Massenet: His Life And Music

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Details At A Glance

Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Featurette - Additional Interviews (4) (21:07)
Year Released 1999
Running Time 56:29 minutes
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Scott Murray
Melba Recordings 
Starring Richard Bonynge 
Dame Joan Sutherland
Thomas Hampson
Graham Johnson
Rodney Milnes
Anne Bessand-Massenet
Case Transparent Brackley - no lip
RPI $? Music Jules Massenet

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

   Every so often something a little out of the ordinary comes along for review that adds a little spark to the review process, which I am sure that most reviewers will assure you is not exactly a bed of roses. It could be an unusually good film when you were not expecting one, or it could be something that you were not expecting at all owing to a misunderstanding. Sometimes, it can be just asking for something for the sheer heck of getting it off the unreviewed lists. Basically this falls into the latter category, for whilst I am a fan of classical music, in all honesty I cannot say I am a fan of documentaries about long-dead composers. So the expectations were not great when sitting down to watch the DVD. Whilst I am certainly aware of the music of Jules Massenet, notably some wonderful operas (now when are they coming on to DVD?), I cannot say that I am that familiar with his work overall. So basically this was looking like being a turkey of a review session: a composer whom I knew little about presented on a documentary DVD.

   Of course, it did not end up being this at all. Whilst I would hardly say it was the most fascinating DVD I have ever seen, within the context of its rather short length it does a fair fist of presenting a summation of the life and work of this esteemed French composer. Comprising mainly interview material from a wealth of people involved in music or indeed a distant relative of the man, this is not a drag of a programme at all. Fleshing out the interviews are a number of still photographs as well as filmed excerpts from a couple of his operas. Nothing really radically different but a nice job nonetheless.

    What really makes you take notice however is the fact that this is actually an Australian DVD. Quite why an Australian company should be releasing a DVD about a French composer does pose an interesting question, for I would have bet fair dollars that this sort of material does not have a huge domestic market. Still, you cannot knock the enterprise shown and given the general quality of the presentation here, you certainly have to give this DVD a firm recommendation indeed.

Transfer Quality


    It does not take much to figure out that this programme is to some extent a labour of love for those involved in producing it. This is really a seriously good-looking DVD, adding enormously to what is a well thought out programme.

    The transfer itself is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. Funny how a small Australia company can produce 16x9 enhanced DVDs, of specialist market material, whilst major multinational off-shoots cannot or will not consistently do the same.

    Basically, apart from two rather unusual artefacts, this is a quite gorgeous looking transfer. Nice and sharp, very well detailed, exceptionally clear and with no indication whatsoever of grain or low level noise. The only drop off from these lofty heights is during the archival performance material, and that is hardly the fault of the producers of the DVD. This really is stunningly good stuff.

    And then you have this gorgeous colour palette - wonderfully saturated without a hint of oversaturation, this is a visual treat far too good for the sort of programming that it is! Nice solid, unwavering tones throughout the range of colours ensure that there is nothing here to complain about at all. Nicely vibrant, a pity that we don't see this sort of quality more often.

    There are no noticeable MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are instances of rather minor aliasing at various points in the transfer, but nothing that detracts away from the programme. The only let-downs are at 13:04 and again at 18:12 where there is some unusual white dotted banding across the two archival photos being shown. In the case of the former the banding moves during an upward pan. After the superb quality seen elsewhere, this is a rather obvious problem even though it does not last long and is not really that distracting. There did not appear to be any film artefacts present in the transfer.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is just the sole soundtrack on offer on this DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up very well, very clear and easy to understand, whilst the music excerpts are similarly very good. There did not appear to be any audio sync problems in the transfer.

    Given that it is a documentary, obviously there are no great expectations as far as the soundtrack is concerned. All it needs to do is convey the dialogue and music as clearly and decently as possible, and that is what it does. Nothing spectacular, just good, open, distortion-free sound. Most acceptable indeed. Obviously the surround and bass channels are not in use at all here.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Not exactly much of an extras package here, and I would question why the additional interview material could not have been included in an extended main programme given that the total contents of the DVD would hardly stretch the capacity of the DVD.


    Neatly and classily done, with some decent audio enhancement to the main menu.

Featurette - Additional Interviews (4) (21:07)

    Featuring additional interview material with Graham Johnson (6:51), Rodney Milnes (4:10), John Cox (3:44) and Thomas Hampson (6:22), this is as interesting as the main programming - and is presented in an identical manner to the main programming, right down to the same gorgeous video standards.


    Not quite as interesting as the interviews, and not quite as well presented as the DVD itself.


    As far as we have been able to ascertain, there are no censorship issues with this title.

R4 vs R1

    This does not appear to have been released in Region 1.


    Massenet: His Life And Music is obviously pretty much strictly for fans of the man and his music. However, the programme has been given a pretty fine DVD that will not disappoint those who do indulge this reasonably entertaining and informative documentary.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
21st May, 2001.

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. 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 C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL