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Good singing but a pity about the rest
on 4 February 2011
Keelyside and co all sing well, mostly very well, so there's a positive. Also a positive is that for once Davis doesn't sing (or hum) too. Sadly, the other news is not so good.
The sound is limited and seems both monaural and compressed. The soundtrack is presented in LPCM 2.0 or 5.1 but the lack of any directionality or surround staging in 5.1 suggests that it has been spatialised from just a stereo master. The constrained sound also suggests that the track has been simply upsampled from 16 bit/44.1 herz. I could be wrong on both counts. Certainly the date of production (2003) preceeds and precluded DTS HD reording.
Also, in this age of multi-miking and hi-res recording, why is it not possible to mike the orchestra to provide better sound than the boxed-in and boxy orchestral sound we're given here. The woodwinds (other than the flute's solo spots) might as well not have bothered turning up.
The picture is fine but doesn't have much to do. The stage is basic and severe and usually in semi-darkness. No need for detail. And the tableau like nature of many (literally) set pieces means that picture resolution is not challenegd by movement. My guess is that the picture was low-res as per 2003 standards, and is simply upscaled to provide "higher" definition.
Basically, and in sum, this feels like an ordinary, limited DVD masquerading as a Blu Ray.
As significantly, the production is inconsistent and, at times, silly. To begin with, there are some pointless bits of staging, such as Tamino entering a door to nowhere in the overture. Also in the overture, two people portentously enter the stage with glowing bowls? Why? - they never re-appear.
The Queen and her ladies look ludicrous in their space-opera headgear. They resemble a cross between Macbeth's three witches and Mimbari from Babylon 5.
Monastotos is simply a buffoon, - no menace here. His minions are surely too numerous and wicked for Sorastro's perfect kingdom. Not to mention that they look like extras from George A Romero zombie flick set in the French revolution.
Pamina and Tamino and Sorastro look like they at least come from the same period as that, but inexplicably Papageno looks like a 1930's tramp with a duck on his head and the three boys look like they've stepped from the same 1930's milieu. I won't mention Papagena as old lady come 60's British comedy tart, - its just too sad for words. And too silly for words is that in this otherwise Enlightment era mileau and staging, the three boys move across the stage in a flying billycart.
The "dances" of fire and waves in the Finale look like something as professional as a high-school musical.
"Business" on the side and the use of the extras involved in it is often mystifying and random.
Sadly, whilst everyone can sing well, few can act and performances are generally either fruity or wooden. The tableau like presentation doesn't help counter this impression. Any "humour" is strictly of a pantomime nature and level.
In conclusion, the singing is excellent and that's what opera rides on, BUT I have seen much better in the Opera House and heard much better sound on disc. As for David McVickar's "direction", that term is surely a misnomer. My advice would be to wait till a better version comes along on blu-ray, as it surely must. This may do until then but I think i'll be playing my RB and SA CDs instead of it.