Verdi-Il Trovatore (Metropolitan Opera) (1988) (NTSC)

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Released 4-Jun-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera Booklet
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 131:49 (Case: 133)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Brian Large
Studio
Distributor
Metropolitan Opera
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Sherrill Milnes
Eva Marton
Dolora Zajick
Luciano Pavarotti
Jeffrey Wells
Loretta Di Franco
Mark Baker
Ray Morrison
John Bills
Case Flexbox
RPI $36.95 Music Giuseppe Verdi


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Audio Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Italian
English
German
French
Chinese
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    James Levine, Luciano Pavarotti, together? Be afraid, be very, very, very afraid!

    Sorry, but that is the initial reaction when I found out the mistake I had made when I stuck my hand up to review this DVD. One of the most over-rated conductors in the world and one of the most over-rated tenors of all time, together in an opera staged at the cloth-eared capital of the world - otherwise known as The Metropolitan Opera, where cloth-eared Americans blow hundreds of dollars on a dose of culture to maintain the false impression of the cultured elite of American society. Suffice it to say, I do not much enjoy the work of James Levine and have yet to find any recording that indicates that he has the slightest knowledge of what music actually is supposed to sound like. And just don't get me started on Luciano Pavarotti... At least this was recorded just before he started the downward path towards glorious obesity and overstrained renditions of Nessun Dorma.

    The story of this opera is your basic story of love lost, gained and avenged. Leonora (Eva Marton) is a lady-in-waiting to the princess, who is being wooed by two men - young (?) nobleman Il Conte di Luna (Sherrill Milnes) and young (?) army officer Manrico (Luciano Pavarotti), who serenades the lovely (?) Leonora as if he were a troubadour. Il Conte is obviously not thrilled with the competition for the affections of Leonora and when his attempts to woo her by song are interrupted by the serenade of the troubadour, he gets a bit miffed. Even more miffed when Leonora rushes out to greet him, only to realise that she has run into the arms of the wrong man - the count rather than the troubadour. So, when the jealous count discovers that Manrico is actually an officer in the army against which he fights, a sword fight erupts between the two. Act 2 sees the action switch to a gypsy camp where Azucena (Dolora Zajick) recounts the story of a woman burnt at the stake. Azucena is Manrico's mother and the woman burnt at the stake is his grandmother. Azucena recounts how she was so delirious with grief that she stole the old Count's baby son and cast him into the fire - only to realise that she had thrown her own son into the fire. Naturally this puzzles Manrico since he is her son. News then reaches Manrico that his beloved Leonora, presuming that he has been killed in an attack upon the fortress Castellor, is about to become a nun. Manrico rushes to the convent and wins the fair maiden from right under the nose of Il Conte, who also intends to dissuade Leonora from becoming a nun, and they head off to a happier life together.

    Act 3 sees the story move to an army camp where Il Conte is celebrating the siege upon Castellor and lamenting the loss of Leonora. Azucena is then discovered at the camp and is captured, whereupon Il Conte discovers her true identity and vows to avenge his long dead young brother. Meantime Leonora and Manrico are about to be married when news comes of Azucena's capture and Manrico vows to save her and heads off to battle. Act 4 sees Manrico imprisoned and awaiting execution, so you can guess that his battle to rescue Azucena was a somewhat forlorn one. As the last moments of Manrico's life approach, Leonora arrives at the tower determined to free him. She makes Il Conte an offer he cannot refuse - her. Il Conte agrees to the deal and orders Manrico released - only to realise he has been duped by Leonora, who has taken poison. As Leonora goes to Manrico to tell him he is free, Manrico initially rages but then realises that she has sacrificed herself for him. But his remorse is short-lived as the livid Il Conte has Manrico executed with Azucena as a witness. Whereupon the awful truth of the whole affair is revealed by Azucena.

    Like many an opera, it is not the most original story under the sun but it is decent enough. Like many an opera too, I would find the performance more convincing if the parts were played by people who could actually convince in their roles. These are young, beautiful people yet they are played by middle aged farts who are long past their tenure of young and beautiful, if they ever were. Luciano Pavarotti is presumably the star here and whilst his voice is instantly recognisable, which may not necessarily be a good thing, his acting abilities have about as much dramatic emotion as Keanu Reeves playing a wooden plank. Still, the cloth-eared Americans who have paid the big money clap and cheer as if it were Jussi Bjorling himself. Suffice it to say he is well and truly upstaged by the infinitely better Sherrill Milnes, who actually deserved the accolades he received (it does not hurt that he seems to be a Met favourite). Of the the female leads, Dolora Zajick is the far better and is perhaps the most distinctive performer here. As for Eva Marton? The less said the better. Act 1 has her wobbling her way through the vocals in a rather depressing way and whilst it gets marginally better the longer this goes, she is not within cooee of the best in the role. And yet the applause she gets!

    Overall, this is not a great Trovatore by a long way. In the hands of the right cast, this is a tremendously powerful opera, yet obviously this is not the right cast. Which is a little funny since one of the very best Trovatore's on CD has Sherrill Milnes in the same role as here and another good CD version has Dolora Zajick as Azucena (also under Levine and at the Met funnily enough too). So you can pretty well guess where this one went wrong. You would need to be a serious Luciano Pavarotti fan to truly find anything really enjoyable here, and frankly it is only the lack of any competition at the present time that gives this performance any reason to be considered at all.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in a Full Frame format and is not 16x9 enhanced. You should note however that this is an NTSC formatted DVD and therefore you will need to have a display device capable of playing this signal in order to see anything.

    The overall transfer suffers somewhat from the rather dark nature of the performance. Whether this is source related or not I do not know, for I have not seen this on VHS. However, I would suspect the problem lies more with the source material than the mastering thereof, even though this would also appear to be another rather quick and cheap rehash of a strong VHS seller onto DVD. The main issue is that shadow detail is shocking, and there is little detail or definition to be found anywhere but centre stage in most of the opera. The overall transfer is acceptably sharp enough throughout, but obviously is showing signs of its origins. With it being a dark transfer anyway, a whole heap more in the sharpness stakes would not have gone astray in the slightest. The compounding problem though is the fact that this looks like it was filmed through a light to moderate fog, with copious amounts of light grain throughout the transfer. The result is anything but a clear transfer. You might be getting the idea that this is not a great looking transfer, right? Definitely right! Amongst other problems with the transfer is that the flame used during Act 1 presents all sorts of ghostly effects in the image that do not do definition any good whatsoever. There thankfully does not seem to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer, although the dark, grainy nature of the transfer could hide plenty of problems.

    This is anything but a brightly-coloured transfer, and everything tends towards an undersaturated look. Whilst this does not necessarily work against the opera itself, for it does have serious doses of the darker side of life, it does make the visual treat somewhat less of a treat and more of a chore. A big issue is the serious lack of depth to the blacks and these are seriously on the grey side rather than black. There are no oversaturation issues in the transfer and colour bleed similarly is absent.

    There did not appear to be any serious MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts comprise some minor aliasing here and there but nothing overly bad. There did not appear to be any serious film artefacts in the transfer.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at the break before Act 3, at 68:37.

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

Audio

    There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an Audio Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 soundtrack.

    The music and vocals come up fairly well in the transfer, and there is little problem in hearing and understanding them. There did not appear to be any audio sync issues in the transfer, but then again my Italian is not the best.

    This is perhaps one of the least musical operas from Giuseppe Verdi and it does not contain any really huge tunes. About the only truly memorable tune in the whole opera is what I call The Hammer Song - although more dedicated purists refer to them as the Anvil choruses. Either way, you will recognise them instantly.

    The Linear PCM 2.0 soundtrack is solidly unspectacular in just about every way. There is nothing at all wrong with the soundtrack, which is completely free of any obvious distortions or imperfections. Whilst a bit more clarity at the top end would not have gone astray, I have no complaints whatsoever. Obviously it lacks any surround or bass channel usage.

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

Extras

    The extras package solely comprises a booklet that provides a limited synopsis of the opera, a track listing and basically sod all else. So where is the libretto? And it is required since the subtitles are hardly the most extensive efforts that you are ever going to see (or read).

Menu

    Since the DVD starts straight in to the opera, and the DVD stops straight after the opera, the presence of a menu is hardly noted. If you do take the trouble to actually check it out, there is not much to worry about. It provides the obligatory subtitle selection and direct access to the start of each Act, plus a listing (complete with small cover pictures) of other DG DVDs available.

Booklet

R4 vs R1

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

    Since this is an all Region coded NTSC DVD, it seems reasonable to assume that this is the same as the Region 1 release in every way.

Summary

    Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore is a pretty decent opera, but frankly you would not really know it from this performance. The whole performance seems to roll along without really creating anything exciting or memorable. The video transfer is a little dodgy, probably as the result of the source material, whilst the audio transfer is fair enough. Probably one for die-hard fans of the opera or the performers only.

    And if Universal require any suggestions for future DVD releases from the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue, could I put in a personal plea for Ode To Freedom: The Berlin Celebration Concert and the three John Eliot Gardiner Mozart operas - Cosi Fan Tutte, Le Nozze Di Figaro and Die Zauberflote?

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, July 16, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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