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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical > Opera > Concert > Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Teatro Real/Blu-ray)/Cavalli’s Ercole Amante (Blu-ray + DVD)/Birtwistle’s The Minotaur (Blu-ray)/Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (Schneider/Blu-ray + 3-DVD Set)/Verdi’s un ballo in

Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Teatro Real/Blu-ray)/Cavalli’s Ercole Amante (Blu-ray + DVD)/Birtwistle’s The Minotaur (Blu-ray)/Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (Schneider/Blu-ray + 3-DVD Set)/Verdi’s un ballo in maschera (Blu-ray + DVD Set/all Naxos/Opus Arte)


Picture: B/B & C+/B/B- & C/B & C     Sound: B     Extras: C+ (ballo: C)


Operas/Concerts: B



In one of the better rounds of classical Blu-ray (and in some cases, DVD at the same time) releases, Naxos offers five well-done, elaborate adaptations of exceptional works that rank among the more entertaining and effective in this cycle of such releases.  We previously covered another fine Don Giovanni from Opus Arte at this link:





I liked that one too, but this version from Madrid is just as passionate, full and rich as that Royal Opera House version.  There is just something about this Mozart classic that seems to pull the singer/actors together in its tale of darkness and deceit.  This take is visually darker, yet also sports an exceptional use of color throughout.



This was the first time any of us covered Ercole Amante, an underseen, underrated Francesco Cavalli work that was actually commissioned for the marriage of the Sun King, Louis XIV and Marie-Therese of Spain.  The title character is a hero in a struggle over the future and how a marriage might just have on it.  Experimental in its time, Constance Hoffman’s costumes are exceptionally clever in bringing out the daring of the work back in the 1660s!


I really liked this one and it deserves rediscovery more than just about any other Opera I have seen in many years.



We previously reviewed the Royal Opera version of Harrison Birtwistle’s The Minotaur on DVD, which you can read more about at this link:





I liked this very much, though my fellow writer liked it even more than I did, but I cannot say I blame him.  This is a passionate retelling of the tale with the actors/singers in top form.  I wish I had seen it on Blu-ray first and now you’ll have that option.



We did an earlier Tristan und Isolde, but what struck me about this version is its obsession with modern domestic space and the mature casting of older actors in the roles.  This helps us separate Richard Wagner’s classic from the many attempts in modern retelling to make it a Romeo & Juliet variant.  Remarkably, it flows very well and will surprise those who have been exposed to the many recent versions on Blu-ray and DVD, including the non-musical feature film I also liked very much.



Finally, Giuseppe Verdi’s un ballo in maschera is set in 19th-Century Boston, a melodrama of character study and the battles between the people in high society and how not-so-far they are from that society.  Dark, haunting and another underrated, underseen work, this Teatro Real/Royal Opera House production is top notch and it is very interesting to see any Opera set in any part of the United States.  The result is a look at U.S. culture of the time that still resonates today.  This is sung in Italian.



The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image in all cases is better than usual, save Tristan, which is a little softer and plagued with motion blur than expected though the stage production still looks good too.  I was surprised in how good the others looked with fine color and more image stability than usual for such productions.  Sadly, the anamorphically enhanced DVDs for Tristan and ballo are unusually weak, which made ballo a big surprise in comparison when the Blu-ray looked so much better.  That leaves Ercole the best looking of the DVD versions covered here and one of the best of the Blu-rays.


The sound on the Blu-rays are all DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mixes except ballo in PCM 5.1, with PCM 2.0 Stereo as secondary tracks in all cases, while the DVDs have DTS 5.1.  The DTS on the DVDs are pretty good, but hit a point of strain often that the lossless DTS and PCM 5.1 mixes do not, which makes for interesting sonic comparisons.  None of the Blu-ray versions had the kind of breakout soundfields I was expecting, but they were really good just the same.


Extras in all editions and formats include booklets inside their respective cases, while all discs also add Illustrated Synopsis and Cast Galleries.  Minotaur repeats its DVD documentary Myth Is Universal, Ercole adds separate behind-the-scenes pieces with star Luca Pisaroni and Johannette Zomer (who has multiple roles) & a making of making of featurette, Giovanni adds a single interview piece with Stage Director Lluis Pasqual, Actor Carlos Alvarez & Conductor Victor Pablo Perez, while Tristan has its own making of featurette “Kinder, macht was Neues!” and the interesting Conductor Cameras option to watch Peter Schneider in action the whole way through.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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