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Category:    Home > Reviews > Concert > Dance > Opera > Classical Music > Stage > Theater > Harrison Birtwistleís The Minotaur & Prokofievís Cinderella (OpusArte DVD 2-disc sets)

Harrison Birtwistleís The Minotaur & Prokofievís Cinderella (OpusArte DVD 2-disc sets)


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



Just as impressed as we have been with the Blu-ray selections released through Naxos on the OpusArte label, we are equally impressed with the DVDís coming through as well.You can read about our review for Richard Straussí Salome here.Here we have two more awesome productions in Harrison Birtwistleís The Minotaur and the Paris Opera Balletís production of Prokofievís Cinderella.


The Minotaur was a much-anticipated release by Birtwistle with libretto by David Harsent and commissioned here by the Royal Opera House and the stage is set for a truly amazing production, which was captures in High Definition and surround sound.What is equally impressive here though is the costume design and overall production quality, which is ingenious as it transforms the mythological character into a modern text as the Minotaur (John Tomlinson) tries to find his true identity, but there is a problem when a human offering is sent to the beast in the form of Theseus (Johan Reuter), who tries to kill the beast, but he also attracts the attention of the Ariadne (Christine Rice) who is not only half-sister, but also the keeper of the Minotaur, who provides the necessary help to end the beast.


From the very beginning we see that we are in for something special as the Royal Opera House orchestra begins to mesmerize us initially with a set of unwavering sound with waves being shown to us on the screen to transport us into the world of the Minotaur.Soon we are hooked and taken on a ride through this mythological update that comes together in dramatic fashion that is simply stunning.There is a fantastic documentary included as well, plus a highly detailed booklet that highlights the music and the production.This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of these releases from Naxos on any of their labels as they always provide an insightful booklet of some sort to really help provide context and richness to the various productions.


On the other end of the spectrum though is the ballet Cinderella, which is equally impressive, yet incredibly different as we are now transported to a fairy tale world of precision and balance unlike the rawness of The Minotaur, we are now in a world of a colorful and dreamlike interpretation of Prokofievís Cinderella.It is set during the Great Depression in America and this updated version of the classic Perrault story is incredible to say the least.Led by Agnes Letestu as Cinderella we have a commanding performance that features the Paris Opera Ballet and Orchestra in a dazzling display of a truly remarkable performance that is unforgettable for sure.This too was recorded in High Definition Glory and only enhances the production to a whole new level.Also included is a detailed booklet along with a film by Reiner Moritz called Cinderella Goes Hollywood, that is a great companion here.


What most people will be wondering though on these two sets is why they are not on Blu-ray?Well, that might be in store down the road, but for now these DVD sets are worthwhile just the same.Sure there are certain limitations, but that does not completely detract from the powerful performances and overall production.Both were shot in High Definition and transferred here in anamorphic widescreen presentations that are framed at 1.78 X 1 and look quite good.There are certain times where the limitations of DVD are more obvious, but overall the depth of color, overall fidelity, and resolution are satisfactory.The Minotaur boasts many fantastic scenes of darkness and the transfer never really suffers even when detail seems like it would be lost.Blu-ray could even take this further, but again itís a marginal amount for the most part.Cinderella features a brilliant color palette that helps transcend the story into a 1930ís era and again the DVD supports this well with a transfer that accurately reproduces the design.Close up shots are particularly strong and while they look perhaps a shade or two less Ďlife-likeí compared to Blu-ray, this does not ruin the experience in the least.I will be very interested though to see these arrive on Blu-ray in what one can only hope will be the near future.


Sound is vital in both of these productions and for these releases we have the option of PCM 2.0 stereo or DTS 5.1, both are excellent and I love the fact that OpusArte decides to drop any Dolby Digital tracks here.Itís obvious that they want the best quality for their audio and having PCM 2.0 and DTS is the preferred method as both offer more resolution and overall depth compared to the limited and overly compressed Dolby Digital soundtracks.Here I like the fidelity and naturalness of the 2.0 option, but the DTS is punchier, thicker, and sounds like it has more force behind it, which will probably come down to a matter of preference for many, but either option is fine.



-†† Nate Goss


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