Die Fledermaus (Johann Strauss II) + Die
Zauberflote (aka The Magic Flute/Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart) – Opus Arte HD-DVD
B Sound: B/B+ Extras: B-/C+ Operas: B-/B
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.
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.
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
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.
for good viewing, especially if this is your genre of music.
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
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