Boheme [Blu-ray] [Import]
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Ji-Min Park (Rodolfo) - José Carbó (Marcello) - David Parkin (Colline) - Shane Lowrencev (Schaunard) - Takesha Meshé Kizart (Mimì) - Taryn Fiebig (Musetta) - Opera Australia Chorus - Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra - Shao-Chia Lü, direction
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Ji-Min Park [Rodolfo], José Carbó [Marcello] David Parkin [Colline] and Shane Lowrencev [Schaunard] all work well together as the four friends. Yet it is the believability of the interaction between Ji-Min Park and Takesha Meshé Kizart [Mimì] that caught my attention, for once I found it credible that Rodolfo had fallen instantly in love with a beautiful face and that Mimì also wanted to be loved by Rodolfo. This, for me, is what made this particular version of La Bohème memorable.
Taryn Fiebig's performance as Musetta is also wonderful. When she first appears on stage in Café Momus she is the epitome of a cold-hearted gold digger from the top of her blond waved hair to the polished tips of her high heeled shoes, but as the story progresses Fiebig gradually reveals the uncertain young woman behind this façade, desperate be loved, to love and marry.
Café Momus is a revelation of glitz and decadence, which works well on the small stage of Sydney Opera House. I really liked the nifty scene change from outside to inside the night club. Musetta's costume in this Act is stunning; the chorus and extras' costumes give a tangible sense of a 1930s Berlin nightclub. The little scenes played out in the café do give a real sense of the desperation of this period - to earn any money at all in the depression, and to block out the reality of the militarisation of Germany and any impending war.
My only query about the whole production was the rationale behind Mimì's dress, or state of undress, in Act IV. However, that is a minor point in an otherwise very likeable, well performed production.
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.