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Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier [Opera Australia] Blu-ray Review

strauss-der-rosenkavalier-opera-australia-blu-ray-cover

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: LPCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish   
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Running Time: 200 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Opera Australia
  • Blu-ray Release Date: March 26, 2013
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(The below 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 Performance

[Rating:4/5]

title

If an opera composer ever had a high-water mark composition, then Der Rosenkavalier was the opera that achieved this distinction for Richard Strauss. Although set in 18th century Vienna, this work actually debuted in 1911 and signaled Strauss’s return to a more romantic sound palette after writing the operas, Salome and Elektra, both strikingly modernist in style. This 2010 Opera Australia is a revival of a 20 year-old production with traditional costumes and sets.

Act I opens in the bedroom of an aging noblewoman, the Marschallin (soprano Cheryl Barker), enjoying an affair with the much younger Count Octavian Rofrano (mezzosoprano Catherine Carby), is interrupted by the boorish Baron von Ochs (bass-baritone Manfred Hemm). The Baron announces that he is to marry the much younger (and wealthier) Sophie von Faninal (soprano Emma Pearson). The Marschallin shows him a picture of Octavian (now disguised as the chambermaid Mariandel) and suggests that Octavian present the customary silver rose to Sophie. Among the many visitors to the Marschallin’s bedroom are the Italian schemers, Valzacchi (tenor Andrew Brunsdon) and Annina (mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Dark), and the Italian tenor (Henry Choo) who graces the assemblage with a gorgeous aria. As the first act ends, the Marschallin tells Octavian that he will fall in love with someone younger.

In Act II, we meet the von Faninal family, particularly Sophie’s social climbing father (baritone Warwick Fyfe). Octavian presents the rose to Sophie and is immediately smitten. Meanwhile, Sophie lays eyes on Baron von Ochs for the first time and is repelled. In trying to work out the marriage contract, Sophie adamantly refuses to wed the Baron as she has fallen in love with Octavian. The young Count draws swords with Ochs and slightly wounds him. Octavian then engages Valzacchi and Annina to expose the Baron as a philanderer. The Baron, left alone, receives a note that “Mariandel” (again Octavian in disguise) will meet him at the inn that evening.

Act III opens in the village inn where “Mariandel” flirts with Ochs. Annina enters, also in disguise, and claims to be the Baron’s wife and mother of his children who conveniently show up. Ochs calls for the police as Faninal appears and thinks that the Baron is consorting with a prostitute. The Marschallin comes on the scene, dismisses the police and Ochs, and, accepting the inevitable, blesses the future union of Sophie and Octavian.

This opera sinks or swims on the voices of the three female leads and here we get mostly excellent performances. The company had the good sense to engage a Viennese bass-baritone to add the comic touches so essential to the Baron’s character.  Maestro Andrew Litton, in spite of being given an undersized orchestra, milks the most out of this uber-romantische score.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

marsch

The videographers that work the Sydney Opera House clearly understand its sight lines and reward us with great coverage of the stage, marvelous close ups and color balance. As a good example, jump to track 28, the presentation of the rose scene, a fabulous study in silver, white, and red.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]

hands

My one disappointment was the balance between voices and orchestra in the surround soundtrack. It was often difficult to hear the soloists clearly when the players in the pit went full throttle. Truth be told, the balances got a bit better as the performance progressed but, in this respect, the two-channel version was actually preferable.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:1.5/5]

flirt

There is a nice program booklet with synopsis and background essay, but precious little else but a cast gallery.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

tenor

The Der Rosenkavalier Blu-ray sweepstakes features some pretty stiff competition. The legendary 1960’s Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan film, traditionally staged and dressed, features some of the greatest Strauss singers to ever grace a stage, including the definitive Marschallin of Elizabeth Schwartzkopf, gorgeous to behold and to hear and the incomparable Baron von Orchs of Otto Edelmann. The more recent, and seriously updated, Blu-ray Discs, headed by Anne Schwanewilms, and Renee Fleming, respectively, as the Marschallins, are worthy contenders for second place. Orchestral/vocal balance issues aside, this is an enjoyable and well-performed account of Strauss’s masterpiece. The principals may not be well known to audiences outside of Australia, but that should not deter potential buyers from considering this as the traditional (and better recorded) alternative to the Viennese Blu-ray (which does look dated and has some audio sync issues). But…the 1982 Met Opera DVD led by James Levine with the incomparable Kiri Te Kanawa (and the Italian tenor of Luciano Pavarotti) would be my absolute first choice among all available video versions.

Additional Screen Captures

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ann

rose

bed

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Purchase Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1.5/5]

 

 

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