Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Ballet > Drama > Opera > Politics > Comedy > Romance > Surrealism > Fantasy > Demons > Super > Alceste/Cherkaoui (2019/C Major*)/Beggar's Opera/Carsen (2018**)/Cellist/Dances At A Gathering (2020**)/Ercole Amante/Pichon (2019)/Faust/Gounod/Ettinger (2019**)/Le Corsaire/Fournillier (2018/C Major

Alceste/Cherkaoui (2019/C Major*)/Beggar's Opera/Carsen (2018**)/Cellist/Dances At A Gathering (2020**)/Ercole Amante/Pichon (2019)/Faust/Gounod/Ettinger (2019**)/Le Corsaire/Fournillier (2018/C Major)/Le Nozze Di Figaro/Harnoncourt (2014/Unitel)/Snow Queen/Hampson (2019/**Opus Arte/all Naxos Blu-rays)

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

Here's a new group of classical music releases, including clever new takes on previous classics, many of which we have covered before...

We start with Gluck's Alceste (2019) in a new version by stage director and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui with the dancers of Compagne Eastman, Antwerp at the Bayerssches Staatsorchester that has some good moments, but disappointed me like the previous version I reviewed a while ago at this link:


The sound and picture are of the same quality, though this was shot ion 4K, we'll have to see if a 4K disc is issued later. Though the older one is five years ago, they have the same uneven results despite some solid talent and it just did not stay with me.

Next is a new version of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (2018) that tales the work in amusing new directions and manages to even top the previous older version with no less than the Who's Roger Daltrey we reviewed at this link:


This is my favorite entry this time around and I liked the dialogue, acting, look and pace throughout its even a little better than the older version. The greed theme is as timely as ever and they have energy that brings it to life without overdoing it. Ian Burton and Robert Carsen created this new version that features the Theatre Des Bouffes Du Nord, music by William Christie performed by the musicians of Ensembles Les Arts Florissants ands directed for the screen by Francois Roussilion.

Next is a Royal Opera House double feature of The Cellist (by Cathy Marston and Philip Feeney) and Dances At A Gathering (by Jerome Robbins and Fryderyk Chopin, both from 2020) with the Royal Ballet conducted by Andrea Molino and fitting on a single disc. This runs 136 minutes combined and the extras are 9 minutes long.

Both have narratives, though the latter is a little more basic and debuted in 1969. Because they are newer and of their nature, the combination makes sense and is not just slapped-together like it might have been. They are good, though neither struck me as stunning, but they are both well done and worth your time if you are interested.

Francesco Cavalli's Ercole Amante (2019) is one of those operas that struck us as unusual and interesting when we covered it in on Blu-ray in this earlier Boulton-conducted version:


I liked the sets and use of color in this new Raphael Pichon-conducted version and the performances are fun, but it does not overtake or equal the previous performance, though I thought some aspects and moments came close. The singing is fine, acting fine and lighting better than most on this list, from the Opera Comique, Chateau de Versailles Spectacles and the Opera National de Bordeaux. It runs a long 187 minutes, so make sure you have the time and are awake.

How many tales of Faust and Faustian bargains can you have? They are so many on film and video that you could do a thick book covering them all and that includes a few we've caught over the years, but this is the first time we have covered a version of Charles-Francois Gounod's Faust (2019) from the Royal Opera House in this case. Though we are all too familiar with the story, this one is not bad and has its moments.

Running a long 178 minutes, conducted by Dan Ettinger, stage directed by Dan McVicar and featuring a solid cast headed by Michael Fabiano as the title character, it is more hit than miss, but it is still a long show and sometimes misses the mark. Otherwise, a fine production worth a look (long as it would be) for those interested.

Another work we revisit now is the ballet classic Le Corsaire (2018 aka The Pirate) 200 years alter after legendary choreographer Marius Petipa brought it to life.


That version was one of the best-sounding shows Naxos ever sent us ands it remains so to this day, so though picture performance is about the same, the sound here cannot match that one. Still, this is one of the best-sounding discs on this list and is consistent throughout. Anna-Marie Holmes is behind the current dancing and the Teatro Alla Scala with Italy's huge RAI TV network are behind the ambitious production running a fine 108 minutes.

Patrick Fourniller conducts the music and the dancing is top rate. Still, there are a few off moments in both versions for me, but they are well done enough that fans should see both.

In yet another revisiting, we have Mozart's Le Nozze Di Figaro (2014 aka The Marriage Of Figaro) and it remains one of the most popular, referenced and well-known operas in history. Here are two fine versions we have covered in recent years on Blu-ray:

Daniel Barenboim version


Royal Opera House version


This new version by conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt with the Theater an der Wien das Opernhaus runs a long 190 minutes, but is as effective and a little better looking than the Barenboim version (his work is so often definitive) while the Royal Opera version still has the best sound of the three and joins the best-sounding Naxos Blu-rays we have covered to date. Thus, no one version has been able to cover all the bases so fully that it is definitive, but if you have the time, curiosity and love of the work, add this to the other versions and compare them all.

Andre Schuen is the title character and the other singers/actors are a fine complement to him. The look is not bad and slightly paired-down and/or basic, but is fine and is considered part of Mozart's Da Ponte Cycle of operas (librettos by Lorenzo Da Ponte that also includes Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte, reviewed a few times elsewhere on this site) and I liked this one enough to see what they did with the latter two works. Despite a few things that were not quite what I wanted, a program worth seeing, certainly.

Finally, we have a new version of The Snow Queen (2019) based on the classic Hans Christian Andersen work, but this is the first ballet we have actually ever encountered. The Scottish Ballet with Choreographer Christopher Hampson and Conductor Jean-Claude Picard as the Summer Princess (Kayla-Marie Tarantolo) asks the title character (Constance Devernay) to see the future, which reveals a man she will be with. Instead of waiting, the Princess leaves for the town of humans. The Queen is not happy about this.

From there, the humans start crossing into their world and the a circus comes to town, so you know chaos will follow.

This is one of the more colorful and well-costumed entries here with fine acting, dancing, performing and a good show at a tight 87 minutes. I have yet to see any version of this tale in any version I found a knockout, but this is as good as any one I have seen to date.

All eight discs offer 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers, so they will all have a little bit of motion blur, including Alceste, which is the only 4K shoot on the list. Beggar's Opera, Le Corsaire and Snow Queen actually fare best with the least blu, though past 4K/1080i comparisons have proved the 4K can still look great in its native format. All have good color, editing and are pretty well shot otherwise, though a new trend of minimal lighting in too many of these productions is not a good thing and hurts their presentations when the makers go overboard in that way.

All discs also offer two sound mixes in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 and PCM 2.0 Stereo lossless mixes that are professionally recorded, but some 5.1 versions are no better than the 2.0 Stereo ones in a few cases and some soundfields do not take total advantage of the surrounds or soundstage. Ercole Amante and Le Corsaire tend to stand out sonically best in this case.

Extras in all eight releases at least include multi-lingual booklets on their respective shows, while Beggar's Opera, Cellist/Gathering..., Faust and Snow Queen have Cast Galleries, the latter three add behind the scene clips and Figaro adds a longer outright documentary. All those extras help make the works clearer and more entertaining.

- Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com