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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Rameau-Zoroastre on Opus Arte

A magnificent French Baroque opera wonderfully produced and recorded.


The libretto is essentially an abstract morality play told through archetype, metaphor and symbol. The opera's production, i.e., its direction, staging, and choreography, is realized in a way that perfectly supports this conceptual style. I feel that a work of art acquires compelling vitality when there is some tension within its structure. Here, that tension is provided by the production, by a stunning mix of period and abstract styles in costumes and sets, and superbly expressive choreography based on modern dance, brought together with period instruments and admirable integrity to the French Baroque musical style. The total effect is simply stunning. My only problem is with the last act where, rather than using a set, the theater is stripped to is bare infrastructure. At present I do not see how that supports the material presented. Perhaps on a few more viewings I will "get it."


The vocal performances range from very good to outstanding. Sine Bundgaard's arias as Amelite are sometimes spine-tingling. One could quibble over a very few slightly flat notes from some of the other soloists, but nothing that spoiled a moment. The chorus did a little less well, and unfortunately so at their first entrance where there were some minor problems with both intonation and time. In fact time was a problem for them on several occasions. On the whole, however, they did very well. And personally I'd cut them some slack on the time problems, Christophe Rousset's conducting style is so fluid I don't see how anyone found a beat in it. None the less he generally summoned suburb musicality from all his musicians, both on stage and in the pit. And at the end of the performance I felt it entirely worthy of the long and hearty applause it got.


Overall, I rate the recording a bit shy of very good. The recording as a data stream sounds very clean, I hear no real problems in terms of distortion, clipping or equalization. As for levels there are some minor problems and one that actually bothers me. This has to do with compression and where peaks are set and levels manipulated. The full chorus at fortissimo should be noticeably louder than a solo lead at fortissimo. But in this recording it is not, which causes a displacement, a distortion in the composer's intended positioning and modulation of musical energy--in my book this is a major transgression. (Others may not find it so.) Further it seems that the chorus was mic'd by a different method than the soloists in a way that gives the aural impression that chorus and soloists are in different acoustic spaces when they are actually, visually, in the same one.


Technically I find no problems with the videography. Aesthetically much of it is done well and with sensitivity to the opera's needs. But also much of it did not seem that way. I found most all of the overhead shots and shots from stage rear to feel gratuitous in their invention. And I do not like close-ups or even medium close-ups of singers' faces. When listening to music the mind attends to words immediately and strongly because, relative to music, they are categorically more concrete than notes. Similarly, if you have seen much modern painting, you will surely have encountered works that include textual elements. And just as surely you will have noticed how your attention was pulled to those elements almost as if by force. Opera, though more concrete than "pure" music, is still, by its nature, relatively abstract. When one views an opera in the theater, one does not see concrete people; one sees actors (singers) which by virtue of context, distance and stage makeup are transformed into something more abstract. By its constitution the human mind is set to attend first to the human face and a close up of it in an opera is analogous to text in a painting. So every time there is a cut to a close-up of a face, I feel a disturbing collapse in the level of aesthetic abstraction.


If there seem to be a lot of complaints here it is only because I am a very picky person when it comes to the fine arts. This BD is a very good recording of an outstanding production. I would recommend it without hesitation and consider it a must have.
 

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Thanks for the review. I am very interested in the Rameau, being a period instrument fan. I own several operas on BD now, and am hoping to add this one to my collection.


I believe that there will be a learning curve for the engineers with miking multichannel opera recordings. Achieving good balance between instruments and singers, as well as a chorus, is a tough job. Getting all the soundstaging correct and following the singer's movement sonically and visually is yet another challenge.


I bought the Opus Arte sampler, and the excerpt from Zoroastre had channel assignment errors. The soundstage was rotated 90 degrees to the right: the left front channel info was coming from the right front, the right front channel info was coming out of the right rear speaker, etc.


I wrote Opus Arte and Naxos USA about this, and have not heard anything back. And, yes, my system is set up fine. All other selections on the sampler disc played fine.


I still intend to support Opus Arte and BD opera. I believe it's a great format to showcase these performances.


Lee
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by RBFC /forum/post/15527045


I bought the Opus Arte sampler, and the excerpt from Zoroastre had channel assignment errors. The soundstage was rotated 90 degrees to the right:

I confess that the current state of chaos in my audio system has led me to not focus on those issues till some cables are ordered and received, speakers moved and connected and tests and calibrations run. Further I am not familiar with Zoroastre so I have only watched it (several times) with the subtitles on. I will have to watch it that way several more times before I can experience it without the subtitles and as directly as is appropriate.


I do hope you will purchase this. Really the orchestra is great and it is worth the cost for the ballet alone
I'm very fond of baroque opera and hope that good sales of Zoroastre will promote more releases.
 

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I much appreciate such a detailed and well written review of the artistic merits of a work here instead of the usual technical spec talk. I know Christophe Rousset by way of his harpsichord recordings.


Although not having watched this production I very much share your dislike of close-up facial shots but more for aesthetic than artistic reasons. And how often in watching operas and concerts have I wished that cameras stop wandering around inappropriately! Your comments on camera angles are echoed by an Amazon UK reviewer who only gave it one star. It is quite possible that camera crew and video editors aren't necessarily people who appreciate opera in the same way as we do.


Looking at the screenshots on OA's website there is hardly any staging set in some scenes and this is a big minus for me.


The sound directional misplacements and dynamic range compression may not necessarily be a mic placement problem as such but rather a misjudgement or carelessness of the sound mixer. I don't know but it may even have started off as a stereo recording.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RBFC /forum/post/15527045


I bought the Opus Arte sampler, and the excerpt from Zoroastre had channel assignment errors. The soundstage was rotated 90 degrees to the right: the left front channel info was coming from the right front, the right front channel info was coming out of the right rear speaker, etc.

You mentioned in the other thread a fault in Die Zauberflöte, so we have two OA discs with sound mixing problem? In the interest of science we need the timestamps so others can verify for themselves on their equipment.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kilian.ca /forum/post/15530173




You mentioned in the other thread a fault in Die Zauberflöte, so we have two OA discs with sound mixing problem? In the interest of science we need the timestamps so others can verify for themselves on their equipment.


I'll put them up as soon as I can.


Lee
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kilian.ca /forum/post/15530173


Looking at the screenshots on OA's website there is hardly any staging set in some scenes and this is a big minus for me.

May sound odd but I think choreography was substituted for set, and very effectively so.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kilian.ca /forum/post/15530173


...And how often in watching operas and concerts have I wished that cameras stop wandering around inappropriately! ... It is quite possible that camera crew and video editors aren't necessarily people who appreciate opera in the same way as we do.

...

I think the problem is that tableau is as integral a part of most operas as action while tableau is anathema to the film maker's mindset and training. They may be justified in wanting to find an alternative to it for film(video) but substituting close ups of faces does not and cannot work. Close ups of hands would be more in the spirit of opera (i.e. in keeping with its level of abstraction) as might be more creative techniques. Till they do come up with something as good as tableau I wish they swallow their pride and spend most of their time in simple proscenium shots.
 

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Try at about 33 minutes in, with the quintet of Papageno, Tamino, and the three women. All the movement across the stage, and I did not hear any sound (singers) from beyond the center. Especially when he walked to far right, the voice did not track.


I will be the first to admit that I'm picking nits, and comparing these presentations with sound-only recordings. The singing and overall performances are completely enjoyable, beyond the criticism of a neophyte like me.


Lee
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by RBFC /forum/post/15527045


I wrote Opus Arte and Naxos USA about this, and have not heard anything back.
Naxos is just the distributor in the US but OA should respond to your concern.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RBFC /forum/post/15537284


Try at about 33 minutes in, with the quintet of Papageno, Tamino, and the three women. All the movement across the stage, and I did not hear any sound (singers) from beyond the center. Especially when he walked to far right, the voice did not track.

I don't want to hijack this thread talking about Die Z but the comments apply in general. I see what you mean. That doesn't bother me much - I wouldn't call it nitpicking though - and it may well be intentional, to keep the vocals confined mainly to the centre channel. I notice quite often the camera angle changes (view from one camera switches to another) and zoom level changes also and it can be somewhat confusing where exactly the singers are standing at times. However it is possible to be more coherent in the camera work and sound mixing in following the singers' movement more precisely.


Note also on the back of the case it lists the television producer and director. So the implication is it may well be primarily intended for television broadcast and the camera shots and sound recording might tailor for such needs.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kilian.ca /forum/post/15549762

Naxos is just the distributor in the US but OA should respond to your concern.

Actually, I just received a reply from Naxos. They are looking into this matter, and I'll report back when I hear from them on this.



Quote:
I don't want to hijack this thread talking about Die Z but the comments apply in general. I see what you mean. That doesn't bother me much - I wouldn't call it nitpicking though - and it may well be intentional, to keep the vocals confined mainly to the centre channel. I notice quite often the camera angle changes (view from one camera switches to another) and zoom level changes also and it can be somewhat confusing where exactly the singers are standing at times. However it is possible to be more coherent in the camera work and sound mixing in following the singers' movement more precisely.


Note also on the back of the case it lists the television producer and director. So the implication is it may well be primarily intended for television broadcast and the camera shots and sound recording might tailor for such needs.


It's quite possible that the recording engineers had a definite presentation in mind. It's also possible that there is yet more to be learned about surround recording in this context, especially by those who are not solely audio craftsmen. I believe that our support and enthusiasm for these releases will stimulate a drive for even better product in the near future, as recordings are made exclusively for BD/surround playback.


I truly hope that my comments are not seen so much as bashing on Opus Arte, or any label. I have listened to much of this material on audio-only recordings for about 30 years now, and certainly have some "benchmarks" as to the audio presentation of these works. My observations here will not prevent me from purchasing more opera/ballet on BD. Rather, I hope that they form the basis of some constructive criticism that may be addressed in future releases.


Lee
 

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Back on the track for this thread:


Also, I have been assured that the full release of Zoroastre does not contain the channel assignment error that the excerpt on the sampler disc has. There is another level of quality control on full releases, according to one Opus Arte source.


I, therefore, am quite interested in adding this BD to my collection!


Lee
 
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