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Turnage: Anna Nicole [The Royal Opera] Blu-ray Review


  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, PCM 2.0 Stereo
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Opus Arte
  • Blu-ray Release Date: September 27, 2011
  • List Price: $39.99

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Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House) -

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Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(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:3/5]

Mark-Anthony Turnage has become one of the UK’s best known composers of contemporary opera with his critically acclaimed Greek and The Silver Tassie. With Anna Nicole, Turnage joins forces with librettist Richard Thomas (author of Jerry Springer –The Opera). The risk in this current venture is that Anna Nicole’s story is extremely well known, having been exploited for years in the tabloids and on television. Basically, Turnage and Thomas turn in a fairly literal retelling of the Anna Nicole biography, over two acts and sixteen scenes, populated by most of the principal characters in her short, troubled existence. The musical idiom is very contemporary, occasionally jazzy, and not very voice friendly. While the solo pieces are mostly declamatory, the diction of all of the singers is impeccable, giving an authenticity to the regional American accents and the rampant obscenity of the libretto.

This Blu-ray video comes from the February 2011 performances, captured shortly after the work’s premiere at the Royal Opera House. Critical opinions of Anna Nicole were quite mixed, with some noting that the musical score was often more Broadway than Covent Garden. That aside, the performances are clearly committed. Dutch soprano, Eva-Marie Westbroek, best known for her German repertoire, portrays the doomed Anna, and is appropriately over the top. The supporting cast, including Gerald Finley (lawyer Howard Stern), Susan Bickley (Vergie, Anna’s mother), Alan Oke (J. Howard Marshall, her ancient billionaire second husband), and Peter Hoare (TV host, Larry King) are mostly excellent. Maestro Antonio Pappano does the best that he can, leading the Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus as they contend with Turnage’s problematic score.  Video and audio recording are both excellent, as is Opus Arte’s custom.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]


The sets are intentionally over-colored and garishly lit, in keeping with Anna Nicole’s subject matter. Costumes are contemporary with a cartoon-like touch.  Of course, one cannot help but notice the generous  mammary prostheses that most of the women wear in keeping with the essence of the story.  Make up is terrific; just take a gander at Alan Oke’s transformation into octogenarian J. Howard Marshall.  The “reality TV” concept of constant reporters with microphones and characters made up as living video cameras does wear a bit thin by the end. Camera work is a well balanced mix of pans and close ups.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

As would be expected, most of the sound is upfront with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack providing both good ambience and imaging. The voices are well reproduced with a clarity that makes subtitles unnecessary for English-speaking viewers.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:1/5]

A 9-minute video gives a general overview of the production. There are brief, and I mean brief, interviews with composer Turnage, librettist Thomas, soprano Westbroek and conductor Pappano. I would have enjoyed a featurette on the real Anna Nicole to get a more complete take on art imitating life.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3/5]


As a summary caution, the subject matter of Anna Nicole, not to mention its copious profanity and modernist score, will be a difficult sell to a number of potential viewers, although it appeared  to be well received by the Covent Garden audience. The opera’s docudrama approach has been done quite successfully before in John Adams’s Nixon in China, however, the latter work had a much better score and libretto. Given the high quality of this opera’s production values and the bravura performances turned in by a stellar cast and conductor, it is disappointing that Anna Nicole’s music and libretto simply do not rise to the occasion. The tragic heroine has been a recurring and successful operatic subject, Tosca, Violetta, and Isolde, to name but a few. But without a considerable makeover, Anna Nicole will probably become more of a curiosity piece like Michael Daugherty’s Jackie O rather than attaining an enduring place in the repertory. All in all, a novelty piece, if not a masterpiece, worth at least a watch by the curious operagoer.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B0054KCVO4[/amazon-product]

[amazon-product]B0054KCVO4[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House) -

Purchase Anna Nicole on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1/5]

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