A Night With Handel

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Details At A Glance

Category Music Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1996 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 50:40 minutes Other Extras Isolated Music Score
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,3,4,5,6 Director Alexander Marengo

Warner Vision Australia
Starring Jonathan Keates
John Mark Ainsley
Rosa Mannion
Alastair Miles
Sarah Connolly
Claron McFadden
Christopher Robson
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Case Super Jewel Case
RRP $39.95 Music George Frideric Handel

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s) 
French (Dolby Digital 2.0, 448 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0, 448 Kb/s)
English (Linear PCM 48/16 2.0, 1536 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits Yes, in credits

Plot Synopsis

    George Frideric Handel was one of the great composers of the Baroque era, known mainly nowadays for two great orchestral compositions - "Music for the Royal Fireworks" and "The Water Music". He was however one of the great opera composers of the era, even though his operas quickly fell out of favour (like most operas of the day). This is a documentary, made for television, about Handel, with arias from eight of his operas and oratorios, sung in their original language, but set in modern London.

Transfer Quality


    Bearing in mind that this was made for television, this is not too bad a transfer, although a little inconsistent.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, but it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is a little variable in quality, some portions being quite sharp, whilst others are quite soft. It is not an especially well defined transfer, with not too much depth at times. Clarity is also a little inconsistent as a result.

    The colours are quite richly toned, although at times verging on being a little too dark. This is not an especially vibrant transfer. However, I believe that this is the way the documentary was filmed rather than being a transfer problem. Certainly some of the exterior lighting would made the balance between vibrancy and tone a little difficult to balance, especially since it is all filmed in London at night. The lighting used for filming the presenter, interviewees and performers also seemed to be a little over bright, creating quite pale skin tones, which did not really help the transfer. The colours were reasonably consistently rendered, and there did not appear to be any problem with colour oversaturation or bleeding.

    There did not appear to be any MPEG or film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. There were a few inconsequential film artefacts, but nothing to distract from the documentary.


    With respect of the documentary, there are three audio tracks on the DVD, all Dolby Digital 2.0: English, French and German. I listened to the English default but also sampled the French and German soundtracks. You will note that the data rate for the English soundtrack is lower than the French and German, yet upon listening the English soundtrack is the better sounding of the three. The French and German soundtracks are more recessed than the English soundtrack and do not sound quite so well balanced. Note that even though the soundtracks are listed as shown, the arias are sung in their original language (seven in Italian and one in English), with appropriate subtitles.

    The vocals and narration came up very clear and understandable in the soundtrack.

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

    The soundtrack is not surround encoded, so there is limited use of the surround channels at all, and the overall sound is quite front and centre stereo. Nonetheless, it is a reasonably balanced soundtrack and there is not an awful lot to complain about here, given that it is mainly dialogue and singing. Obviously, nothing gets sent to the bass channel at all.

    The Linear PCM soundtrack is solely applicable to what I have termed the isolated music score. This is a separate menu item allowing direct access to just the arias, separate from the documentary, which are sung over the top of a menu slide that gives a brief detail of the setting of the aria. This sounds very much like the sound would off a compact disc, with a higher sound level than that applicable to the documentary.


    Apart from the isolated music score, there are limited other extras in the DVD package.


    A reasonably well themed menu style, but without any enhancement, although it is a little difficult to note which is the highlighted menu option.

Isolated Music Score


    A reasonably informative, although not especially comprehensive, look at Handel's place in opera.

R4 vs R1

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


    Given the vast number of operas that George Frideric Handel wrote, without considering the oratorios, I would have thought that they could have come up with a little more than a 50 minute documentary. But for what it is, this is a reasonably interesting DVD and contains eight quite beautiful arias, well sung by the chosen singers. As a sampler of the greater art of Handel, worth a look.

    A good, if not especially great video transfer.

    A good audio transfer.

    The extras are reasonable, but could perhaps have been a little more expansive.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
30th 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