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De Falla: La Vida Breve [Orquestra de la Communitat Valenciana] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60 (29.970Hz)
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: C Major
  • Blu-ray Release Date: June 26, 2012
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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:4.5/5]

There is a traditional Spanish opera form, the Zarzuela, of which Manuel de Falla’s  La Vida Breve (The Short Life) heads the list. A young gypsy woman, Salud (soprano Christina Gallardo-Domas), is in love with an upper class youth, Paco (tenor Jorge de Leon)who is already engaged to be married to a wealthy upper class woman. Paco will never belong to Salud who comes to understand that she will never have the passion of her life. La Vida Breve is rarely staged outside of Spain, and this Valencia opera production is probably as good as we will get in today’s terms. The casting of the principals is quite strong, with additional kudos to Spanish mezzo Maria Luisa Corbacho as Salud’s abuela (grandmother). We have the luxury of renowned operatic conductor, Lorin Maazel, in the pit. There is a prominent reddish cast over the stage for most of the proceedings, emphasizing the blood that courses through the veins of the protagonists. In this respect, the dramatic concept by Giancarlo Del Monaco is spot on.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The decision to go red with mist does not help the detail which tends to the soft side. Otherwise, the cinematographers do a good job in focusing the dramatic action that occurs on an otherwise bare bones stage. The elemental nature of this story between a man and woman who will never realize their union is quite evident here.  From a physical standpoint, there is enough touching and groping to rate a parental advisory.  The ballet entr’acte is, in itself, a highlight worth watching.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The capture of Gallardo-Domas’s voice, so critical to the impact of this potent score is perfect. The off-stage voices are quite audible as well. Articulation of the flamenco singers is outstanding. Overall, the perspective is very voice-friendly, given the large scale of the orchestral score. Ambience in the surround channels of the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 soundtrack is limited, but definitely scores over the 2.0 PCM version.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

No extras are included; a pity given the likelihood that most non-Spanish viewers will be unfamiliar with this staple of the Spanish opera world.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

This is a BD premiere for a brief but powerful opera. The passion in this work is truly overwhelming, given the inexorable ending as Salud is killed by her lover Paco, using a knife that she actually wields. The staging, while minimalist, works to the advantage of La Vida Breve, making us focus on the singers rather than the sets. Soprano Gallardo-Domas, better known to US operagoers as Madama Butterfly in the Met Opera’s new production a few years ago is an acting dynamo. Her riveting performance and vocalism alone are worth the price of admission. Conductor Maazel, not known for his work in this repertory, keeps the tension going in the pit and on the stage. Overall, a highly recommended disc to lovers of opera, and a great introduction to the wonderful world of the zarzuela.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase La Vida Breve on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Purchase La Vida Breve on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]


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