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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical > Opera > Concert > Documentary > Prokofiev’s The Love For Three Oranges/Doctor Atomic + Wonders Are Many – The Making of Doctor Atomic (Docurama DVD)/La fille mal gardee/The Adventures of Pinocchio + DVD (Naxos/OpusArte Blu-ray)

Prokofiev’s The Love For Three Oranges/Doctor Atomic + Wonders Are Many – The Making of Doctor Atomic (Docurama DVD)/La fille mal gardee/The Adventures of Pinocchio + DVD (Naxos/OpusArte Blu-ray)

 

Picture: B+/B     Sound: B+/B     Extras: C+     Main Programs:

 

Prokofiev’s For the Love of Oranges B+

Doctor Atomic B-

Wonders Are Many – Making of Doctor Atomic B

La fille mal gardee B+

The Adventures of Pinocchio B-

 

 

Having already covered numerous titles released by Naxos via the OpusArte label, we’ve quickly come to recognize the high level of programming as well as technical achievements on the Blu-ray format.  Here we take a look at Prokofiev’s surreal composition The Love for Three Oranges, the controversial John Adams opera about the invention of the atomic bomb in Doctor Atomic, and the fantasy world of Jonathan Dove’s The Adventures of Pinocchio.  Along with this review is the Making of Doctor Atomic in Wonders are Many, which is a DVD-only release and the DVD edition of The Adventures of Pinocchio.

 

We’ve really enjoyed the outings thus far by OpusArte and this great trend continues with this recent batch as well, although the results here are perhaps a bit more mixed, which has more to do with my dislike of most English-speaking Operas.  They never quite seem to work as well.  This again is purely a preference though.

 

The Adventures of Pinocchio is pretty good, but at times a bit too much, despite a clever production, it just doesn’t work quite as well as an Opera as some might like to think.  There are certain things that are left better in their original design.  I would even think that a play would even translate better, but the 213-minute production wears thin after awhile and can’t course correct fast enough or charm long enough and is only recommended for patient and passionate Opera fans.  Victoria Simmonds does a wonderful job of portraying the wooden boy come to life as does Jonathan Summers are Geppetto and are the real highlight of the entire production.  Extras include some production material that take a look from the views of the composer, stage director, and conductor, the performance is recorded from the Opera North with Sadler’s Wells Theater using the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North under David Parry’s conducting. 

 

The Love for Three Oranges is a solid performance of Prokofiev’s stylish and creative comedic Opera using the French libretto from its 1921 premiere and using the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra along with the Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera and runs just over 2-hours on this 50GB Blu-ray disc.  Musically the work is phenomenal here and ranks as some of Prokofiev’s best work, however the premiere of this piece was never fully well-received and even years later this production comes across rather stale at times, the visuals never seem to fully line up with the orchestral movements and the results can be highly mixed, it is perhaps fair to say that the four acts and prologue are a bit uneven and the fascination that Prokofiev had for the abstract did not translate well enough to make this one of this most recognized pieces, regardless of how well this particular production is. 

 

Doctor Atomic is predominately an English-speaking Opera by John Adams and portrays the work of J. Robert Oppenheimer and his team of scientists as they work on the construction of the first Atomic bomb.  The material here is clearly more controversial and even risky at times and this is explored even further in the terrific documentary Wonders are Many, which is the making of the opera and is released through Docurama films.  This is an obvious companion piece that really helps form the foundations for the Opera and examines with more depth the footage from the earlier blasts and pieces them together with various accounts of performers and physicist to create a fascinating story that will greatly enhance the viewing experience of Doctor Atomic. 

 

La fille mal gardee is the only ballet of the bunch and is a truly fantastic work recorded from the Royal Opera House as Frederick’s Ashton’s masterwork comes to life and tells the tale of the countryside two young lovers must attempt to foil the plans of a Widow to marry off her daughter to the son of a wealthy farmer.  This is not your typical flowing and graceful ballet, but rather a more raw expression that even features a famous clog dance and is a more organic expression of countryside living that is crafted together in splendid fashion for this 2005 production.     

 

While the productions here for Blu-ray are all displayed in 1080i High Definition widescreen framed at 1.78 X1, the quality is fairly consistent from title to title in the picture quality department.  The Adventures of Pinocchio seems a tad softer at times than the other titles, colors are a bit more lush and vibrant on The Love for Three Oranges, and the overall balance of contrast and definition is quite sharp and nicely detailed on the five Blu-ray titles.  However, audio is a bit different as we have several options to choose from. The Love for Three Oranges and La fille mal gardee are presented with PCM tracks in 5.1 and 2.0 configurations. The mixes feel more natural and perhaps even a bit more forward heavy, but are packed full of detail, warmth, and beauty. The Adventures of Pinocchio and Doctor Atomic are available in Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 mixes and also contain Dolby Digital TrueHD 2.0 mixes as well, they do not fair nearly as well as the other options on the other titles and it seems like the overall level of sound is somewhat muted when compared, these mixes are far more subtle and less engaging, which we can only hope more titles come with DTS-HD mixes as they feel more like high resolution mixes rather than just boosted standard resolution mixes. 

 

All in all we are highly pleased with the vastness of the OpusArte collection of work and their dedication to releasing some of the best titles to the format with high technical merits and excellent productions offering what no other company in the market is right now and at a superb pace to get their catalogue into the hands of deserving fans.

 

 

-  Nate Goss


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