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Category:    Home > Reviews > Concert > Classical > Opera > Ballet > Cecilia & Bryn At Glyndebourne – Arias & Duets/It Trovatore/Swan Lake (HD-DVD/Opus Arte/BBC) + A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Blu-ray + HD-DVD/Opus Arte/BBC)

Cecilia & Bryn At Glyndebourne – Arias & Duets/Il Trovatore/Swan Lake (HD-DVD/Opus Arte/BBC) + A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Blu-ray + HD-DVD/Opus Arte/BBC)


Picture: B+/B/B/B/B     Sound: B+/B/B+/B/B     Extras: D/C+/C/C-/C-     Ballets/Concerts/Operas: B



NOTE: It Trovatore has been issued on Blu-ray, which you can read about at this link:






With zero competition from any other video company, Opus Arte has dominated the HD-DVD market and now Blu-ray market with their BBC-licensed, high class, upscale Classical/Opera Music releases.  Not getting the attention they deserve from hardly any of the media at large, they stand tall against the best music release sin either format from any company and we get to look at four more titles (one in both Blu-ray and HD-DVD) in this look at what should be the last HD-DVDs from the company and the start of a long line of high quality Blu-rays.


Cecilia & Bryn At Glyndebourne brings together two very strong, amazing, powerful singers in Cecilia Bartoli and Bryn Terfel with the London Symphony Orchestra (Myung-Whun Chung, conductor) doing a sort of “greatest hits” from the Haydn, Donizetti, Handel, Rossini and especially Mozart (Don Giovanni, Marriage Of Figaro) catalogue.  The only consistent point is that they keep delivering amazing vocal performances, but some may get lost, while Opera fans will love it.  A whole new generation or so of stunning vocalists in the field are hardly heard from or known in the mainstream.  Directed for TV by Brian Large, solid releases like this correct that.


It Trovatore is my personal favorite here, though despite sporting outstanding sets by the film Production Designer/genius Dante Ferretti (a Fellini associate whose films include Salo, Name Of The Rose, Casino, Kundun, Meet Joe Black, Titus, Gangs Of New York, The Aviator) is made dark throughout to fit the mood and themes.  However, the story of a troubadour, magic spells and murder is not here to show off any designs and this is one of the riches such productions I have ever seen of an opera.  Though no expert, I have seen my share.  José Cura, Dmitri Hyorostovsky, Yvonne Naef and Veronica Villarroel co-star and the vocals are top rate.  Director Elijah Moshinsky work here is very impressive, while Brian Large directed for TV.



Swan Lake is a very colorful, energetic version of the Tchaikovsky ballet featuring the original choreography of the great Rudolf Nureyev, offering new life for the classic.  If you have not seen this version, you are in for a big surprise because it gives nuance and character to it, as well as bringing out ideas and detail other interpretations missed.  A Paris Opera Ballet/Paris Opera Orchestra presentation with Agnes Letestu and José Martinez leading a very impressive cast, director Gerard Mortier constantly makes additionally imaginative choices making this one of the most kinetic HD productions of any stage event we have seen to date.  No cheap editing tricks, just a flow that makes sense and delivers.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Opus Arte’s Blu-ray debut and the BBC Concert orchestra with the Pacific Northwest Ballet combine to bring composer George Mendelssohn’s and choreographer Felix Balanchine’s version of the Shakespeare classic to vivid life as the exceptional color and dancing says so much without words.  Libby Crabtree and Judith Harris do the wonderful singing, while the dancers include Patricia Barker, Paul Gibson, Seth Belliston, Julie Tobiason, Ross Yearsley, Lisa Apple, Jeffrey Stanton, Ariana Lallone and Batkhurel Bold in a lavish version that gave me new respect for the work.  Filmed many times, I have not always been happy with its adaptation, but not so here.



The image in all five cases is 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition video and despite being the most stable and least imaginatively shot, Cecilia has the best picture, the best lighting and most consistent color.  The rest also demonstrate very good color schemes, but also can show some noise, especially in dark parts of the frame.  However, all are very pleasant to watch and embarrass many slicker productions that seem obsessed with color gutting and shaky camerawork.  All the HD-DVDs have Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and slightly less impressive Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Stereo, while Lake has impressive DTS 48/24 5.0 and 2.0 mixes that are as good as anything offered here, especially the Cecilia release.  That leaves PCM 16/48 5.1 and 2.0 mixes on the Dream Blu-ray for which there is no difference with the TrueHD equivalents on the HD-DVD version.  It is the lightest of the four titles here.


Besides the nicely illustrated booklets in all cases, all have limited extras, except Cecilia with none.  Trovatore has the best extras including an illustrated synopsis of the work, a piece on the cast and their characters, All About Schlager – preparations for the fight scene and a fine Designing Il Trovatore featurette including Ferretti being interviewed.  Swan Lake has an illustrated synopsis of the work and cast gallery.  Both versions of Dream only add a cast gallery.


For more HD-DVD Classical/Opera releases, try these links:


Die Fledermaus/Die Zauberflote



Mahler – Symphony No. 2/Pierre Boulez



Uncommon Bach (DTS/Jero)




-   Nicholas Sheffo


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