Ontological-Hysteric Theater, Vol. 2: Astronome - A Night at the Opera
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Richard Foreman is one of the great geniuses of modern theatre, and his dynamic staging of John Zorn's opera “Astronome” was one of his greatest works. Drawing upon Alchemical and Mystical imagery, the visual world Foreman created was sumptuous, provocative and mysterious. For this DVD, 10 performances were captured on film from hundreds of angles and brilliantly edited by filmmaker Henry Hills, a longtime friend of both Zorn and Foreman. You can now experience this once in a lifetime presentation with a whole new intensity. Staged so as to hear the music better and clearer than ever, “Astronome” is a revolution in opera / music theatre.
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As usual, the Tzadik packaging is first-rate, but as usual, makes no attempt to explain anything that is presented. While I have never seen Foreman's work before, an accompanying 20-minute bonus film by Henry Hill provides a brief introduction to his philosophy via an interview cut with excerpts from another of his plays. The video quality of the hour-long opera is better than I might have expected, considering that it was filmed with two small consumer video cameras. It was carefully edited from 5 live performances, with some black-level enhancement to compensate for the low-light conditions. (Expanding to a dual layer format may have allowed it to be presented with less compression, but could have caused continuity problems on some players.)
The quality of the stereo soundtrack is excellent, and in spite of the AC3 compression typically used in movies, is comparable to the CD release. (A linear PCM track would appear to have fit on the DVD, and would have been a welcome upgrade, however.) Because of another review questioning the audio quality, I took the trouble to view the entire decoded waveform with editing software. There are absolutely no instances of glitches or clipping apart from a sampled "thump" which appears a few times, where it was present in the performance and may be considered intentional. It would be a shame if a questionable review prevented this fine work from reaching its audience.
i can confirm (on behalf of Tzadik -- we double-checked!) that there was NO COMPRESSION added to the music, it is the same as the cd release -- however because of the Dolby specs there is a 3dB reduction in gain (which causes NO DISTORTION OR CLIPPING). as a matter of fact, a HIGHER QUALITY source was used (24 bit/48 khz) than was issued on cd.
the fidelity of Richard's voiceovers and sound are indeed compressed and lofi, as they were in the performance, as they are in all of his theater. anyone who knows Richard's work will recognize this as accurate.
DVD sound design, Astronome
sound engineer for Richard Foreman
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