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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Concert > Instrumental > Piano > Opera > Drama > Comedy > Ballet > Kit Armstrong: Live From The Margravial Opera House Bayreuth (2019/C Major*)/Fidelio/Waltz/Honeck (2020/1806 Version/Beethoven/Unitel*)/Fruhlingssturme/Kosky (2020*)/Il Trovatore 4K (2019/Verdi/Morand

Kit Armstrong: Live From The Margravial Opera House Bayreuth (2019/C Major*)/Fidelio/Waltz/Honeck (2020/1806 Version/Beethoven/Unitel*)/Fruhlingssturme/Kosky (2020*)/Il Trovatore 4K (2019/Verdi/Morandi/4K Ultra HD Blu-ray*)/La Bayadere/Sorokin (2019/Minkus/BelAir*)/Lohengrin/Meister (2018/Wagner/BelAir*)/The Sleeping Beauty/Korobov (2019/Tchaikovsky/Nureyev/C Major/*all Naxos Blu-rays)

4K Ultra HD Picture: A- Picture: B/B-/B-/X/B-/B-/B- Sound: B-/B-/B/A-/B/B-/B Extras: C/C/C/C/C+/C/C Main Programs: B-/B-/B-/B+/B-/B-/B-

Our latest group of classical releases includes a 4K upgrade of a title we just covered and more...

Kit Armstrong: Live From The Margravial Opera House Bayreuth (2019) is subtitled 'Plays Wagner, Liszt Mozart' and he does, for a go 95 minutes, entering a field that has been led by Lang Lang in recent years on home video. The show includes Wagner's Piano Sonata in A flat major, several Liszt pieces and Mozart's Fantasy in C Minor, K. 475 and Suite in C Major, K. 399, Allemande.

Well, the show is just fine and his performances are really good, though there is something that just does not synergize as he goes on like it would in a Lang Lang or Yo-Yo Ma show. Maybe it is the editing or that he is just getting started. The Margravial Opera House Bayreuth is fine and this is as steady as any regular Blu-ray in playback on the list, so ti is a quality release for sure. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a series of such releases and we'll see where Armstrong goes.

Beethoven's Fidelio (2020/1806 Version) is a work I have been interested in seeing for a while, and now, we have this Wiener Symphoniker/Arnold Schoenberg Choir version conducted by Manfred Honeck and staged by Christopher Waltz (yes, the Academy Award-winning actor and James Bond villain of the moment). Running 130 minutes, it is also a bit more minimalist than I would have liked and that affected the presentation for me of the material. It is still fine and I know pandemic issues in 2020 did not help, but it is worth a look and its tale of corrupt politics and possible murder are as timely as ever.

Nicole Chevalier, Eric Cutler and Gabor Bretz lead the cast.

Jaromir Weinberger's Fruhlingssturme (2020, aka Spring Storms) us a very significant operetta, the last one completed in Germany before the Nazis took over and ended the era of the Weimar Republic. The author was forced to flee the country, landing up in the United States, but not before this drama-comedy premiered. Even without that knowledge, this three-part opera with a love affair happening during a Russian/Japanese war raging, runs a long 154 minutes and is mostly very involving and sometimes engrossing.

Conducted by Jordan de Souza, stage directed by Barrie Kosky and based on a 1968 reconstruction/arrangement by Norbert Biermann, it was made with the Komische Open Berlin and completes the need to reestablish a fine work that might have been in danger of disappearing altogether. The persons involved obviously understand this and give it their all. Some may think of Cabaret with Liza Minelli and Joel Gray when watching this one, though this performance is not like anything in that film.

All in all, it is one of the best shows on the list and though a few moments did not work for me, a remarkable work.

If you enjoy watching opera at home at your leisure and want to feel like you are sitting in the audience, then you will want to pick up Giuseppe Verdi: Il Trovatore 4K (2019), which is now available on 4K UHD from Naxos. The show was recorded live at the Arena di Verona in 2019, just before the pandemic, and so this is a reminder of better days for sure. This is a nice alternative for opera fans during the pandemic, to be able to experience a show like this in the comfort of your own home.

The opera stars Luca Salsi, Anna Netrebko, Yusif Eyvazov, Dolora Zajick, Riccardo Fassi, Elisabetta Zizzo, Carlo Bosi, Dario Giorgele, and Antonello Ceron.

Also performing is the Arena of Verona Ballet, and the Arena of Verona Choir, (chorus master: Vito Lombardi), Arena of Verona Orchestra, and Pier Giorgio Morandi, conductor.

Franco Zeffirelli, stage director and set designer

Raimonda Gaetani, costume designer

Lucia Real, choreographer (after El Camborio)

If you're a fan of Opera and have a 4K set-up then you need to experience this disc in action. It really does look and sound great. For more on the mixed regular Blu-ray, go this this link to read more about it and even more classical releases...


A new version of Minkus' La Bayadere (2019) has arrived conducted by Pavel Sokokin and choreographed by Nacho Duato (on the work of Marius Pepita) becoming the third version of the well-loved ballet we have covered. Here is the previous Kovtun-choreographed Royal Ballet Blu-ray we reviewed a little while ago...


I think they are about even in the quality of the stage performances and they both have fine sound, but this new version falls a little short in the picture quality department and is a bit softer throughout. Still, the Mikhaillovsky Ballet in St. Petersberg pulls off a solid show running 98 minutes and those interested will certainly not be disappointed by the results.

Wagner's Lohengrin (2018) is also another popular work we are revisiting in yet another new presentation, running a very long 223 minutes, but that's Wagner for ya! Our previous versions include this ambitious Opus Arte version that added a Super Audio CD (!!!) to the Blu-ray package....


Again, an ambitious performance with serious talent that deserves an award for just hanging in there, but the picture and sound playback visually is just not up to the previous version, though the performances are on par with each other for me again. The Staatsopernchoir and Staatsorchester conducted by Cornelius Meister (stage directed by Arpad Schilling) goes all out, but it is also a bit minimalist and that might throw some people off. Otherwise, be prepared for a long sit and see what you think, if interested.

Finally, we have Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty (2019, love how they added 'THE' at the beginning) by the Ballet Company and Orchestra of Teatro Alla Scala, based on the work of Rudolph Nureyev, conducted by Felix Korobov in one of the best visual presentations on the list. Of course, not counting the animated Disney classic, we have covered, plays better than this slightly disappointing Dutch National Ballet Blu-ray version from a few years ago:


And about as well as this Bolshoi Ballet Blu-ray version we covered a little later:


Cheers to Franca Squarciapino for top-rate costumes and sets, a fine cast led by Polina Semionova and Timofej Andrijashheniko and just the Scala's usual standard of excellence that graces pretty much all their releases. I would recommend this for those interested, even if some parts of long 158 minutes are a tad off.

Il Trovatore 4K is presented in 2160p 4K Ultra HD with a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a PCM Stereo and DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 mixes, both of which pack a powerful and beautiful sounding presentation. The costumes and set design have impeccable detail on the format and more definition than Blu-ray disc, looking better than the regular Blu-ray with the same fine sound repeated here.

The other six Blu-rays are presented in 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers and can have some softness, but Armstrong has the second-best performance of this group behind the 4K disc. The other rest have more softness and motion blur than I would have liked. Also, a new trend of having these shows with limited light is backfiring as it just makes enjoying them harder in many cases.

The rest of the discs also offer lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 and PCM 2.0 Stereo mixes, but Lohengrin only has PCM 2.0 Stereo and Armstrong actually has DTS-MA 5.0, so you do not get the usual second option. Fruhlingssturme, Bayadere and Beauty tie for the second-best sonic performance and I preferred the 5.1 in all three versions. The two tracks on Armstrong are closer in performance, while Fidelio is also narrowly close and was slightly disappointing.

Extras include the usual (and somewhat illustrated) multi-lingual booklets each release has to go with it and are always printed with tech details and other key information on quality paper, but Bayadere adds a 12-minutes long featurette, so it has the best extras of the bunch.

- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (4K)



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