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Category:    Home > Reviews > Concert > Classical > Opera > Robert Schumann – Genoveva (Nikolaus Harnoncourt/ArtHaus Blu-ray) + Wagner – Das Rheingold (Ring Cycle) + Die Walkure (Valkyrie) (Zubin Mehta/C-Major/Unitel Classica Blu-rays + DVD Sets/Naxos Distribu

Robert Schumann – Genoveva (Nikolaus Harnoncourt/ArtHaus Blu-ray) + Wagner – Das Rheingold (Ring Cycle) + Die Walkure (Valkyrie) (Zubin Mehta/C-Major/Unitel Classica Blu-rays + DVD Sets/Naxos Distribution)


Picture: B-/C     Sound: B/B-     Extras: C+/C+/C     Opera Concerts: B-



In order to make the arts more interesting, sometimes productions with go into minimalism in an attempt to bring out new aspects of the works.  In the case of three new titles we recently received, one simply does this the old-fashioned way with a big white room that serves as the locale for its long tale, while the other two try fancy lighting, water tanks and giant video screens in an attempt to make the works seem futuristic at times.  Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s version of Schumann’s Genoveva (his only Opera) takes the older route, while Zubin Mehta tries to take Richard Wagner’s epics into a post-modern realm.


While this can make sense with Genoveva on some level, it still was not as involving as it could have been for running 146 minutes in one space.  This gives us a tale of conflict between religion holding back progress and those who want progress.  The Wagner works Das Rheingold (Ring Cycle) and Die Walkure (Valkyrie) are world famous (and infamous) not needing much introduction save their long association with grand fantasy and its visions that have survived history.


Unfortunately, they seem to forget history too much and though the performances here are good by the singer/actors, this does not translate as well into its intended new dimension as the producers may have expected.  Mehta is one of the top conductors in world and even he cannot make this work as well as it seems to have been intended.  Sadly, these plays more like multi-media shows and can distract from the original works, but they are ambitious.


The 1080i 1.78 X 1 image in all the cases of Blu-ray performance have good color, but also have softness, some staircasing and motion blur.  That is better than a PAL analog taping, but it is not the best we have seen in the genre.  Some shots do look good in all three cases here and there.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the Mehta/Wagner DVDs are shockingly weak and (no pun intended) look a bit watered down versus the Blu-rays.


All have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mixes that just stretch the original audio sources out too much on the Blu-rays and their PCM 2.0 Stereo alternatives in all five releases are just fine to that kind of two-channel, but nothing spectacular.  As well, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on the Wagner DVDs are not too bad, have good surrounds and suggest Unitel should have stuck with DTS-MA 5.1 for the Blu-rays.


Extras include a nice color booklet inside all versions explaining the programs in several languages, while the Wagner discs add brief interview pieces, credits and previews.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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