Joaquin Achucarro – Brahms Piano Concerto
No.2/Davis (Blu-ray) +
English-language Operas (Merry
Widow/Franz Lehar Blu-ray & Sophie’s
Choice/Maw DVD) + 3 Verdi Blu-rays: + La
Traviata/Maazel + Falstaff/Glyndebourne
+ Othello/Muti (ArtHaus/Opus
Arte/Unitel Classical/C Major/Naxos)
B-/B/C/B-/C+/B Sound: B-/B-/B/B+/B/B Extras: C+ (Choice: C) Concerts: B (Choice: C+)
latest look at Operas from the great labels distributed by Naxos
can be broken down into three parts.
First we have the fine pianist Joaquin Achucarro playing the amazing
Johannes Brahms, who we have not had enough of a chance to cover. This 2009 concert has Achucarro rejoining the London Symphony Orchestra 50 years after he
originally debuted with them. With
Conductor Colin Davis, they back Achucarro performing Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83 and the results of
this Opus Arte Blu-ray release are not bad at all. However, the 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High
Definition image can be a little soft and PCM 5.1 mix (better than the PCM 2.0
Stereo also included) is good, but too much towards the front speakers for my
tastes, but purists might prefer it that way.
It is a better concert than you might expect and extras on the disc
include four bonus performances by Achucarro of another Brahms piece, plus
classics by Chopin, Scriabin and Albeniz, plus a behind the scenes interview
featurette. Very interesting all around.
get two rare English-language operas in two different formats with two
different results. Nicholas Maw has turned the Holocaust drama Sophie’s Choice (from the novel like the film) into an opera and
though it is an interesting attempt and idea, it is sincere and ambitious, but
the results are uneven and nearly problematic.
Being in English makes it odder, but the singer/actors give it their
best, but I believe this one will be for diehard fans of the book or of opera
only. The DTS 5.1 sound mix is
excellent, but the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the DVD is weak
and if you have a Blu-ray player, you might want to wait for that version
instead as this is shot in 1080i High Definition video. A Cast Gallery, Interview with Conductor
Simon Rattle and Illustrated Synopsis are the extras.
I have anything against English-language operas. I was very impressed with the Franz Lehar operetta The Merry Widow by Lotti Mansouri as
her final work as General Director of The San Francisco Opera is a grand
production of the tale of Anna Glawari, the title character who becomes caught
up in rare options for a woman of the time with her money after her husband’s
death and the opportunities thereof.
With its sly comedy and great cast of performers (we even get ballet
here), this is my favorite of the six for content simply because it is such an
the undertaking here goes all out and impresses throughout. The energy here is met with a certain joy
that makes the whole show most impressive and Yvonne Kenny is on target as
Anna. The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High
Definition image even looks really good with limited motion blur, fine color
and more image stability than usual for such a shoot. However, the one shortcoming is that the
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) mix is only 4.0!
That means phantom center channel activity if that and though it is
better than the PCM 2.0 Stereo mix, I bet this would have been an audio gem in
DTS-MA 7.1! A Cast Gallery, Impressions
by those involved with the show and Illustrated Synopsis are the extras.
we have three operas by Giuseppe Verdi, one of which we covered before: La Traviata from Conductor Lorin
Maazel, Live from La Scala 2007. Here is the enthusiastic previous review by
our fellow critic:
happens to have the best audio of all six releases with its DTS-HD MA (Master
Audio) lossless 7.1 mix working very effectively and this reissue is likely
happening on its popularity and success.
The covers are nearly the same (you can see the original cover with the
previous review) and the disc boasts 70 minutes worth of highlights from 26
other ArtHaus Blu-ray releases, most of which we have covered, so they rightly
believe it is a showcase for the catalog and format.
I was not
as big a fan of the show, but still think it is excellent, but was disappointed
by the 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image, which is a little
weak. Unless the previous Blu-ray looked
better, this is a better release.
got Verdi’s Falstaff, another key
title we have never covered, in an excellent and lively performance by The
London Philharmonic Orchestra and The Glyndebourne
Chorus. Conductor Vladimir Jurowski and
Stage Director Richard Jones make this really come to life in a presentation
that never fails to work. The 1080i 1.78
X 1 digital High Definition image is sadly the poorest of the five Blu-ray
releases, yet I liked the costumes and production design. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mix
is really good and helps to overcome the picture limits. The singing is not only great, but the
singer/actors have great chemistry. A
Cast Gallery and Illustrated Synopsis are the Blu-ray’s extras.
Classica/C Major has issued the Riccardo
Muti version of Verdi’s Othello
and after seeing the tale being badly done, undone and poorly done of late in
non-operatic form, is nice to see such a rich, professional, grand production
from the 2008 Salzburg Festival.
Aleksandrs Antonenko plays the title character and is joined by a strong
cast in a version we could consider reference quality for content. Fortunately, the 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High
Definition image (with little motion blur) and DTS-HD MA (Master Audio)
lossless 5.1 mix are also excellent, but this runs a long 143 minutes. Fortunately, they have the energy and talent
to keep it going. A 20-minutes-long Talking Othello featurette is also
informative booklets with essays and production detail.
- Nicholas Sheffo