Strauss, R-Rosenkavalier, Der (Wiener Staatsoper) (1994) (NTSC)
|Year Of Production||1994|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Horant H. Hohlfeld|
Universal Pictures Home Video
Anne Sofie von Otter
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Audio Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Well, I have to confess that despite a fair smattering of opera in my CD collection, Richard Strauss' efforts are sadly lacking. Accordingly, this is the first time I have ever listened to, and also watched of course, Der Rosenkavalier. Now I do confess to enjoying the orchestral music of Richard Strauss, so I am not entirely unfamiliar with his work, and as a result was rather looking forward to the prospect of watching this opera. Of course, "looking forward" had to be tempered with the fact that this is over three hours in length and my general attention span as far as serious opera goes does not come close to that time. So basically you can work out that this is not too bad an effort, simply by the simple statement I am about to make: I watched the whole opera in one single session. Enough said methinks. Of course, it does not hurt that the opera stars Felicity Lott, one of the finest British singers around at the moment, along with Anne Sofie Von Otter in a role in which she seems to excel, whilst the bloke waving the baton madly in front of the orchestra is none other than Carlos Kleiber. Naturally, he is the reason why I stuck my hand up high for this effort, and he does not let me down.
It is morning and the setting is the boudoir of The Marschallin, Princess Werdenberg (Felicity Lott), who has spent a pleasant evening in the company of Octavian (Anne Sofie Von Otter), a young man to whom she is not married. This idyllic little get-together is disrupted by the sudden appearance of what is presumed to be the Marschallin's husband - thankfully it turns out to only be Baron Ochs of Lerchenau (Kurt Moll), a boorish cousin of the Marschallin, who is seeking her assistance with his impending marriage to the young Sophie Faninal (Barbara Bonney). The arrival of the Baron makes it difficult for Octavian to depart the scene and he resorts to the disguise of a young chambermaid, instantly christened Mariandel by the Marschallin. Mariandel takes the eye of the Baron and has extreme difficulty in escaping the boudoir. Eventually, the Marschallin gives Mariandel the chance to escape by instructing "her" to fetch the young count Octavian for a special task on behalf of the Baron. Mariandel disappears, much to the disgust of the Baron, and eventually Octavian appears for the task. The task is of course to be Der Rosenkavalier - the deliverer of a silver rose to the bride-to-be from her future husband.
Act 2 sees the story switch to the townhouse of Herr von Faninal (Gottfried Hornik), the father of the bride-to-be. As is the custom apparently in Vienna in 1740, Der Rosenkavalier arrives to deliver the silver rose as some sort of pre-wedding gift from the future husband. As this is an opera though, it would come as no surprise to know that Octavian takes a decided fancy to Sophie, and vice versa. And so the opera takes its little turn as the boorish baron turns up and starts to scandalise the Faninal household with his behaviour - which he naturally excuses as the right of the upper crust. As he and his future father-in-law adjourn to sign the marriage contract, plans are made between Octavian and Sophie to derail those very same plans. Provoked into action by the meddling of some slime-ball assistants of the Baron, Octavian engages the Baron in a sword fight and promptly spears the Baron in the arm. Outraged at the display, Herr Faninal banishes Octavian from his house and insists upon Sophie going through with the marriage. Desperate to prevent such an event, Octavian remembers the Baron's infatuation for Mariandel, and through the slime-balls who are now aiding him, he passes a message that Mariandel wishes to meet the Baron. Act 3 sees the charade come down as Octavian plans the exposure of the Baron as a sexual predator and bigamist. Naturally, all nearly goes to plan, at least until the Marschallin turns up and Octavian starts to question what he wants. The Marschallin though knows that she cannot keep the young man's interest forever and encourages him into the arms of Sophie.
My pitiful attempt at a synopsis notwithstanding, this is another fairly typical take on your basic opera story: love gained and lost. That is not to diminish in any way the quality of the opera, but is rather a sad indictment of the apparent lack of serious variety in the opera houses of the age. Featuring some decent music and words, this performance is brought to life by the wonderful Anne Sofie Von Otter and Felicity Lott. This is very much a case of an opera living and dying by the performance of the two leads - this one succeeds very well. They are ably accompanied by the Vienna State Opera Orchestra under the aliasing baton of Carlos Kleiber.
Whilst this is a quite impressive performance for my first-ever viewing of this opera, I would have to say that it would take a few more viewings to convince me that this was a classic of the genre. Still, it is enjoyable and the performances are very watchable, so if you fancy expanding your opera experience beyond the easily accessible efforts from the likes of Mozart, then you could do far worse than Der Rosenkavalier.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 but in a totally perplexing decision it is not 16x9 enhanced. You should also note 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.
Whilst there are a few little lapses, and the background does not exactly help the situation at times, this is generally speaking a decently sharp transfer as befitting a video of such comparatively recent origins. Detail is excellent, even though at times the sets don't exactly give the transfer a whole lot of detail to bring out. Shadow detail is decent enough too, and it is only when you get to the problems with grain that this transfer takes a serious dive. There is plenty of evidence of grain in the transfer, although at times it seems to progress from being merely grain to be more like pixelization. It is not consistent throughout the transfer however and seems to improve the longer an Act goes, only to reappear again at the start of the next Act. Clarity is otherwise quite excellent throughout. There does not appear to be any great indication of low level noise in the transfer.
The colours here are quite decent indeed. Whilst not the ultimate in saturation or tonal depth, there is nothing major awry with the colours. If anything, the biggest complaint with the colour is nothing at all to do with the transfer but rather in the staging - the background sets are seemingly of a uniform colour and provide something of a flat, boring look. There is a decided lack of vibrancy here, which is hardly surprising, and only seeks to highlight the relative lack of bright colours here. There is the same whitish "film" to the image early on in Act 1 but this soon disappears. There is no indication of oversaturation in the transfer. There is, however, some indication of colour bleed in the transfer, most notably in the burgundy coat seen in Act 2 - a good example is at 41:22. It is not really gross, but as it appears a few times it does become just a little noticeable. I could perhaps have expected as well as wanted a bit more depth to the blacks, but we can't always get what we want...
There seems to be some issue with blockiness in the background at various points during the opera, notably in the interior shots of the hall at the conclusion of Act 1. Apart from that, there does not appear to be any other serious problems with MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There were no noted problems with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, apart from some aliasing in the conductor's baton at the start of Act 1. There were no problems with film artefacts in the transfer either.
Disc 1 in this two DVD set is a single layer, single sided DVD. Disc 2 is an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change coming during the break between Act 2 and Act 3 at 58:07. It is only noticeable because I knew to look for it there, and it is of course completely non-disruptive to the opera itself.
The subtitle options on the DVD are not extensive, and I only sampled the English efforts. The English subtitles are very good from what I can tell, and do a good job of conveying what is being sung. There is one serious problem with them though, and one common to most opera recordings: when there are two or more persons singing - the subtitles get rather confusing as to who the heck is singing what.
There is just the one soundtrack on this DVD, being a German Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 soundtrack. It is naturally a German soundtrack since this is the original language of the piece, but at least those of us who can barely get by with asking for a Big Mac in German can indulge in the rather decent English subtitles. Unless of course you are proficient in reading Chinese, in which case you could valiantly attempt to handle those subtitles.
The music and vocals comes up well in the transfer, and there is no problem at all understanding what is being sung. There did not seem to be any issues with audio sync in the transfer.
The music from Richard Strauss has a certain stoicism about it that contrasts quite significantly with the more upbeat and witty score that Johann Strauss gave his operetta Die Fledermaus, reviewed recently. Still, when old Richard gets into the flow of things he can get quite a lilting little melody running along quite nicely, just to add some lightness to the score. Of course, all this is relative and the score is generally of a more moderate, upbeat style than the solemnity and stolidity of say Richard Wagner. There are enough catchy little tunes and arias to keep the interest level up here overall.
There really is nothing to complain about with this uncompressed Linear PCM soundtrack. Nice and open, and with better than decent clarity, this soundtrack certainly hides nothing in the score whatsoever. Naturally, there is no surround presence nor bass presence here at all, and frankly I do not really miss them at all. What we do have is a nicely mixed soundtrack that does keep some sort of natural perspective between the music and the vocals. It is a wonderfully easy soundtrack to listen to for a full three hours plus.
|Surround Channel Use|
Yet another DVD from Universal Music that is sadly lacking in the extras package department. This is especially disappointing since there is decidedly more space on these DVDs than has hitherto been the situation.
Once again the DVD fires up straight into the programme and turns itself off right after the end of the show. Indeed, the opera is so quickly truncated that we don't even get the curtain calls this time. So you could again play this DVD repeatedly and never know there is actually a menu on it, unless you needed to switch the unlikely-to-be-found-menu language option to Chinese... Since the DVD never ever heads to the menu, I fail to see the point of having an option of changing the language of the menu to Chinese, but maybe I am missing something here.
Providing little more than a track listing and a scene-by-scene synopsis, this is another underwhelming effort. Where is the history of the piece? The conductor? The singers? Is it really asking too much for just some modest biographies?
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.
Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier is pretty much your typical opera, meaning that it pretty much heavily revolves around love won and love lost. Still, it is quite an enjoyable opera despite its not inconsiderable length. The performances are really very good and the staging is quite lavish. Whilst some puritanical people might take exception to a woman playing the role of the man and then kissing other women in the show, I doubt in these times that it has the same shock value as it did when the opera was first published. Recommended.
I would like to suggest to Universal that they consider replacing the Scanavo DVD case with something else. Trying to get the DVDs out of the holders was something more akin to trying to win lotto - near impossible. There is a very definite trick to getting the DVDs out without bending them severely, and that knack I simply have not mastered obviously (despite voluminous instructions from Michael D). I can see plenty of these DVDs suffering cracks in the centre plastic as a result of the stress from trying to get the DVDs out of the case. Might I suggest an Amaray equivalent as a more suitable DVD case?
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|