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Ludwig Minkus: Don Quichot [Dutch National Ballet] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 Stereo (48kHz/24-bit), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (96kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: None
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Arthaus Musik
  • Blu-ray Release Date: April 26, 2011
  • List Price: $45.98

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Purchase Don Quichot on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

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

[Rating:4/5]

In ballet circles, Ludwig Minkus looms large among 19th century composers. Minkus is frequently linked to the legendary Russian choreographer, Marius Petipa, whose original concept gives rise to this current version of Don Quichot, adapted by Alexei Ratmanovsky. Ratmanovsky assigns the roles of Don Quichot and Sancho Panza to two well-known Dutch character actors, Peter de Jong and Karel Rooij, respectively.  This turns out to be a fortunate choice since both non-dancing players make good foils for the principal dancers (Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding) and the corps de ballet who turn in outstanding routines. There is a luxurious number of solos and pas de deux, highlighted by a toreador/femme fatale combination of Moises Martin Cintas and Natalia Hoffmann. Maia Makhateli is a sheer scene stealer in the fanciful Dryad dream sequence. Although the ballet takes considerable liberties with Miguel deCervantes’s picaresque novel, one of the few scenes that doesn’t take off, is Quixote’s pantomime battle with the windmill. Kevin Rhodes gets a spirited performance from the Holland Symfonia that ably supports the dancers in this longish (2-hour) ballet.

Video Quality

[Rating:2.5/5]

There is good news and bad news here. First, the good news. The sets are first-rate and quite convincing. The costumes are gorgeous and complement the beautiful dancers who populate this performance.  The balance between panoramic and close takes is quite good, conveying an excellent sense of this lively performance. Now, the bad news. The decision to present Don Quichot as a film rather than a “live” video reflects, in my opinion, an error in judgment. While the visual outlines are relatively crisp and the colors reasonably accurate when the action stops, ballet is a study of bodies in motion, and this is where the filmmakers let down the audience. There is a plethora of motion artifacts and blur when the dancers present their routines. This would simply not have been the case with standard HD videography.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The surround soundtrack in DTS-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit) is clear and well-balanced. The orchestra is somewhat smallish but plays large. There are virtually no stage noises to speak of and the ambience effects in the surround channels are quite subtle.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2.5/5]

This BD provides two interview segments with the principal dancers and the comic actors de Jong and Rooij, the former in English and the later in Dutch with English subtitles. They are mercifully brief as the tone tends toward self-congratulation rather than probing insights into the characters or the nature of this updated version of the ballet. There follows a 20+ minute segment of body-cam shot video of the dancers rehearsing on stage. Given the vertiginous nature of these shots, viewers who tend toward motion sickness, consider yourselves warned!

The Definitive Word

[Rating:3.5/5]

Don Quichot is not as frequently performed today as it was in the last century. More’s the pity since this work contains some fabulous scènes de ballet and Petipa’s more than century-old choreography holds up quite well. There are competing DVD versions, of which the American Ballet Theater version with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Cynthia Harvey hold pride of place. In fact, although shot in standard definition, the ABT disc lacks the video vagaries of the current BD release. For first time Don Quichot viewers, I would definitely recommend the Baryshnikov/Harvey DVD to see what two of the world’s best dancers of their time have to offer. While the performances in the present (and sole) BD rendition are exciting in their own right, the motion artifacts are annoying and distract from what would have otherwise been an enjoyable evening at the ballet.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B004P96WM2[/amazon-product]

Purchase Don Quichot on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

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