Mozart-Die Zauberflöte (Hartmann/Röschmann/Davis) (HD DVD) (2003)

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Released 24-Oct-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera Main Menu Animation
Booklet
Synopsis
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Interviews-Crew-Sir Colin Davis
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 162:27 (Case: 182)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Sue Judd
Studio
Distributor
Opus Arte
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Willi Hartmann
Dorothea Röschmann
Diana Damrau
Franz-Josef Selig
Simon Keenlyside
Ailish Tynan
Adrian Thompson
Gillian Webster
Christine Rice
Yvonne Howard
Thomas Allen
Matthew Beale
Richard Van Allan
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $89.95 Music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby TrueHD 2.0
German Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Die Zauberflöte, or The Magic Flute, was the last opera completed by Mozart. It was premiered in Vienna in 1791 just two months before his death. It takes the form of a singspiel, combining singing and spoken dialogue, similar to his Die Entführung aus dem Serail and others.

    The story is a metaphorical one. Pamina (Dorothea Röschmann) has been abducted by Sarastro (Franz-Josef Selig). Sarastro is the priest of the temple of Isis and Osiris, and seeks to remove Pamina from the influence of her mother, the Queen of the Night (Diana Damrau). She has enlisted the aid of Prince Tamino (Will Hartmann), who with the birdcatcher Papageno (Simon Keenlyside) heads off to rescue Pamina. Sarastro tells Tamino that he can win Pamina if he undergoes a series of trials. In the course of the trials he is enlightened as to the real natures of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night.

    The libretto was written by Emanuel Schikaneder, a Vienna impresario whose troupe put on the first production. Schikaneder played Papageno in the first performance. Like Mozart he was a Freemason, and there are many symbols of and references to Masonry in the opera.

    This performance comes from the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. The production was designed by David McVicar, and is a mixed bag of traditional staging and costumes and various anachronisms. For example while most of the characters wear 18th century garb and powdered wigs, Papageno wears a cardigan, Papagena is dressed up as a modern tart and the three boys wear school uniforms. They also get about in a go-kart with wings. Also, Monostatos is played by a portly white man in a wig with excessive makeup, even though the character is a Moor.

    These oddities aside the production works very well, helped by an non-idiosyncratic performance of the score by the orchestra under Sir Colin Davis. Some of the singers do not stand out, especially the Tamino, but there are excellent turns by Röschmann, Damrau and Keenlyside. Damrau has no problems with the difficult Queen of the Night aria (Die Hölle Rache) with all of its high notes, while Röschmann looks and sounds like someone you might want to go through a series of trials to win. Keenlyside sings extremely well as Papageno, and his acting isn't too shabby either.

    Now available on HD DVD, this recording is well worth obtaining if you have a player.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video is provided in 1080/60i, which seems to be the format in which it was recorded, and I watched it at this resolution. I'm not able to exactly measure the aspect ratio, but I'm certain it is 1.78:1.

    The level of fine detail in this transfer is exceptional, to the extent that you can clearly see blemishes on the skin of the performers. It isn't entirely perfect, as in one or two shots hair seems a little lacking in very fine detail. However in wider shots there is no loss of detail like there is on DVDs of live opera, so this is a great improvement over standard definition. It does however highlight some parts of the video which are slightly out of focus.

    Colour is also greatly improved. There is a vividness and richness to the colour, such as the red and gold outfit worn by Sarastro, that you do not see on DVD. Flesh tones are as realistic as the lighting allows, and there is plenty of flesh on display given the costume designer's apparent fondness for cleavage.

    Shadow detail is good though it is affected by the amount of video noise. As this staging was filmed live with high definition video cameras, the usual problems with dealing with subdued lighting occur. In the darker backgrounds there is a lot of low level noise, and some shots have a film of video noise over them.

    I also noticed one instance of aliasing, at the very start of the programme as the conductor ascends the rostrum. The rostrum and his score briefly flutter. Aside from that there was a single very brief instance of moire at approximately 15:00 on Papageno's wicker birdcage.

    There were two brief video glitches that looked like minor breakups of the image, horizontal blocks appearing across the image. These were at 63:06 and 140:46. A quick clean of the disc did not remove them, though I cannot be certain that these are in the video stream or simply a glitch with the review disc.

    I did not notice any layer break. Optional subtitles in a very clear white font are provided, and I had no issues with these. There are no subtitles for the extras.

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

Audio

    There are two audio tracks provided, in stereo and 5.1 surround with both in Dolby TrueHD. My player does not provide information about the bitrates or even the number of channels being used. I listened to the surround track in full and sampled the stereo version, both decoded by the player and output via the 5.1 analogue connections.

    I have noticed with this player that the audio seems to be a lower level than I get from my DVD player, and therefore at normal reference levels the audio seems a little lacking in body. Even when the volume is turned up the nature of the orchestral sound means that the sound is not as full as with a more traditionally sized ensemble. The voices seem a little distant most of the time, but as the volume increases when they are at the front of the stage this must be due to microphone placement.

    The audio is very good indeed. Fidelity is excellent and the audio sounds more rounded and less brittle than it would on DVD. There is a wide dynamic range. There are fewer stage noises than would be expected, again undoubtedly due to the placement of the microphones. The layout of the orchestra comes across clearly in the soundstage.

    The surround track has the audience sounds (applause, coughing) coming from the rear channels more than the front, which make the listener feel as if he was in the front stalls. While the case states that the surround track is 5.1, and there is plenty of bass, I did not notice any subwoofer activity. The stereo track is also very good. I did not notice any increase in detail or in the quality of the sound in the stereo format, only a loss of some of the surround information which meant that the sound seemed a little more distant.

    There were no issues with audio sync.

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

Extras

Main Menu Animation

    Stars and a moon, which spins.

Booklet

    The booklet contains a brief essay about the opera, repeated in several languages. There is also a cast list and track listing.

Illustrated Synopsis (4:04)

    A spoken synopsis with images from the opera.

Cast Gallery (0:52)

    Stills of the cast members with their names and those of the characters they play.

Featurette-A Look Behind the Scenes (6:17)

    This brief puff piece, in standard definition, has snippets from the below interview with the conductor and a separate interview with the director.

Interview-Sir Colin Davis (9:31)

    This interview covers Davis' approach to the work, with some repetition from the featurette.

R4 vs R1

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

    This release is identical worldwide.

Summary

    A fine performance of this popular work.

    The video quality is very good but not perfect.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    A couple of minor extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, January 21, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba HD-A35, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW60 SXRD projector with 95" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into HD DVD Player, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationReceiver: Pioneer VSX-AX4ASIS; Power Amplifiers: Elektra Reference (mains), Elektra Theatron (centre/rears)
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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