The Phantom of the Opera gets a great showcase on Blu-ray with this performance at the Royal Albert Hall last October, in honor of its 25th anniversary. Like last year’s Blu-ray of Les Miserables, this production includes a solid cast, including two leads who are well-versed in the production. Unlike Les Miserables, this one is presented not as a stationary concert but as a nearly full-scale staging of the musical. Picture and sound quality are superlative, to the point that the digital backdrops show their pixels. A 25 minute encore is alone worth the price of the disc and is not to be missed. This is an easy one to recommend for purchase.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL
Studio: Cameron Mackintosh/Really Useful Theatre Company
Performance Held On: October 2, 2011 at the Royal Albert Hall in London
Length: 2 hrs 40 mins (including a 25 minute encore)
Genre: Musical/Gothic Romance/Andrew Lloyd Webber
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, AVC (@ an average 25 mbps)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 2.4 mbps, oscillating to 3.7 mbps), English Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: Unrated (Suggested Violence, Phantom Makeup)
Release Date: February 7, 2012
Starring: Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess, Barry James, Gareth Snook, Liz Robertson and Wynne Evans, with encore appearances by Sarah Brightman and others
Music by: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by: Charles Hart (Additional Lyrics by Richard Stilgoe
Book by: Richard Stilgoe & Andrew Lloyd Webber
Based on the novel “Le Fantome de l’Opera” by Gaston Leroux
Directed by: Laurence Connor (from original staging by Harold Prince)
Produced by: Cameron Mackintosh
Review Rating: 4/5
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s biggest hit musical, The Phantom of the Opera, is a glorious throwback to the days of the pantomimes, the 19th Century spectacular entertainments that were to their audiences what a blockbuster movie like Avatar is to us today. It doesn’t have the greatest dialogue in the world, but the sheer visual and aural sweep of the spectacle and the music is breathtaking. Without spoiling any details, this is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s take on the classic story of the title character’s tragic love for an opera soprano. It’s simply loaded with great music and staging and while it runs over 2 hours, not counting intermission, the time simply flies by.
The production on display on this Blu-ray is a special 25th Anniversary production, presented at the Royal Albert Hall in London last October and transmitted live to movie theaters around the world. The two lead performers from Webber’s sequel, Love Never Dies (both of whom have years of experience playing the roles both in the sequel and in the original), Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess, head up a fine cast here, more than holding their own with the demands of the musical. The staging itself appears to be an adaptation of the original production, including some very specific business for the actors in various scenes. The challenge here is that the Royal Albert Hall does not have the extensive wings, flies and offstage area to accommodate all the elaborate set and pyrotechnical needs of the play. So the backdrops here are digital, and some mechanical effects (the play’s famous chandelier) are limited. But this is still fairly close to a full staging of the play. Rather than having the cast stand at microphones downstage (as was done with the anniversary staging of Les Miserables) this production has the cast wearing wraparound microphones as they play the scenes. Some viewers might be distracted by the microphones or the digital background, and they should be aware of them in advance. For myself, these are necessary trappings of a stage performance under these circumstances and I quickly forgot about them as the performance went on.
As a special bonus, a 25 minute encore follows the end of the play, with Andrew Lloyd Webber speaking to the crowd, followed by encore performances of two songs. Sarah Brightman performs the title song with no less than five Phantoms, who then continue to sing the classic song “The Music of the Night”. One caveat here is that while the original Phantom, Michael Crawford, makes an appearance, he does not sing. (A little research shows that on the day, he had just completed a
performance in Lloyd Webber’s newest musical, The Wizard of Oz.)
The Phantom of the Opera was released on Blu-ray this past Tuesday. The Blu-ray edition contains high definition picture and audio of the performances and a pair of special features.
VIDEO QUALITY 4 ½/5
The Phantom of the Opera is presented in a 1.78:1 1080p AVC encode that practically puts the viewer on the stage in the Royal Albert Hall. The picture is so detailed that you’ll be able to see the pixellation of the digital backdrop and the smallest details of the makeup applied to Ramin Karimloo.
AUDIO QUALITY 4/5
The Phantom of the Opera comes in two flavors, both in English. First, there’s a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that has a pretty strong bass presence in the subwoofer and generates a fairly good effect of being in the Royal Albert Hall during the performance. There’s also a simpler Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, to which the disc defaults.
SPECIAL FEATURES 2 ½/5
The Phantom of the Opera comes with a preview for Love Never Dies and a brief but thorough featurette on the 25th Anniversary production that should be a good time for fans of the musical.
Love Never Dies Trailer (1:03, 1080p) – This is a quick preview of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel musical, which will be available for purchase in three months.
Getting Past the Point of No Return (17:40, 1080p) – This featurette covers the staging of the 25th Anniversary production, including interviews with Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess. The challenges of working in the Royal Albert Hall are addressed, including the need to completely disassemble the chandelier in order to fit it through the stage door.
The performance and the special features are subtitled in English, Spanish and French. The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu, broken up into the various scenes of the play.
IN THE END...
The Phantom of the Opera is real pleasure to watch, particularly in this incarnation, its 25th Anniversary performance at the Royal Albert Hall. It gets a first class presentation here, including fine high definition picture and sound. The book of the play may get a little much at times, but I must confess the play still has a power to overwhelm. My personal highlight is the moment of wordless soprano singing done by Christine at the end of the title song – it still gets me every time. Viewers who have not seen this play are encouraged to buy the disc. Fans of the play have certainly already done so.
February 12, 2012.
Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:
Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at “THX” picture mode
Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver
Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player
PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)
5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)
2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)
Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer