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Puccini: La Bohème [Opera Australia] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0
  • Subtitles: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Korean
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Naxos of America
  • Blu-ray Release Date: February 24, 2012
  • List Price: $39.99

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:3.5/5]


A poll of operagoers of all ages would rate Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème as one of the most romantic operas going, if not the most romantic of them all. While originally set in 19th century Paris, director Gale Edwards resets the action to 1930’s Berlin, making the case for the freedom of artistic creation and sexual mores common to this era. Given the visual appeal of the sets and updated costumes, this will not be problematic for most viewers. Opera Australia calls upon the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra capably led by veteran Taiwanese conductor Shao-Chia Lu in performances dating from July 2011.  Casting calls on less well-known singers who appear age-appropriate, an important consideration for this opera. Ji-Min Park, a South Korean tenor delivers an ardent if lighter-voiced than the usual Rodolfo. His lover, Mimi, is American soprano Takesha Meshe Kizart whose intense and dramatically effective performance of the dying seamstress is unfortunately marred by frequent off-pitch moments. Taryn Fiebig, an Opera Australia regular, delivers an appropriately over-the-top Musetta, complete with a flapper-era cabaret costume. The other men in the cast, particularly Jose Carbo (Marcello), David Parkin (Colline) and Shane Lawrencev (Schaunard), make strong vocal contributions to the performance. Overall, this is production is visually stunning with great sets and stage direction.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The relocation of La Bohème to another city and era is well-handled by the stage designers. After all, a garret is a garret (the setting for two of the four acts), and the transformation of the Café Momus into a 30’s cabaret is in keeping with the spirit of the piece.  Costumes are judiciously updated. Videography support is excellent with good balance between close up and panoramic shots.  Colors are spot on. No one should miss the garret walls covered with a Cecil B. DeMille rendition of the parting of the Red Sea, Marcello’s masterpiece, in the last act.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The sonic balance favors the orchestra which, when in full force, makes some heavy sledding for the singers, none of whom have huge voices. In the more intimate sections of the score, and there are plenty of those, voice reproduction is excellent. For reasons that are unclear, audience effects appear to be more to the front, with little ambience from the surround channels. The LPCM 2-channel soundtrack sounded nearly as good.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:1/5]

You get a cast gallery. That’s it.  While the director’s concept of the work is covered in the booklet, I would have enjoyed hearing him describe how he worked this out with his cast and stage collaborators.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

There are many La Bohèmes out there so the competition for the BD derby is pretty stiff. The Royal Opera House realization of John Copley’s production has much going for it, including a youthful cast that sings quite well, in a more traditional setting (appealing to opera purists) with better sound and video. An interesting alternative worth seeking out, is the English National Opera’s production, sung in English, with the charismatic Alfie Boe as Rodolfo. None of the above are going to make me chuck my Metropolitan opera DVD with the coupling of Luciano Pavarotti and Mirella Freni even if they looked a bit long in the fang for their roles.  In summary, this is a well-conceived and realized update of a classic with generally good if not memorable singing. Tenor Park has a lovely voice, if just slightly underpowered for the role’s climaxes, and I would look forward to seeing him taking on more lyric parts. While this would not be my go-to choice for La Bohème, as an alternative to more traditional productions, it is worth the watch, and, viewers should definitely bring their hankies for the last act.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B006O8K4IA[/amazon-product]

Purchase La Boheme on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1/5]

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