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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Opera > Stage > Vincenzo Belliniís Norma + Pucciniís Gianni Schicchi (Blu-ray/Norma Live/Opus Arte/BBC)

Vincenzo Belliniís Norma + Pucciniís Gianni Schicchi (Blu-ray/Norma Live/Opus Arte/BBC)


Picture: B+††† Sound: A- ††††Extras: B- †††Main Programs: B



Opus Arte continues its trend of bringing high quality opera to Blu-ray with the recent release of Vincenzo Belliniís Norma and Pucciniís Gianni Schicchi, like the previous releases we get two more exceptional performance discs and the company just canít release enough of!While Iím not nearly as much of a fan of Norma as I was with Pucciniís La BohŤme, it is still a good performance and fans will appreciate the sound and picture of these disc.


Norma is an opera in two acts written by Bellini with the libretto by Felice Romani and was first produced at La Scala in 1831.This particular performance pulls together the talents of Hasmik Papian, Hugh Smith, Irini Tsirakidis, Giorgio Giuseppini, Anna Steiger, and Carlo Bosi, with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra providing the musical score as well as the Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera, with musical direction by Julian Reynolds and stage director Guy Joosten.The interpretation here updates the story a bit as we center around our title character who faces the struggles of being a successful woman, who is both dominant, but also vulnerable at the same time.Her position causes tension within her relationships and her family, of course there is also this battle between her druid high priestness and the modern opera diva that wages on as well, it many respects we are watching an opera of an opera take place and unfold, but it is masterfully performed here.While this might be Belliniís masterpiece, it is probably not the best place to start someone new to Opera with, instead try something like La Traviata (reviewed elsewhere on this site).The Opera is a bit more convoluted, complex, and also runs nearly 3-hours, so itís a tough pill to swallow for newbies.


Pucciniís Gianni Schicchi is one of the great comedic operas that takes place in one act set to Italian libretto by Giovacchino Forzano and is based on a story that is referred to in Danteís The Divine Comedy.Its first performance took place in New York City 1918. The performance here has the talents of Alessandro Corbelli, Felicity Palmer, Maria Mclaughlin, Massimo Giordano, Sally Matthews, and Sergei Leiferkus under the direction of Annabel Arden with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.This feature also includes Rachmaninovís The Misery Knight and is a great bonus as it also is directed by Annabel Arden and features Sergei Leiferkus in the lead role, who plays the part incredibly well.Both performances are incredibly well done, finely directed and acted, but again the nature of these are probably not first steps for those not that familiar with Opera, although The Misery Knight is a good start and itís great to get that as a bonus here.††


The technical aspects of these particular Blu-rays are quite familiar and similar in to many of the other releases from Opus Arte.First, the presentations are both presented in 1.78 X 1 High Definition 1080p transfers that looks well-detailed, sharp, refined, defined, and demonstrates some of the best that on-stage theater can look.There is a faint softness that occurs from time to time, particularly in darker sequences, but overall both discs still looks great.The audio is equally impressive as we get two options, the first option is a PCM 2.0 mix, the second is a 5.1 mix (Norma is actually a 5.0 mix) Both are quite impressive, clear, and demonstrate a wide-range of dynamics, but I give a slight edge to the surround mixes as they seems to feel a bit more natural at times.The 2.0 mixes is quite good, but in order to give that full surround/ambient feel that great performance halls give with natural acoustics, the surround mixes come closer to that and delivers the goods!I am not sure the reasoning for the 5.0 mix on Norma, perhaps a little less need for some low-end, but the mix doesnít suffer too much from it, especially if you have speakers that have large enough drivers.


Extras on Norma include an introduction, plus interviews with the main cast members and an illustrated synopsis.There is a small interview section on the Puccini disc and all of these help further appreciate these fine productions.††


Check out the reviews for other fantastic discs from Opus Arte:


La BohŤme



Magic Flute



Midsummer Nightís Dream



Swan Lake



Verdiís Il Trovatore




-†† Nate Goss


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