creative, risk-taking version conducted by Simon Hewitt and choreographed by Edward Clug based on Henrik Ibsen's classic tale as the title character (Jakob Feyferlik) wandering through his life, yet repeatedly visited and revisited by the mysterious White Stag (played very interestingly by Zsolt Torok) in this enduring fantasy as ballet.

One of the better releases here, it runs 112 minutes and has some good moments, but I still thought it fell short, though not for want or trying. In this case, it starts out very well, but just cannot keep up what it accomplishes early on. Still, it makes me want to see more work from the people behind it.

Finally we have Hans Werner Henze's Der Prinz Von Homburg (2020) conducted by Cornelius Meister and stage directed by Stephan Kimmig. This opera involves the title character (Robin Adams as the Prince) who is not happy or interested in war or militarism or hate or any state against individuality, but a better world with a better future for all. Too bad proto-fascism is developing all around him.

Henze was around during WWII in Germany and it was a mess, especially one he was not going too happily support. This work, based on the centuries-old Heinrich von Kleist play, was the ultimate response to all that he suffered though and had happened. The good news it that it is honest and not shy about any of its subject matter, but unfortunately, we have seen more than a few operas dealing with Nazi Fascism (et al) that does and shows what we see here. Guess you can never repeat important points enough, especially lately, but the makers were beaten to this in some respects. Yet, what else could they do?

This runs a decent 114 minutes and is worth a look for those interested.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can show the age of the materials a bit in the film stock (probably Kodak) looking a little older at times, but this 16mm film-shot film looks fine otherwise with the most stable image, least motion blur (hardly any) and also offers the original theatrical monophonic sound in a surprisingly good PCM 2.0 Mono mix.

The rest of the releases are presented in 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers, though Missa and Prinz do not say this on their cases, they register as such. Fortunately, they are all color accurate and have some good shots in each. All five discs also offer two soundtracks: DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless (save 5.0 on Florez) and PCM 2.0 Stereo, save Missa and Homburg, only featuring PCM 2.0 Stereo. The multi-channel sounds better in all cases where applicable, but sometimes the margin is not as wide as usual.

Extras include nicely illustrated booklets in all six releases, some of which have trailers for other Naxos releases, while Missa adds its hour-long documentary (overlap notwithstanding) and Dancer adds separate on camera interviews with Terese Capucilli on Nureyev and Fonteyn and Skylar Brandt on this film.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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