Tchaikovsky-Swan Lake (Letestu, Martinez, Paris Opera Ballet, Pahn)(HD DVD) (2005)

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Released 4-Jul-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Ballet Menu Animation
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 141:33 (Case: 145)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Francois Roussillon
Opus Arte
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Agnès Letestu
José Martinez
Karl Paquette
Case ?
RPI $59.95 Music Pyotr IlyichTchaikovsky

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Audio dts 2.0 (2304Kb/s)
Audio dts 5.0 (2304Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Swan Lake, premiered in 1877, was the first of the three great ballets by Tchaikovsky. It was not a success during his lifetime, and a version revised by other hands a couple of years after his death is basically the one which has been performed ever since.

    The story has Prince Siegfried being compelled by his mother to choose a bride at an upcoming ball. Unhappy about being forced into marriage, he goes out hunting swans. But at the lake a beautiful half-woman half-swan appears. It transpires that Odette is a princess herself, turned into a swan by the evil sorcerer Rothbart. Odette reveals that she can be freed by someone who swears undying love to her, and Siegfried by now has fallen for the feathery diva.

    At the ball Siegfried refuses the hands of all of the presented maidens, and instead chooses his love, who has appeared dressed in black with Rothbart. But fate holds a cruel twist in store.

    I should reveal here that I have no interest in ballet whatsoever, and even a fine performance like this 2005 effort, with Tchaikovsky's wonderful music, holds no revelations for me. It does seem to be very well done. The choreography is by the late Rudolf Nureyev, no less, and contains not just a recognisable narrative but also several impressive theatrical effects. The presentation is tempered somewhat by the frequent chopping and changing of the camera angle, which is distracting to say the least.

    This HD DVD is the first classical music title available in either high definition format. It gives me great expectations of the new formats for presenting musical performances. While the video portion is not perfect, it is a great improvement over standard definition and the audio is also greatly improved. Opus Arte have already announced the release of an opera title (The Magic Flute) on HD DVD and there are reports that several more will be on the way before the end of 2007. Hopefully Opus Arte will sort out the teething problems with the discs by then.

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Transfer Quality


Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080i. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 720p. More information can be found here.

    This HD DVD is presented in a resolution of 1080i/60Hz and an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The original recording was done in the same resolution.

    While imperfect, the video is vastly superior to what would be available in standard definition, particularly when using a projector. The image is remarkably sharp and clear, with plenty of detail. I doubt that the additional detail revealed by the ballerina's slight wardrobe malfunction when she first appears was intentional, however. The clarity is retained in the frequent wide angle shots, something that is typically lacking in standard definition DVD.

    Colour is very good indeed, with clean whites and natural flesh tones. Shadow detail is good but could have been better.

    There are artefacts but I suspect that these were present in the original recording and have not been introduced by the transfer. In some of the darker scenes, the gradations between lighted and unlighted portions of the background show some blocking, much like low level noise in fact. These were the only artefacts that I noticed.

    I had read on some internet forums that there was a lot of motion judder on this disc. However I don't think so. There is judder in some of the faster movements of legs and arms but I believe that it is an optical illusion caused by the persistence of vision, not an actual artefact present in the video.

    Optional subtitles are provided in English. These are only for the synopses shown (in French) at the beginning of each act.

    The disc is dual-layered. I believe the layer break occurs at around 65:51. At this point on playback my player locks-up. The video and the audio stop, even though the counter on the player display continues. Actually the audio doesn't quite stop. It continues to advance frame by frame very, very slowly. The way out of this was to bring up the menu. Then when I selected the same chapter (thirteen - The Big Swans Dance) it played through to about 67:17 without a hitch, after which it froze again, this time stopping completely. The only way out was to stop the disc entirely and reboot the player, and the only way to get to the next chapter (fourteen) was to select it from the chapter selection menu. A considerable annoyance given the amount of time the disc takes to load up, but not a complete disaster. Note that this issue has been reported by other users of this disc.

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


    Two audio tracks are provided. These are both DTS, one being 5.0 and the other 2.0. I listened to the surround track in full and sampled the stereo version. Both are listed on the cover as 48 Khz/24 bit.

    The audio is superb. The sound is clear and lacking the digital edge that affects virtually all standard definition DVD releases. There is air and space around the instruments. Decay is realistic, for example the decay of the ting of the triangles sounds just like in the concert hall.

    The surround track is geared to placing the listener in the front stalls of the theatre, so the rear channels are barely heard except during applause. I could not distinguish between audio coming from the front main speakers and the centre speaker, as the soundstage was very realistic.

    The stereo track is also exceptional, and conveys the bite and rasp of the brass more effectively than the surround track. In fact it seems to be noticeably superior to the surround track.

    Stage noises were very muted. I could barely hear the thumping of feet on the stage most of the time. I'm sure these would be more pronounced in a live setting.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Menu Animation

    On start-up the disc displays a menu rather than playing the feature immediately. The disc loads normally and displays the usual warnings, then chugs away for what seems like an excessively long time before the menu is displayed.

Synopsis (4:03)

    A spoken synopsis accompanied by stills from the production.

Cast Gallery

    Photos of the cast with names and characters.


   A 28-page booklet contains a lengthy essay about the ballet and the Nureyev production.

R4 vs R1

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

    This HD DVD is the same all around the world.


    A very good presentation of this HD material, though the disc has a few glitches.

    The video quality is excellent but not reference material.

    The audio quality is superb.

    Not much in the way of extra material.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba HD-A1, 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.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-AX4ASIS for surrounds, Elektra Reference for mains
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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