Glyndebourne Festival Opera

Le Nozze Di Figaro

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Details At A Glance

Category Music Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1994 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 188:57 minutes Other Extras Cast & Characters
Scene Synopsis
RSDL/Flipper Flipper (97:18)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,3,4,5,6 Director Stephen Medcalf (Opera)
Derek Bailey (Video)

Warner Vision Australia
Starring Gerald Finley
Alison Hagley
Renee Fleming
Andreas Schmidt
London Philharmonic
Bernard Haitink
Case Super Jewel Case
RRP $39.95 Music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0, 448 Kb/s) 
Italian (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Since DVD is the perfect marriage of digital audio and digital video, it is an exceedingly obvious format with which to embrace opera, the original marriage of the audio and visual experience. And there would seem to be no more logical choice with which to embrace the arrival of opera on Region 4 DVD than perhaps the most accessible opera ever written - Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). Composed by the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1786 to a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, this is one of three great Italian comic operas from the height of Mozart's powers. Long a favourite with audiences, there is no better start for novices to opera than this masterpiece. And over the years there have been some great performances at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera of this work. Whilst this is perhaps not the absolute very best, it is certainly amongst the best, and an exceptionally enjoyable entree into the genre on DVD.

    The broad synopsis of this great opera is precisely its title: Figaro, a page boy in the house of the philandering Count Almaviva, is to be married to Susanna, a maid to the Countess. Only problem is that Susanna is the current target of the amorous intentions of the Count, and Figaro has apparently made a previous contract of marriage, for money lent to him, with Marcellina, who is insisting upon the contract being honoured. Add into the mix Cherubino, a page with an eye for the ladies (all of them, including the Countess), Basilio, the scheming music teacher, the Countess determined to stop and forgive the philandering ways of her husband, and all manner of intrigues and interruptions, and you have a comic opera of epic proportions - including such twists as Figaro being the long lost son of Marcellina and Bartolo, for whom she is the housekeeper. At their happy reunion for instance, Susanna bursts in and completely misinterprets what is going on, leading everything off into another direction, although marriage certainly ranks in there for Figaro and Susanna.

    This is a glorious masterpiece of the genre, and if you have never had the chance to see an opera, then this is the one to start with. Magnificent music, some quite glorious arias and a genuinely funny story. Whilst this is not the greatest cast ever assembled for this opera, it is certainly a a very good one. Alison Hagley is absolutely wonderful as Susanna (she appears in the role on one of the very best CD recordings of this opera, recorded the previous year) and is the standout here, outshining even the more famous Renee Fleming who is charming as the Countess. Gerald Finley is a good Figaro, if not especially idiomatic, whilst Andreas Schmidt is quite wonderfully imperious as the Count. Amongst the support cast, Robert Tear is especially notably as Basilio. Bernard Haitink has conducted the opera a number of times at Glyndebourne, generally to good success, and whilst this 1994 effort (apparently the opening performance at the new theatre at Glyndebourne) is a slightly relaxed approach to the opera, it is convincing enough indeed. The music is provided by the London Philharmonic, whose credentials are not be doubted. Apparently this received much acclaim upon its performance, and certainly the audience gave an enthusiastic ovation at the conclusion of the performance. Overall, an enjoyable rendition of this great opera that bodes well for further releases in the series.

Transfer Quality


    One thing is quite readily apparent with the transfer - how clean it is, with nothing to distract you from the enjoyment.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

    The transfer is sharp and well defined throughout, very slightly marred only by a couple of minor lapses of soft focus. This is helped by the very clean and clear transfer, although depth in such a stage production is not that great: obviously this is not a transfer problem but rather an inherent problem with the production.

    The colours have quite a rich tone to them, although it is a quite natural looking colourscape. This is not an especially vibrant transfer, nor would you expect it to be, being a stage production. The colours are consistently rendered, and there did not appear to be any problem with colour oversaturation or bleeding, except during Act IV where the blue backlit backdrop causes some minor problems.

    There did not appear to be any MPEG or film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, except for some minor problems with the rather large bookcase used as the backdrop to Act III. There was almost a complete absence of film artefacts, which was a very pleasant surprise. From the point of view of purely a video transfer, this is a very clean, natural transfer, virtually without fault that I was not expecting at all.

    This is technically a flipper disc, with the change coming between Act 2 and Act 3 at 97:18. This however seems a harsh call, as this is generally the intermission during the opera: nonetheless, RSDL formatting would have been much more preferable.


    But of course, opera is about singing and music, and this is where the quality needs to be heard.

    There are two audio tracks on the DVD, an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and an Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Don't panic yet, as this is the correct language of the opera: hence the reason for the English subtitles to assist your understanding. Note that even though they are Italian soundtracks, they are flagged to your DVD player as English. I listened to both soundtracks, and there are quite substantial differences between them.

    The vocals generally came up clear and understandable in the soundtracks, although at times the 5.1 soundtrack did seem to fluctuate a little in the audio level. This is perhaps an inherent problem with the staging of the opera, as certain scenes have little asides going on during the main singing, and these are occasionally difficult to pick up on. This was not a significant problem with the 2.0 soundtrack, but then again that soundtrack misses out on quite a lot of spatial detail.

    Audio sync did not appear to be a problem with either soundtrack.

    The 5.1 soundtrack makes very good use of the surround channels, the rear channels being especially effective with the music. Since opera is very dialogue based, it is important that this is effectively balanced, and in that regard I have no complaints with the 5.1 soundtrack. A quite wonderfully encompassing sound is generated by the soundtrack and you certainly feel as if you are present at the performance. The bass channel gets some quite minor, but effective work, mainly during music sequences.

    The 2.0 soundtrack obviously loses a lot of that detail from the surround channels, and at times the lack is very noticeable, and I doubt that I would listen to this soundtrack given the choice. In general, this is a less effective soundtrack as the sound is a little more recessed. However, if you do not have a 5.1 decoder or the full complement of surround speakers, by adjusting the audio level up a little, this is still a solid, dependable soundtrack that will generate much enjoyment.


    True opera buffs will probably lament long and hard about the lack of a full libretto, although the subtitles do help in this regard, and this may be something that needs to be considered for future releases.


    A very stylish menu, in the Glyndebourne house colours, is a different approach, but it is very difficult to see which is the highlighted option in most menus, as the colour seems to go from green to a darker green highlight. This sort of minor irritation should really not happen in menu designs, and I hope that this will be fixed in any future local pressing.

Cast and Characters

    Very brief biographical information of the main cast members and a very brief description of the role they sing. This could really have been, and should really have been, so much more.


    Provides a quite reasonable synopsis of the opera in four languages, which at least gives a guide to the opera in the absence of a full libretto.

R4 vs R1

    As far as I can determine from resources I have checked out, this has not yet been released in Region 1.


    From a performance point of view, La Nozze Di Figaro is a pleasurable disc that starts Region 4 opera off on a good note. Given the entire Glyndebourne Festival Opera legacy which should be available on film, I trust that we will be seeing more in the future. However, I sincerely hope that efforts will be made to strengthen the extras package. Even simple questions such as what the Glyndebourne Festival Opera is were not covered in the documentation, and if the intent is to attract core opera fans to the medium, then full librettos are almost essential I am afraid - although I appreciate that this is difficult with the super jewel case packaging.

    A fine video transfer.

    An equally good audio transfer.

    A decent package of extras, but the scope for something really special was huge.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
31st October 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL