Opera on Blu-ray

ARQuint -- Sat, 10/18/2008 - 08:41

Among the most exciting developments of the past 6 months, as far as I'm concerned, as been the mini-explosion of classical music on Blu-ray, mostly opera. The Royal Opera House bought the DVD label Opus Arte and has been steadily releasing performances filmed not just at Covent Garden, but also at Glyndebourne, Madrid, and elsewhere. Superb examples include a La bohème, Il trovatore, The Magic Flute, and (my favorite to date) Die Fledermaus. The first Harmonia Mundi Blu-ray (Don Giovanni) just arrived, and Naxos will be getting into the act as well.

The big news, sonically, is that the surround program is presented at the same level of resolution as the stereo version, clearly a major improvement over the DTS or Dolby Digital alternatives on DVDs. Most are PCM (as opposed to DTS TruHD or Dolby TruHD) but the bit depth and sampling frequency isn't specified anywhere in the packaging (and you don't find out by clicking "Audio" on your remote.) Does anybody know the degree of resolution on these PCM surround tracks? I'd love to know if they are better-than-CD quality. To my ears, they sound as though they could be.

Andy Quint

Tom Martin -- Sun, 10/19/2008 - 20:06

It would be good to have a list of the good ones.


BTW -- Andy did you see this post?


CEO and Editorial Director, Nextscreen LLC

ARQuint -- Mon, 10/20/2008 - 06:12

They are coming hot and heavy, and I'll admit I've got a pile I have not seen/heard yet. But here are five winners—four operas and a ballet. I've reviewed all five in Fanfare. All are on the Opus Arte label.

Mozart: Die Zauberflöte (Colin Davis, Covent Garden)
Puccini: La bohème (Jesus Lopes Cobos, Madrid)
J. Strauss: Die Fledermaus (Vladimir Jurowski, Thomas Allen, Glyndebourne)
Verdi: Il trovatore (Jose Cura, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Covent Garden)
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (Paris Opera Ballet)

I'll update this very short list as my experience increases, and would greatly appreciate the input of others.


Tom Martin -- Mon, 10/20/2008 - 21:08

Thanks! Is Opus Arte alone in this endeavor or are there others? These seem to be older recordings?

CEO and Editorial Director, Nextscreen LLC

ARQuint -- Tue, 10/21/2008 - 04:48

When Tom characterizes these as "older recordings," I wouldn't want folks to get the impression that these BDs are refurbishings of filmed performances from the 1970s and '80s. The video for all is clearly "high-definition," what you'd expect as Opus Arte has to be out to impress with the new format. The Magic Flute and Die Fledermaus date from 2003, Il trovatore from 2002, Bohème from 2006, and Swan Lake from 2005.

So far, the only opera I have that's not on the Opus Arte label is René Jacobs' Don Giovanni, on Harmonia Mundi. Interestingly, the cast is slightly different than the highly regarded performance that's available on HMs CDs and hybrid multichannel SACDs. Same youthful Don, though. I understand Naxos will be releasing Blu-rays as well.

It's hard to imagine that the Metropolitan Opera won't get into the act. I'll have the opportunity to ask Peter Gelb, the MET's General Manager, in the near future.

stridonolassu (not verified) -- Mon, 12/22/2008 - 10:33

Check out the Blu-ray section of my site for opera video collectors to see a list of all current and upcoming opera on Blu-ray titles:

Mikey -- Thu, 06/04/2009 - 16:08

I've attended The Met's "Live in HD" series for 2 years now, and would love to be able to buy a Blu-Ray recording of almost any of the performances I've seen.  The format, subtitling, backstage views, and -- last but not least, the music -- are all stunning.  I've got plans for gifts for at least 3 people of The Audition, which is a must-see for all opera lovers.
Problem is, there's no hint from The Met that such recordings might become available.  Every time someone calls to ask me about upgrading my membership I ask them about it, but the whole concept seems alien to them.
So -- ARQuint -- what did Mr Gelb have to say?

Fitzcaraldo215 -- Thu, 08/27/2009 - 17:40

I just rented (from Netflix)  and watched the Met's Eugene Onegin with Hvorostovsky and Fleming conducted by Gergiev.  Spectacular!  This is the way to see opera!! It's even better than in the theaters, because the video quality is better, at least on my system.   Audio quality was also slightly better on my system.  Having driven to New York many times and paid astronomical prices for seats at the Met, I am now convinced this is better.  It's like having a front row seat.  The Met shows these on PBS after the theater runs.  I think they would be idiots not to release these on Blu-ray, but I think Peter Gelb, the Met's Director, knows all about that angle.  He's from Sony.

BillS (not verified) -- Fri, 08/28/2009 - 20:13

I hope you're right

Charles Fischer (not verified) -- Sun, 09/06/2009 - 15:55

Unfortunately, the Met has (somewhat pig-headedly I am afraid) decided NOT to release any of their operas, including the ones slated for HD release in theaters, in Blu-Ray. That means, EMI will always be behind in quality in comparison with recent releases from Opus Arte, TDK, Arthaus, etc. Of course, there will still be some visual benefits to the recent EMI/Met releases in that DVD transfers from HD sources look better than the older transfers, especially with a good upscaling DVD player.
Dear Mr. Fischer,
Thank you for contacting us. Please accept our sincerest apologies for the delay in response. At this time there are no plans to release any productions in Blu-ray format. Please let us know if we can further assist you. Thank you for supporting the Metropolitan Opera.
Rena Anya Devéza
Met Opera Customer Relations
-----Original Message-----
From: metinfo [at] metopera [dot] org [metinfo [at] metopera [dot] org (mailto:metinfo [at] metopera [dot] org)]
Sent: Sunday, August 30, 2009 6:47 AM
To: MetInfo
Subject: HD Programming
HD Programming
Name: Charles P Fischer
Email: bizweb5 [at] yahoo [dot] com
Congratulations on your decision to release HD broadcasts on DVD. I am puzzled, however, that they are not being released in Blu-Ray format, which is really HD format, instead of SD format on EMI. Do you have plans to issue any Blu-Ray versions in future? If so, please let me know when they will become available for purchase!

gkhowell -- Wed, 05/18/2011 - 06:12

Good news - the Met is releasing a new title on Blu-ray. The Don Pasquale from last year is coming from DG in July. You can pre-order now.

John Chandler (not verified) -- Sat, 09/26/2009 - 22:01

I have mixed feelings about many of the recent Blu ray releases. Yes the technical aspects are generally better but there are some quite dreadful artistic decisions that effectively ruin many performances. Lighting and the perverse use of moden dress are amongst the most common failings. I felt the Madrid La Boheme was ruined by poor lighting and dismal costumes. Eugene Onegin was also ruined by ridiculous low lighting and terrible sets despite superb singing. On the better side Lohengrin is a performance in a million as are La Fille mal gardée, La Cenerentola and the Decca Swan Lake. The Weimar Ring is another where the wierd visual presentation destroys a fine musical presentation. What do the producers think they are up to? What might work for a one night visit to the opera house with a set of opera glasses will not necessarily work for a Blu ray disc that should be sufficiently welcoming to invite you back time and again. Too many recent releases fall into this category. One needs to be very careful. Many reviews on line are rubbish and just do not reflect the reality of watching at home.

Powell -- Wed, 10/31/2012 - 01:57

When it comes to summer music actions, many of the leader ones start in the mechanism and go into the summer. Some, even, are scheduled right earlier than fall starts. The electronic music festival subsequent reads like a who's-who of electronic group, often with one of the top DJs headlining the occasion.

All content, design, and layout are Copyright © 1999 - 2011 NextScreen. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction in whole or part in any form or medium without specific written permission is prohibited.