- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish,
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Opus Arte
- Blu-ray Release Date: February 24, 2012
- List Price: $29.99
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After seeing a number of video performances of Mozart’s last masterpiece, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), I am more aware that many different stage treatments work. This is due largely to the timeless quality of the story line about a Prince, Tamino (tenor Samir Pirgu) who seeks the lovely daughter Pamina (soprano Genia Kuhmeier) of the fierce Queen of the Night (soprano Albina Shagimuratova) and the high Priest Sarastro (bass Gunther Groissbock). Along the way, Tamino runs into bird-catcher Papageno (baritone Alex Esposito) who eventually finds his own love Papagena (soprano Ailish Tynan). This 2011 Teatro alla Scala production finds the house’s orchestra and chorus led in a light-footed performance by Roland Boer.
The brilliance of this Blu-ray results from the clever combination of Victorian costumes and a set which is aided and abetted with static screens and projections suggesting an old-time camera. Unusual in concept, perhaps, but here it all comes together and works quite well. The young cast, largely unfamiliar to me, features some excellent voices that are well balanced. The videography and audio recording are both superb.
I have yet to see an Opus Arte video that has less than stellar visual appeal and this Die Zauberflöte is no exception. Director William Kentridge’s concepts are well supported by staging and costumes. The special effects are occasionally over the top but never less than atmospheric. The camera work is first rate. Colors are beautifully realized giving a life-like quality to the proceedings. The young cast is particularly telegenic.
The voice-orchestra balance is just about perfect. While most of the sound is up front, there is reasonable ambience in the surround channels of the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, preferable to the PCM 2.0 channel version. Details of the score are well articulated by the La Scala forces. While the cast is not as starry as some of the previously issued productions, the ensemble works well together and there is not really a weak link here.
Besides a cast gallery, there are brief interviews with director Kentridge and conductor Boer, both of which shed some additional light on the proceedings.
The Definitive Word
This Blu-ray comes four years after Opus Arte released its initial high-resolution Die Zauberflöte, a Royal Opera House production led by Sir Colin Davis and with the star power of Simon Keenlyside (Papageno), Dorothea Roschmann (Pamina), Diana Damrau (Queen of the Night), Franz-Josef Selig (Sarastro); the real weak link in this cast is Will Hartmann’s Tamino, sounding effortful much of the time. The current Blu-ray offers a noticeably better picture and sound. Its sets and staging are also more creative and involving. If sopranos Shagimuratova and Kuhmeier don’t quite match the lofty standards of their predecessors, and if Groissbock is a bit shy on the subterranean notes of past Sarastros, Samir Pirgu is a definite plus, rendering one of the best Taminos in recent memory. I also thought that maestro Boer led a much better paced account of the score than that rendered by Davis, even though the latter has the higher Mozart profile. Which one should you get? Well, it gets more complicated since there are also two DVDs that merit your attention, one featuring fine vocal performances with quirky staging by Pierre Audi and a James Levine-led Metropolitan Opera disc, also with some strong vocalism. In summary, this newest Blu-ray will give you great visual appeal, the best sonics to date, and singing that never disappoints and is, on occasion, spectacular.
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