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Category:    Home > Reviews > Concert > Opera > Operette > Classical > Die Fledermaus (Johann Strauss II) + Die Zauberflote (aka The Magic Flute/Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) – Opus Arte HD-DVD

Die Fledermaus (Johann Strauss II) + Die Zauberflote (aka The Magic Flute/Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) – Opus Arte HD-DVD


Picture: B     Sound: B/B+     Extras: B-/C+     Operas: B-/B



Opus Arte is the first company to issue Operas or Operettas in either High Definition format, going with HD-DVD for two classics: Strauss’ Die Fledermaus and Mozart’s Die Zauberflote.  Done in conjunction with the BBC, these recent HD productions (2003) have always been a specialty market of releases starting with the arrival of VHS & Beta, were among the most expensive of single 12” LaserDiscs and also surfaced on DVD.  It is no surprise that they would be some of the first prestige art releases in HD.


Set in Vienna, Die Fledermaus (1874) is a darkly comic tale of discovery, betrayal, identity, mistaken identity and personal mischief about a married couple who may be parted by a court decision that would end the freedom of husband Gabriel.  Wife Rosalinde is in wait expecting the worst news, when strange fate intervenes as chambermaid Adele can gain entry (thanks to sister Ida securing an invitation) Russian Count Orlofsky’s private, exclusive party.  Rosalinde needs Adele’s help instead, but Adele really wants to go.  Even worse, Rosalinde’s old flame Alfred now works for the Count and with this combustible situation, only madness can ensue.


Though first-rate in many respects, I found this particular production muddy and choppy in a few parts, needing more of a flow to the material, the kind of material that certainly has it.  Maybe the producers were trying to make it more into art in a way to avoid soap opera, but if that were the tactic, it does not always work.  It is also the first time I have seen this since one particular film of note borrowed from it with dark irony: Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999) from a book originally also set in Vienna.  Though the film is set in New York, there is so much Europeanism in it and some of that is slyly referencing this work.  Fans should see this once just to see the contrasts.


Die Zauberflote (aka The Magic Flute) has a famous odd film production as an atypical film (originally done for TV) by Ingmar Bergman that is one of the few works of his lacking in the usual profound form.  This production is more colorful, lively and possesses more energy that brings the Mozart classic to life.  Though not perfect, I did enjoy this production more overall, not ashamed to be stagy, yet not as obnoxiously so as Bergman’s version that never worked for me.  The story of a bird-catcher and battles between good and evil (appealing to the spiritual examinations of Bergman too) has more irony than ever in the darker times we have been living in lately.  Mozart wrote it in 1791 and was one of his final works, further proof that he died far too young and many more priceless works were lost.  For this critic, there is more to get out of the material, but that may take a whole new approach.


Both make for good viewing, especially if this is your genre of music.



The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on both concerts are decent, yet both show the limits of early HD shoots like many such music concerts we have already covered.  Detail can be an issue in shots, though the color range helps save the picture in both cases, so the values of the production count even more.,  Fortunately, these are both first-rate in effort, ambition and expense.  The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 in both cases (and all languages) is better than the Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Stereo, though the 5.1 on Fledermaus is a bit soundfield challenged for whatever reasons.  Flute just has a better all around presentation, though I give Arte credit for skipping low-def audio options.


Extras on both include slide shows with the cast dubbed cast gallery and multi-lingual booklets you would expect in such releases in previous formats like CD and DVD.  Fledermaus adds a costume gallery still show, Genesis Of Waltz piece, cast interview featurette and The Architect Returns, about the building of the second opera house in 20th Century Britain, while Flute adds illustrated synopsis of the classic, a behind the scenes featurette featuring conductor Sir Colin Davis being interviewed, which is continued in a separate Davis interview piece that rounds out the extras coverage.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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