Nielsen-Maskarade (Byriel/Elming/Fischer/Royal Danish Orchestra/Schønwandt) (2006) (NTSC)

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Released 10-Jan-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera Booklet
Featurette-Introduction to Maskarade
Featurette-Making Of-Making of Maskarade
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 137:57
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (86:34) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Thorlief Hoppe
Studio
Distributor
Da Capo
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Sten Byriel
Poul Elming
Hanne Fischer
Mogens Gert Hansen
Anders Jakobsson
Jakob Bloch Jespersen
Stephen Milling
Susanne Resmark
Johan Reuter
Niels Jørgen Riis
Gisela Stille
Case PUSH-1 (Opaque)
RPI $49.95 Music Carl Nielsen


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Danish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Danish dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Danish Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/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 English
Danish
German
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Imagine if you will a movie done in the current style of fast edits and multiple camera angles, which on top of that cuts away from the actors every 5 or 10 seconds to show the crew working feverishly behind the scenes. At first this might be novel, but over the length of a movie it would quickly become tiresome and most people I think would lose interest. That's the problem with this DVD of Carl Nielsen's opera Maskarade.

    The video director has chosen to regularly cut away from the performers on stage to show the orchestra and conductor, regardless of what is happening on stage. So no matter whether one of the principals is singing in full stride, or some piece of acting to propel the opera's narrative is in mid-stream, no, we are away to watch a brief snippet of one of the string players bowing furiously or the conductor waving his baton and mouthing along with the singers. Perhaps it would not be so bad if we got to see some of the stage action more clearly, but instead most shots are in close-up or medium close-up, and those that aren't are too brief to grasp what is happening. And many are from odd angles to the side of the action. This is a pity given that the sets are quite inventive, at least in the first act where the sets change from room to room by moving continuously across the stage and then, eventually, back again. The initial set of a bedroom seen from above is cleverly done.

    The opera is based on a 1724 play by Ludvig Holberg, the same writer who was the subject of Grieg's Holberg Suite. The opera came much later, and was first performed in 1906, 100 years and two days before the first of the two performances from which this DVD originates. It was Nielsen's second opera and his last, spending the remaining 25 years of his life on symphonies, concertos and smaller forms for which he is best known. Maskarade is regarded as the Danish "national opera", for what that's worth given that Nielsen remains the only major composer that Denmark has produced.

    The libretto concerns Leander, who the previous night has met a girl at a masked ball with whom he has fallen in love. He tells his groom Henrik of his love, but then his father Jeronimus says that he has contracted for Leander to marry the daughter of a neighbour, a girl he has never met. I think you can see where this is leading. Leander isn't happy about his arranged marriage and instead conspires to attend that night's masquerade. It is certainly a bit of froth, and aside from the popular and tuneful overture it doesn't inspire Nielsen to any great heights, certainly nothing on the level of the major orchestral works that were to follow.

    The performers give it their all, and some parts are quite well sung although the Leander is a little weak-voiced for my tastes. The conductor Michael Schønwandt makes a good fist of the music and the orchestra plays reasonably well. However it is hard to recommend this DVD due to the nature of the video production. It might be better listened to rather than watched.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The NTSC video is in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. I watched the programme upscaled to 1280x720p.

    The video quality is quite good, helped by bright lighting. The video is clear and with a good level of detail, though less so in wide shots where things become blurry, and also in some of the apparently hand-held shots from the sides of the stage. Colour is vibrant if not always lifelike, flesh tones are accurate and blacks are solid.

    There is some low level noise as well as chroma noise visible in backgrounds. I saw some Gibb Effect though as the camera is rarely held in the same position for long this isn't much of an issue. Some edge enhancement could also be seen.

    There was a slight breakup of the picture at 29:48, but this did not affect the audio. Cleaning the disc did not remove this, so perhaps it is in the recording or authoring of the disc.

    Optional English subtitles, off by default, are in clear white text with a thin black border and are easy to read. I noticed one spelling mistake early in the piece.

    This disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change placed between Acts One and Two, at 86:34.

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

Audio

    There are three audio tracks, being Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. I listened to the latter in full and sampled the others.

    The audio is mixed naturally to convey the acoustic of the concert hall, although there is more musical information coming from the rear speakers than in most opera DVDs I have heard. The bulk of the audio though comes from the front channels, and is mixed so that none of the channels is dominant. The voices come across clearly. That of Niels Jørgen Riis who plays Leander sounds strident. I'm not sure if that's how he really sounds or it is a result of the recording.

    The low frequency effects channel directs some thumps and bass sounds to the subwoofer, which is well integrated into the overall mix.

    The other audio tracks are noticeably inferior to the DTS track. The 2.0 track in particular sounds edgy and lacking in refinement. The 5.1 track is closer to the DTS track in quality but I felt that the sonorities were conveyed better by the DTS mix.

    There were no issues with audio sync.

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

Extras

Booklet

    The thick booklet (64 pages) contains a detailed account of the creation of the opera, plus a synopsis and cast and performer biographies, all repeated in several languages.

Featurette-Introduction to Maskarade (11:17)

    The conductor discusses the opera and its history, as well as its meaning to him personally. He then gives an overview of Act One, after which the programme returns to the menu. The introductions to Acts Two and Three need to be selected manually, as there is no Play All option. In Danish with English subtitles.

Featurette-Making of Maskarade (19:20)

    The stage director, the acting coach and the set designer all give an account of their work on the production, with plenty of behind the scenes footage during rehearsals. In Danish with English subtitles.

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 the same around the globe.

Summary

    What seems to be a good performance of this opera is spoiled by the artistic choices of the video director.

    The video quality is very good apart from a small glitch.

    The audio quality is very good.

    A reasonable selection of relevant extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, 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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