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Alban Berg: Lulu Blu-ray Review

Posted August 25th, 2010 by Lawrence D. Devoe, MD

lulu1 267x3381 Alban Berg: Lulu Blu ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit), dts-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Opus Arte
  • Blu-ray Release Date: July 27, 2010
  • List Price: $39.95

BestBuy.com:
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Purchase Lulu on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
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The Performance
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Video Quality
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Audio Quality
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Supplemental Materials
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Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Performance

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Alban Berg opened the doors of perception with his early 20th century masterpiece, Wozzeck. His second and unfinished work, Lulu, is a story of a young woman’s sexual awakening as compelling as that of Salome or Lolita. There are no hummable musical themes in this 12-tone score so its ultimate success or failure depends on characterization, sets, and vocal performance.  Lulu is an archetypal character who descends from dependence to abject whoredom before her murder by Jack the Ripper. The good news is that Agneta Eichenholz delivers a top notch performance. Her transformation from a needy adolescent to world weary courtesan is truly amazing.  She is supported by a stellar cast that understands the idiom of this atonal music which includes Michael Volle, Gwynne Howell, Jennifer Larmore, and late Philip Langridge.  The bad news is that there are no sets or distinctive costumes to transform each stage in the development and ultimate death of the heroine. Many operas are so well known that sets  and wardrobe can be minimized.  Lulu is not one of them.  Given the otherwise high production values, using a bare stage and nondescript costumes are quizzical directorial decisions.

Video Quality

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The stark and barren stage leaves little to the imagination.  Most of this opera is a contrast in black and white, according to the film noir tradition. The sets are dark, the costumes are black and white and there are few props.  Not a challenge for today’s high definition displays.  Most viewers will be unfamiliar with the musical idiom, plot setting or the fact that the same singers assume different roles. Therefore,  the economies in staging and wardrobe might confuse newcomers to this powerful piece.

Audio Quality

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The dts-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit) surround reflects well on this stark performance. Vocal lines are easily distinguished and the large orchestra is kept in realistic perspective.

Supplemental Materials

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There are cast photos and interviews with conductor Antonio Pappano and lead soprano Agneta Eichenholz, each 15 minutes long. Pappano’s musical explanation is stimulating and worth watching.  Unfortunately, director Christof Loy’s concept of this work is not represented.

  • Booklet: Contains cast and credit listings, a brief synopsis and detailed background of the opera in English, French, and German and a couple of cast pictures.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

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This is a video that wiil  not win many new fans for this intense but difficult work. This is unfortunate given the high vocal standards While there are no BD competitors, the DVDs on Kultur (Christine Shafer) and DGG (Julia Migenes) are very strong contenders for best in show. The competitive edge of Blu-ray video is outweighed by the better overall productions of these previous DVDs. Most operaphiles wanting only one set might want to wait this one out until a better high definition account comes along.

BestBuy.com:
18704081 Alban Berg: Lulu Blu ray Review Alban Berg: Lulu Blu ray Review

Purchase Lulu on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

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Tags: 1080i/60, Alban Berg, AVC/MPEG-4, Classical Music, DTS-HD Master Audio, Lulu, Opera, Opus Arte, PCM

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