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Category:    Home > Reviews > Art > History > Documentary > France > TV Mini-Series > Classical Music > Opera > > Drama > Instrumental > Bi > Adventurers Of Modern Art (2015/Icarus DVD)/Carmen: Lobraseb (2019*)/Fortunio/Messager: Langree (2019*)/Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (2020/Kino/MUBI Blu-ray)/Schubert Tchaikovsky: Argerich Barenboim (2019/U

Adventurers Of Modern Art (2015/Icarus DVD)/Carmen: Lobraseb (2019*)/Fortunio/Messager: Langree (2019*)/Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (2020/Kino/MUBI Blu-ray)/Schubert Tchaikovsky: Argerich Barenboim (2019/Unitel/*all Naxos Blu-rays)

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

Now for more classical arts releases for you to know about...

We start with a French TV mini-series on the arts in the early 20th Century from that country that influenced the world. The Adventurers Of Modern Art (2015) is a six-episode work that uses way more stylized animation to tell its story than I would have liked (in a three-way tie with bad acting reenactments and ugly, colorized black and white footage trying to be 'fresh' and 'new' when it looks like crap) meaning the program also feels like it is trying too hard to tell its story.

The shows include 1. Bohemia, 2. Picasso And His Gang, 3. Paris: Capital Of The World, 4. The Enchanters Of Montparnasse, 5. Libertad! and 6. Midnight In Paris. No doubt this is well written and researched, even matching the many materials of the time that I have read about and watched over the years, but the animation does get repetitive and I wish more stills or other items had been used. Otherwise, this is a good crash corse of six nearly one-hour shows for art fans and those who want to know more. In that, it is not a bad release.

Next up is a new version of Bizet's Carmen (2019) choreographed by Jiri Bubenicek, conducted by Louis Lohraseb with music by more than Bizet and featuring Rebecca Bianchi in the title role. Supported by Amar Ramasar and Alessio Rezza, it is a good production, there is talent all around, money in the production and some energy to it. Yet, I was only so impressed and did not find it definitive, but maybe we have been spoiled by previous versions that really worked well.

Though this is still not a bad version of Carmen, the three we have covered in the past (and on Blu-ray) tend to work better and you can read about them as follows:

Carmen In 3D


Philipe Jordan version with a great summary of the storyline


Marc Piollet version from C Major/Unitel


So if you want to see a different version (produced by the Italian RAI TV network at the Teatro Dell'Opera di Roma) with decent playback performance on par with the previous releases, this is worth your time. However, you might want to try the other versions (save if you have a 3D HDTV or not) and it is at least respectable enough.

This is the first time we have covered any performance of Andre Messager's Fortunio (2019) about upper-class living at the turn of the last century (and just before the art period of the TV mini-series reviewed above, by coincidence) in a nearly two-hour opera that was first performed back in 1907, based on Alfred du Musset's play La Chandelier. Cyrille DuBois is the title character, this includes relationships under oppressed circumstances and is as true now as ever.

The characters become trapped by circumstance, agreeing to all kinds of misery and also how a lack of character can devastate more people than imagined. This is well sung, acted and the production is not bad, costumes not bad and lighting usually good. It comes in at about two hours and is worth the time of those interested.

Stephen Nomura Schible's Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (2020) is a solid documentary on the great, underrated maestro, composer, music man that covers his early days in a 1970s electronic band (just a shade away from the Progressive Rock world) and where he is today. The composer of motion picture soundtracks for Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Revenant and Bernardo Bertolucci (The Last Emperor, Sheltering Sky) has a unique sound and ideas of sound and music that arguably cross the line of diegetic and non-diegetic sound for film and even in music as to what music is and can be. Vangelis might be a rare contemporary in this sense.

We actually learn the the sound and music in the films of legendary Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (we see a clip from Solaris (1972) as an example) inspired Sakamoto to take the music direction he took. But on top of this, all kinds of great vintage clips of him as a younger man, artist and performer, and biographical information, we get an artist who is getting more political.

Horrified by the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe (still leaking radiation years later as you read this!!!) and by the conformity in his home country of Japan that helped make it possible, the film starts with him addressing it and becoming part of the protests against it. Then, he also just found out he has cancer, so this program covers a lifetime and world of ideas in its rich 101 minutes and portrait of one of the great artists of our time and all time. It makes you want to go out and buy all his albums.

Highly recommended!

Finally, every time I see Daniel Barenboim's name, I know I will be guaranteed an excellent concert and his grasp and performance of the classics is so definitive that it is uncanny. This new Schubert Tchaikovsky release (2019) also adds the great pianist Martha Argerich as they cover Scubert's Symphony No. 7 in B Minor, D.759 ''Unfinished'' and Rondo in A Major, D.951, plus Tchaikovsky's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23.

This show runs a rich, tight 75 minutes and us another amazing concert where the music always sounds on the money and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is in great form to meet the moment. This is from the Grobes Festspielhaus, Salzburg Festival and apparently was one of its strongest highlights. Fans may see it as a cultural event, but it is at least excellent and sometimes outstanding to the point one wishes it went on much, much longer. As it is, it is one of the best entries on this list. See it and hear it!

Now for the playback performance. All three Naxos releases are here in 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition with Carmen and Fortunio looking the best on the list, with stable images, fine color and hardly any motion blur, but the Barenboim disc has a little more blur and softness throughout.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Coda is also very stable and as much as any disc on the list, but it is a documentary as well and has some older analog video that is low definition here and there, plus a few other soft spots. Otherwise, this looks fine.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Modern is good for the older format, but this can be softer than one would like, including the intentionally soft animation. The sound is not bad, but odd as we get the French version in both lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossy Dolby Digital Stereo mixes, while we only get English 2.0 Dolby Stereo. The 5.1 mix is the best on the disc, so why should we have a softer English-only track? Not good.

All the Blu-rays offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes and lesser stereo mixes, but the Naxos discs offer them in PCM 2.0 Stereo, while Coda is in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless. Carmen and Barenboim are the sonic champs here, while Coda also has fine sound, but being a documentary, we often get quiet moments and plenty of talking, so its soundfield is not as consistent by default, plus older video is usually simple stereo or even monophonic.

The Art DVD set has no extras, but the three Naxos Blu-rays come with booklets on each respective program and in multiple languages. Some of these discs have trailers too. Coda adds a 2019 concert that runs over an hour called Ryuichi Sakamoto: async At The Park Avenue Armory.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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