Birtwistle’s The Minotaur &
Prokofiev’s Cinderella (OpusArte DVD
B Sound: B Extras: B Main
impressed as we have been with the Blu-ray selections released through Naxos on
the OpusArte label, we are equally impressed with the DVD’s coming through as
well. You can read about our review for
Richard Strauss’ Salome here. Here we have two more awesome productions in
Harrison Birtwistle’s The Minotaur
and the Paris Opera Ballet’s production of Prokofiev’s 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.
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.
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 Prokofiev’s 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.
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 it’s a marginal amount for the most part.
Cinderella features a
brilliant color palette that helps transcend the story into a 1930’s 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 ‘life-like’ 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.
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.
It’s 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