La Boheme (Opera Australia) (Blu-ray) (2011)
|Year Of Production||2011|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Gale Edwards|
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Takesha Meshe Kizart
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Italian DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Italian Linear PCM 48/24 2.0 (2304Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
After the massive success of Manon Lescaut composer Giacomo Puccini toyed with various options for a follow-up. How he came to choose the somewhat scandalous picaresque novel Scenes from the Life of the Bohemians by Henry Murger is lost in the mists of time.
What is clear, however, is how he gained the drive and enthusiasm to complete the work. When he announced to the public that he was intending to base his new opera on La Boheme composer and friend Leoncavallo took immediate umbrage. After all, he claimed, was it not the previous year that Leoncavallo had shown Puccini his own libretto for the work? Had Puccini not declined to use the libretto? In any event, there was a stormy dispute in the presses as the rival composers each asserted their moral right. It was clear that there would be a race to finish the work and claim moral and artistic ascendancy.
As it happened Leoncavallo won the race and or so, it initially appeared, had produced the greater work of art. His was immediately accepted by the public and critics alike. Puccini was not so lucky. Premiering the opera in Turin on 1 February 1896 Puccini face the crowd who were enthusiastic but not overwhelmed as they had been three years earlier that day when Manon had premiered.
The critics were generally unkind. The critic in Stampa was blunt: "La Boheme even as it leaves little impression on the minds of the audience, will leave no great trace upon the history of our lyric theatre, and it will be well if the composer returns to the straight road of art, persuading himself that this has been a brief deviation."
Of course, history proved the critics wrong. Today La Boheme is one of the most loved and performed operas in the repertoire. It is one of those works that seems to satisfy all tastes. Tuneful throughout it is also a vivid depiction of the Bohemians of Paris and has laughs, carousing and tears in equal measure. All this in a work which moves briskly yet not hurriedly towards a conclusion and is performed in under two hours. It is perhaps the opera that even those who don't care for opera can enjoy.The plot is pretty simple. A bunch of bohemians - painter Marcello (Jose Carbo), poet Rodolfo (Ji-Min Park) , philosopher Colline (David Parkin)and musician Schaunard (Shane Lawrence) live in a loft apartment, going about their poor but happy ways. A chance meeting brings together Rodolfo and Mimi (Takesha Meshe Kizart) who, in time honoured opera fashion, fall for each other immediately. Cliché perhaps but Puccini's score here is masterful and swoon-worthy.
The crowd take off to the local cafe for good food, good wine and bad women. Marcello is haunted and taunted by Musetta (Taryn Fiebig) a pre-Madonna material girl, who loves him dearly but realizes that to survive a girl has to aim higher than starving artists.
The star-crossed lovers Rodolfo and Mimi are on the verge of separating because Rodolfo can't bear to see his ailing girlfriend suffer in his freezing cold garret and the pair decide to part ways in the spring. As opera luck, which is almost always bad, would have it they are re-united when Mimi is falling fast.
This Blu-ray represents a further, but still rare, high-definition release of an Opera Australia production. It was filmed before a live audience at the Sydney Opera House last year.On the face of it this is a safe choice, being both a popular opera and a sumptuous production. Of course, La Boheme and Opera Australia have a history on home entertainment. The Baz Luhrmann directed La Amor production brought a whole new group of fans to the opera.
Some, however, may yet find it a controversial choice as this is not the original and much loved staging of the work in bohemian Paris of the 1800s but rather a modernised telling of the story in the Weimar Republic of Germany between the wars.
Director Gale Edwards staged her production in this era because it contained all the elements of the book and opera namely the poor artists contrasted it against the wealth and excess of some. In fact, apart from the traditionalists the production is unlikely to cause any offence even though it does contain some partial nudity, which is entirely consistent with the chosen mileau. Truth be told the opera can be transplanted just about anywhere and anytime when and where there are starving artists and sugar daddies.
The performances both vocally and acting wise are excellent throughout and the staging is visually impressive. The costumes, particularly of Musetta (her dress really sparkles), are ravishing. The orchestra is on form under the sure hand of conductor Shao-Chia Lu.This is a production that looks as good as it sounds.
La Boheme is always a compelling work of art that sneaks up on you. As much as you might think the bohemians deserve some reality checks the ending always grabs you. Opera fans could do no better than to purchase this Blu-ray.
La Boheme was shot on High Definition digital cameras. It comes to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1 transfer consistent with its original aspect ratio. It is a 1080i(60 Hz) transfer.
Lest anyone is readying the cudgels to beat the distributor for issuing a Blu-ray in 1080i rather than the expected 1080p it must be said that the number of music Blu-rays, of which there are hundreds on the market, in true high-definition could be counted on one hand. This transfer, then, is as good as a high-definition television transfer which is to say it is very good.
The level of detail is superb throughout. Lighting and shadows can play havoc on video transfers of concerts but this transfer does not falter.
The colours are glorious and show off the wonderful costumes, particularly of Musetta, to great effect.
The flesh tones are accurate to their source, that is, stage make-up. Perhaps a little too good. At times Ji-Min Park was literally dripping with sweat, indeed a drop fell on Mimi as she reclined in her final moments.
That is the joy and trial of live concerts.
The only minor quibbles was some tiny interlacing when the characters moved swiftly around the stage.
There are removable sub-titles in English, Spanish, French, Italian and German. The subtitles are clear and easy to read.
The prime soundtrack for the opera is a 5.1 Italian DTS HD Master Audio track. There is also a 2.0 LPCM track running at 2304 Kb/s.
Both are adequate for the demands of the opera. There is a greater depth and expansiveness from the DTS HD track but opera fans wouldn't be disappointed with either.
The sub-woofer provides support for some of the full orchestral moments but this is rare as the opera is scored for a reasonably small orchestra.
The surrounds do come into specific effect when the applause cuts in but otherwise this is a fairly "front and centre" piece.
Most importantly the vocal line is clear throughout.
It should also be noted that there is very little unwanted sound such as coughing patrons or deadened footfalls.
It is a pristine sonic transfer.
|Surround Channel Use|
A decent glossy booklet accompanies the Blu-ray with production photos, credits and Act summaries. No libretto but, of course, none is needed.
Photos of the characters with cast identifications.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This is an All Regions Blu-ray.
Opera Australia has done a great job with this Blu-ray release presenting an interesting, lavish and colourful production of La Boheme with excellent transfer qualities. A great reason for those opera lovers with old gear to upgrade to Blu-ray.
|DVD||Cambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Pioneer SC-LX 81 7.1|
|Speakers||Aaron ATS-5 7.1|