|Year Released||1994||Commentary Tracks||None|
|Running Time||188:57 minutes||Other Extras||Cast & Characters
|Region||2,3,4,5,6||Director||Stephen Medcalf (Opera)
Derek Bailey (Video)
Warner Vision Australia
|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||
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
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.
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.
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.
A fine video transfer.
An equally good audio transfer.
A decent package of extras, but the scope for something really special was huge.
© Ian Morris
31st October 1999
|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|