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)
& C+/B/B- & C/B & C Sound: B
Extras: C+ (ballo: C)
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:
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.
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!
liked this one and it deserves rediscovery more than just about any other Opera
I have seen in many years.
previously reviewed the Royal Opera version of Harrison Birtwistle’s The Minotaur on DVD, which you can read
more about at this link:
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.
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
The result is a look at U.S.
culture of the time that still resonates today.
This is sung in Italian.
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.
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.
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