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Mozart: La finta giardiniera [Blu-ray]
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Rudolf Schasching, Eva Mel, Christoph Streht, Isabel Rey, Lilliana Nikiteanu, Julia Kleiter, and Gabriel Bermudez star in this 2006 Opera Zurich production of the Mozart opera conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
Christopher Williams reviewed the conventional DVD version of this, along with a competing Salzburg Festival DG issue conducted by Ivor Bolton, in Fanfare 31:1. Williams found that this Harnoncourt performance on TDK offered "a fuller text, tighter ensemble, and more `traditional' stagecraft," but less dynamism in individual roles. Still, wrote Williams, "Harnoncourt delivers a lively and captivating performance, with that characteristic Harnoncourt `bite' and penchant for surging hairpin dynamics." The Harnoncourt "bite" is difficult to discern on the Blu-ray's DTS-HD audio track, which softens the orchestral attacks and puts the singers at a great distance; they've got less volume to cut through the swimmy acoustics than in the closer, clearer PCM stereo version, which presents everyone to much better advantage.
I agree with Williams that Christoph Strehl displays "a voice of spun (and occasionally crooning) gold," but with the exception of Eva Mei, whose performance is notable for its balance of warmth with lightness and delicacy, the other singers fall a bit short of perfection. Liliana Nikiteanu lacks the stamina to carry her all the way through some phrases, and Rudolf Schasching can be a little coarse vocally. Furthermore, the cameras aren't always pointing at the right character. Even so, it's overall an enjoyable performance, for more details on which you should consult the earlier review.
About this Blu-ray version, I'll say that the picture is very crisp, with subtle gradations and shadings of color. There are no extra video features, though, and no onscreen scene selection menu beyond the division of acts; on the other hand, individual numbers are indexed and listed in the booklet, which also includes a little multilingual essay by director Tobias Moretti on his concept--and that's about it. So in terms of both packaging and performance, this is a very good release that could have been better. -- Fanfare, James Reel, January 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
In common with many operas the storyline is not very deep or involved but is performed here with gusto and affection. The costuming is attractively modern and the set very plain but this does not detract from appreciating the performance. The most amazing attribute to the work is that Mozart was only 18 when it was composed. Yet it is more sophisticated to me than many other operas and deserves better recognition that it is usually accorded.
The audio (DTS Master Audio 7.1) and video are first class. Recommended.
Picture is fine, as with most BRs.
Audio is DTS-HD MA 7.1 (or PCM stereo, which I didn't listen to) and it is a showcase for surround sound. Sound stage for the orchestra is 160 degrees and you have the impression of sitting in the center of the front row. The cembalo, for instance, is just a tad forward from the right surround. All instrument groups nicely spread out in front of you. You can't record that any better.
The voices are through the center and are clear thanks to well hidden body mics. For perfection, they would have moved with the singers across the stage. I could not find much fault with the 7 principals' voices, although you might like some more than others. Balance with the orchestra is most of the time also good. Sometimes I wished the voices were a bit louder, but the way they are recorded is very realistic and resembles "being there".
Applause is from the front and surrounds. Again, for perfection, it should have come from the surround and back as to confirm the impression of sitting in row 1.
Overall, you get over 3 hours of Mozart music, well conducted, played, sung and recorded: 5 stars.
As for the modern theatrical direction and stage setting, I have mixed feelings. Having the principals tiptoe through dry branches and sticks on the ground or seeing what must have been painful impressions on the knees from kneeling on that ground didn't add any comedy for me. But filling 3 hours in a garden or forest with action is a tall order and most of the time it was acted quite well, although sometimes a bit too goofy for me.
If you enjoy Mozart's music and excellent surround sound, this is for you. Just close your eyes when the stage action is too distracting.
There is a 3 minute trailer from TDK/Naxos on youtube.
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