Mozart-Le Nozze di Figaro (Spagnoli, Dasch, Concerto Koln, Jacobs) (2004) (NTSC)

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Released 13-Dec-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera Booklet
Main Menu Audio
Trailer-3
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 182:23
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (50:55)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Pierre Barré
Studio
Distributor
Bel Air Classiques
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Pietro Spagnoli
Annette Dasch
Rosemary Joshua
Luca Pisaroni
Angelika Kirchschlager
Sophie Pondjiclis
Alessandro Svab
Antonio Abete
Enrico Facini
Pauline Courtin
Serge Goubioud
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI $99.95 Music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Italian Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Italian
French
English
German
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    One of Mozart's greatest works, Le Nozze di Figaro was composed in 1786 from a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. The libretto was based on the controversial play by Beaumarchais which had been widely banned in Europe after its premiere two years earlier. In the more enlightened climate of Vienna and with the political elements removed or toned down, the opera achieved great success and has been a staple of the stage ever since.

    The story follows on from that told in The Barber of Seville, which itself was later set to music by Rossini. Having engineered Count Almaviva's marriage to Rosina in the previous instalment, the barber is now servant to the Count and himself engaged to Susanna. The Count has renounced his droit de seigneur, or the feudal right to deflower virgins, but in Susanna's case he seeks to reclaim this right. The Countess is not pleased that her husband has a roving eye and wishes herself to reclaim her rightful place in his affections. Meanwhile the youthful Cherubino is enamoured of the Countess and just about anything in skirts besides. The story plays out the attempts by each of the parties to achieve their own ends and thwart those of the others, with Mozart supplying many memorable pieces of music to illuminate the text and delight the ear.

    This production from the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées is just about ideal. The Concerto Köln, a period instruments ensemble, is conducted by René Jacobs whose earlier studio recording of the opera is highly praised. The staging has the cast in costumes in the style of the 18th century, and the sets, while not traditional, are not distracting either. They comprise mainly various paintings and parts thereof which appear at intervals on the stage. The final scenes have painted backdrops of flowers and foliage to convey the setting of a garden.

    The stage direction fits the story, and while there are a couple of touches which do not work well this feels like a performance of the opera and not of someone's re-imagining of it. There are also some risqué touches that fit the story and the era like a glove. Not that it is by any means a bawdy romp. The acting is fine by the youthful cast, especially Pietro Spagnoli's Count who comes across as both aristocratic and shamelessly devious. The singing is very good too. Annette Dasch as the Countess looks about twenty and recovers well from a timid start vocally. Looking at her it's hard to imagine why the Count would seek his pleasures elsewhere, particularly as Rosemary Joshua's Susanna looks ten years older. Luca Pisaroni is in fine voice as Figaro. Angelika Kirchschlager as Cherubino is the name performer in this ensemble, and while she sings and acts very well in this breeches role she seems a little too old compared to the rest of the cast. Of course in the theatre this would not have made much difference, but with the close-up view of video it is more obvious. The smaller parts are also well cast, despite Sophie Pondjiclis as Marcellina looking no older than Figaro, though she is supposed to be his real mother.

    This is a very enjoyable performance of the work that puts it across more as a fresh chamber opera than a old warhorse. It's by far the best recorded performance of the opera that I have seen. Like Jacobs' award-winning recording, which was made the previous year with an mostly different cast, it is destined to become the definitive document of this masterwork. That studio recording is available on Super Audio CD, and one would hope that this video production also becomes available in a high definition format in the not too distant future.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video is NTSC and is in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The video quality is not ideal on a large screen, but having said that it is still very good. Colours are excellent with lifelike flesh tones. The combination of pastel and bright colours in the sets and costumes is conveyed very well. The stage lighting is bright enough that nothing is obscured by shadows. The transfer is bright and clear.

    The problem with the transfer is that while it is sharp, there is some mild blurring in motion. While this might not be an issue on smaller displays, when projected to seven feet it is noticeable and distracting.

    Apart from this there is some Gibb Effect and what looks like edge enhancement, though neither is prominent. Low level noise is visible in the backgrounds, but I had to look for it to see it, so I would not consider this a problem. There was one instance of aliasing at 5:04. As this is a video recording there are no film artefacts.

    Optional English subtitles, which are not on by default, are in a clear white font and are easy to read. While repeats are not subtitled everything else is, and I could not fault them.

    The opera comes on two discs, with Acts One and Two on Disc One. Each is RSDL-formatted. On Disc One the layer change is at 50:55, just after the first aria of Act Two and while it does not interrupt the music it is noticeable. The layer change on the second disc is better placed in a break between scenes at 50:38.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is a choice of three audio tracks. I listened to the DTS 5.1 track in full and sampled the Dolby Digital 5.1 and Linear PCM 2.0 tracks.

    The audio is excellent in general terms. The recorded balance favours the orchestra on the surround tracks, and voices coming from centre stage seem a little recessed compared to those coming from the sides of the stage. The instruments come through clearly and individual players can be picked out. Bass is excellent, with a great deal of body and tightness. The rasp of violins and the brilliant brass is a pleasure to listen to. I think this is helped by the orchestra pit being an open one in front of the stage. The soundstage is very frontal, with only applause and the occasional cough being directionally placed from the rear channels. The rears are otherwise carrying reverberations of the music which give the impression that the listener is somewhere towards the front of the audience.

    While there is a .1 channel, there do not appear to be any low frequency effects, and the only work my subwoofer did was for the low frequencies redirected from the centre and rear channels. There isn't really anything that calls for an LFE channel in the soundtrack.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is basically the same as the DTS track at a lower level. Perhaps there is slightly more warmth to the bass and a little more air around the instruments on the DTS track, but the difference is negligible.

    The Linear PCM track, while lacking the ambience of the surround tracks, has one advantage in that the voices seem to be better mixed and less prone to being drowned out by the orchestra. I suspect that the centre channel level in the surround tracks is lower than it should be. On the other hand the surround tracks might better approximate the sound you would hear in the theatre. The PCM track is very good indeed and viewers who prefer listening to music in stereo or who do not have surround sound capability would not feel that they are missing anything.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    Some of the music from the opera accompanies the static menu.

Booklet

    A 36-page booklet with credits, synopsis, essays by the stage director and conductor and a biography of the latter all repeated in various languages and with a few colour photographs.

Trailers (9:18)

    This is basically one long trailer combining excerpts from three DVDs, though each can be selected separately. Prokofiev's ballet Cinderella, Verdi's La Traviata and Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea are included. All are widescreen and 16x9 enhanced and there are no subtitles.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as I can tell this release is identical to those released in other regions.

Summary

    A superb performance of one of Mozart's best operas.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    Extras are a bit thin.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 LCD Projector projected to 80" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES for surrounds, Elektra Reference power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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