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Category:    Home > Reviews > Concert > Opera > Ballet > Bizet’s Carmen + The Blu-ray Experience: Opera & Ballet (OpusArte Blu-rays)

Bizet’s Carmen + The Blu-ray Experience: Opera & Ballet (OpusArte Blu-rays)


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



*PCM 2.0: B+, PCM 5.1 A-, Dolby TrueHD 5.1: B+, DTS-HD 5.1: A-



Naxos continues to impress with their OpusArte label and have decided to issue a Blu-ray that demonstrates some of the best that they have to offer.  We have already covered a large percentage of these titles already on the Blu-ray format, this particular disc delivers 13 excerpts from their lineup, but there is without a doubt one truly great reason to obtain this disc…the audio!


Rarely do we get a chance to get not only great material for demonstration playback, but here we get 13 tracks to showcase the various audio formats currently available to us on the format.  Since lossless audio takes up a huge amount of space, the full programs on Blu-ray are usually only given one lossless option, maybe two at most.  Here, each excerpt is capable of being played in lossless PCM 5.1, lossless PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio, and Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1.  To have 4 lossless options is an audiophile/videophile dream because this is a direct way to not only compare the various formats, but to showcase them as well.


So which one is the winner?  Well, most of these are featured in PCM 5.1 or 2.0 in their full versions and while I like the richness associated with the DTS-HD mix and I like the fullness that Dolby finally obtains with its TrueHD mix, I still lean towards the PCM mixes.  To me, the PCM feels natural, more open, far more accurate, and combines depth, richness, and fidelity in a very neutral way.


Opera & Ballet excerpts:


Verdi: Il Trovatore

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake

Mozart: The Magic Flute

Puccini: La Bohème

Bizet: Carmen

Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Nights Dream

Puccini: Gianni Schicchi

Strauss: Die Fledermaus

Rameau: Zoroastre

Rosini: La Cenerentola

Bellini: Norma

Balanchine: Jewels

Celia & Bryn at Glyndebourne 



Released in except form on the Opera & Ballet disc is Bizet’s Carmen, which has been issued to Blu-ray in full and is perhaps one of their best to date.  Carman is a masterful opera in French from 1875 with libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, which is based on a novella by Prosper Merimee, which was issued 30 years prior.  Interestingly enough, that novella was inspired by a poem called “The Gypsies”, which was written in 1824 by Pushkin.  The tragedy in the matter with this particular opera is that Bizet would die before knowing the outcome of this opera.  While it was released prior to his death, it was immediately panned by critics and did rather poorly, Bizet would die shortly after that, but the success of this opera would rise steadily after it’s release in Vienna, and soon became widely popular around the world and it’s mark on opera over the past century is surely known as it is one of the most performed operas even today.   


The story takes place in the early 1800’s in Seville Spain where our title character (a beautiful gypsy woman) and her lover Don Jose, who is a soldier that must choose between his duty and his love for Carmen, which is only escalated when he leaves the service and joins a smuggling gang, only to find out that Carmen has another love Escamillo, a bullfighter.  At times the opera is playful, while other times it’s heartfelt and serious with casual spoken dialogue.  This opera-comique was on the brink of extinction until Bizet revived the style, which would win him over amongst critics worldwide and his work is still influential even today.   


This particular recording features the talents of Anne Sofie von Otter, Marcus Haddock, Laurent Naouri, and Lisa Milne, under direction of David McVicar and conductor Philippe Jordan, and takes place at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, released through the BBC and presented to Blu-ray with a 1.78 X 1 high definition transfer in 1080i and like many of the operas that we have already covered from OpusArte, this one is exceptional just the same. 


Color, contrast, and the level of detail is prominent with vivid depth and dimension to the set design and production giving Carmen a very three-dimensional feel.  To help with this the Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 mix offers a superb level of width and depth to the soundstage making your home theater or listening room feel lively and large.  Exceptional mixes have the ability to make the listening space open up and this is true here with fidelity in both the lower, mid, and upper ranges coming through with finesse.  At the same time, the mix does not sound like a studio recording; it sounds like a natural on-stage and in-room sound that brings the listener/viewer into the opera, rather than take you away from it.   


Extras here include an illustrated synopsis, cast gallery, plus featurettes on costumes, fighting, dance, characters, music, and the Glyndebourne garden.  With all that said, there is only one thing left to say… 


Come see why this is one of the most celebrated operas of all time, Carmen is waiting!  


Also check out or other OpusArte reviews: 





-   Nate Goss


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