I have over 150 classical DVD/BRs that I watch on a 106" screen and listen through a 7.1 loudspeaker setup where the front speakers are about 9' 6" apart and the surround speakers are on my sides. The room has sound treatments so I hear what's on the disc, not distorting reflections from the walls. My reviews concentrate on the surround audio, as you can pretty much judge the video and stereo for yourself on youtube and similar sites.
Picture is fine, the start menu let's you chose the sound track and the subtitles, default is Surround and English.
Sound is DTS-HD MA 5.1. At a loudness setting of -8 db I get about 83 db at the loudest parts of the opera. Orchestra sound stage extents most of the time about 1 to 2 ft beyond the front corner speakers, in a few louder instances it extents to the surround speakers. The orchestra is not so detailed as, for instance in The Barber of Seville from Teatro Real, Madrid, which should be required listening for every classical audio engineer or producer.
Voices through the center speaker. The principals carry well hidden body mics and all voices are clear. Balance between orchestra, principals and chorus emphasizes the voices a bit, they stand out in front. Applause is from the sides and front. Overall, you get the feeling of sitting in row 8 for the orchestra, front row for the voices.
While I like the recording of the voices, the lack of orchestra detail and the limited surround presentation results in only 3 stars from me for the audio.
As far as the performance is concerned, I thought it was well sung, although Musetta's voice didn't always please me as much as the others. It was certainly well acted.
My collection includes the 1982 Met production with Jose Carreras which is stereo only and not really in the running anymore soundwise.
While I don't own it, I rented the 2009 Dornhelm film version with Villazon/Netrebko as a DVD version (no Blu-Ray available from Netflix). It has a DD 5.1 track as surround. The Blu-Ray version has also a DD 5.1 surround track and I am pretty sure that the 2 tracks are identical and my review should cover the Blu-Ray film version, too.
My rented copy was already a bit scratched and did only play a bit into Musetta's entrance, but I heard enough to put in an order for the Blu-ray version.
Sound stage extents all the way to the surround speakers, you can't do that much better. Voices are clear, balance with the orchestra is fine. With a loudness setting of -9 db, the voices are normally around 70 db, on dramatic occasions they will go to 80 db, voices and orchestra will hit 86-87 at highlights, for instance when the landlord gets thrown out. The film people know how to do surround. My only complaint is that the voices come through the center only, but I give it 5 stars anyway for the audio.
You get Netrebko and a better Musetta, Villazon sounds sometimes to me as if he has too much saliva in his mouth. This was recorded in 2008 and thus before his vocal chord surgery in 2009. But it is still well sung and acted.
I also rented the Met DVD from 2008 with Vargas/Gheorghiu. It has a DTS 5.1 track and I played it at a loudness setting of -12 db. At that level, it will get into the mid 80s db at the loudest parts of the opera.
Sound stage is very wide, side surround to side surround, with the orchestra a bit less detailed as in the film. Voices are moving across the stage, which I prefer, but it is a stage-mics-only production, so you get the voices fluctuating a bit depending on the direction in which they sing. Balance with the orchestra and chorus is quite good, but it favors the orchestra a bit. So here you feel like siting in the front as far as the orchestra is concerned, may be row 5 as far as the voices are concerned. Applause from front and sides with good loudness. Overall, I' ll give it 4 stars for the audio.
You 'll have to deal with the look behind the curtain during intermissions, but a click on the remote will advance it to the next chapter and the beginning of the next act.
Of the 3 discs, this one is the most like "being there" and if you prefer that, then Vargas/Gheorghiu is for you. It is well sung and well acted by all the principals.
If you prefer the more detailed and more "studio" sound, then the movie version is the better choice. If you prefer the voices in the foreground, then the Sydney production is for you. Take your pick.