When I first started writing this site I intended not only to point the direction to great entertainment that you might miss but to provide some information on bargains that might occur in the market place. I think I’ve done pretty well with the first goal but have shirked the latter. I’ll try to do better on that during 2016, starting here with some info on some terrific Blu-ray and HD buys.
Walmart’s connection with Vudu has already resulted in some deals offering free movie tickets and discounts but the latest has to take the cake as a supreme money-saving deal. Certain Blu-ray discs have been priced at $4.99. Now most of them are “B” titles like Man on a Ledge, but there are some great “A” titles there like Brothers and The Hurt Locker. They all have a Vudu sticker proclaiming a $10 credit on Vudu. That’s right, a credit, no specific title required. Now Vudu is one of the best streaming services out there. You can get HDX quality and I’ve never had a blip or interruption when viewing. Also, their prices are not always high. Classics, in particular, can be $9.95 or under. So if you buy one of the Blu-ray titles you can own something like the Marlin Brando-James Mason Julius Caesar on Vudu and still have credit left. So even if you don’t like the Blu-ray you bought that much, you can look at it as a $10 Vudu credit for $5! The $4.99 Blu-rays were not in the entertainment section of my store but in a display near the check out.
Over the past 20 years I’ve developed a tradition of watching a performance of the Johann operetta Die Fledermaus on New Year’s Eve. I hadn’t seen this production since it came out an Image Entertainment DVD, many years ago. Arthhaus Musik has it now and has released it in the Blu-ray format. The performance was recorded on New Year’s Eve, 1990 and is sung in English. About 65 percent of it can be understood so it might have been nice to have English subtitles as did the DVD, but alas, no go – just German, French, and Japanese. Since this is an operetta it mixes spoken dialog and singing. The former is easily understood in English, the latter less so. The cast of youngish singers is first-rate. Judith Howarth sparkles as Adele and Nancy Gustafson is a radiant Rosalinde. Louis Oley is a dashing Eisenstein and Anthony Michaels-Moore a devilish Falke. Prince Orlovsky is usually a trousers role for a mezzo-soprano, but is here is sung by a countertenor (Jochen Kowalski). The whole mash is like a 19th century romcom. Eistenstein must go to jail, which leaves Rosalinde free to the amorous, and operatic advances of tenor Alfredo (Bonaventura Bottone) whose ardor is cut short when he is mistaken for Eistenstein and trucked off to the pokey. In the meantime, Prince Orlovsky is giving a ball and the main characters all arrive there in disguise. Flirtations ensue and in Act III the whole thing is sorted out.
Since the second act takes place at the Prince’s ball, it’s a good time to insert entertainment for his guests, and for the audience. In less lavish productions this might merely be a ballet sequence, but over the years the Act II entertainment of various companies has reached for the stars. Here, Dame Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, and Marilyn Horne hold the stage, singing arias and duets as a tribute to Sutherland, who was retiring after 22 years with the Royal Opera company. It was really a splendid idea and thankfully, state of the art equipment was on hand to record it. The Blu-ray transfer is excellent, proving that blasts from the past need not look awful and dated, as do a rash of recently re-issued operas on Bluy-ray curiously enough also from Arthaus Music. Also included are some Sutherland aria performances from Opera Australia productions. Outstanding among these, the mad scene from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, which finds Sutherland not only singing immaculately, but turning in an award caliber acting performance as a crazy lady who has just killed her newly wed husband. The overall Blu-ray is highly entertaining and simply lots of fun, a great way to usher in the New Year, with or without the bubbly.