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Thread: La Boheme. Freni / Pavarotti. Decca remastered on Pure Audio Blu-ray.

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    Default La Boheme. Freni / Pavarotti. Decca remastered on Pure Audio Blu-ray.

    Following are my thoughts on the just-released (in USA) 2016 remastered (24bit/96kHz in 2.0 stereo) 1972 Karajan “La Boheme” featuring Freni and Pavarotti, delivered on Pure Audio Blu-ray disc (plus CDs).

    Let me begin by saying that I am a “beginner-level” opera fan. OTOH, I am a serious hi-fi enthusiast. (I have 5 hi-fi systems in my home, including more than 2 dozen amps - tube and solid-state.) Therefore, I will focus on my perception of audio quality, and quality of the deliverables, and leave discussion of performance quality to much more expert TC members:

    • There are no on-screen supertitles (libretto) delivered via the Pure Audio Blu-ray disc. I am very disappointed about this. On one hand, it’s nice that a 330-page miniature book is included, however it would be much easier to have the words (in my case in English) on the HDTV screen, vs. having to follow along in a printed libretto.
    • The on-screen Blu-ray display is static, providing no protection from image burn-in on the HDTV. (Fortunately, the remote control for my Oppo Blu-ray player has a “Pure Audio” button that blanks the HDTV screen.)
    • I’m disappointed in the audio quality. IMO the audio is marginally good enough to be able to enjoy the performance, but is not as good as top-quality modern recordings. IMO the sound is a little “thin” and somewhat “hollow” sounding. This remastered Decca recording sounds best with my “warmest” sounding tube amps. You may find tone controls to be useful with this recording.
    • IMO, the loud passages can be a problem with this recording. I own several hi-fi systems that can handle the dynamics of hi-resolution opera recordings without sounding distorted. For example, my Blu-ray video “The Opera Gala, Live from Baden-Baden” includes Anna Netrebko singing “Casta Diva”. My Klipsch Palladium P-37F tower speakers with Palladium P-312W subwoofer (TV room system), and Klipsch RF-7 II towers with R-115SW subwoofer (basement) are particularly good at handling extremely loud passages, such as when Anna is singing at full volume. When playing a top-quality recording on these systems I don’t find myself reaching for the volume control to turn it down. On lesser quality recordings, I frequently find myself turning the volume down during the loud soprano passages – not because of how loud it is, but because it sounds harsh. IMO the loudest passages of this recently remastered Karajan “La Boheme” sound harsh unless the overall volume level is kept low – and then the quiet passages are difficult to hear. On one hand, it’s a 1972 recording, so perhaps allowances must be made. OTOH, the 1956 Beecham recording (Victoria de los Angeles / Bjorling) that was remastered to CD in 1997 is easier on my ears (i.e., more pleasant to listen to). Perhaps this is a case of “expectation bias” – i.e., I expect less of a 1956 recording. (Does anyone know if the Beehcam CD was mastered with more compression, compared with the remastered Karajan?)


    The “La Boheme recordings” that I own (in reverse chronology):

    • Netrebko / Villazon. Dornhelm. Kultur. 2008. Blu-ray video.
    • Stratas / Carreras. Levine. DG. 1982. DVD.
    • Freni / Pavarotti. Karajan. Decca. Original recording: 1972 analog audio. Remastered 2016 - 24bit/96kHz. Delivered on Pure Audio Blu-ray.
    • Victoria de los Angeles / Bjorling. Beecham. EMI Classics. Original recording: 1956 analog audio (mono). Remastered 1997. Delivered on CD. (I also own the Seraphim LPs.)
    • Callas / Di Stefano. Votto. Warner Classics. Original audio recording: 1956. Remastered 2014. Delivered by HDTracks as 24bit/96kHz FLAC download.


    My favorite is the Netrebko / Villazon Blu-ray video, based on the excellent audio quality, excellent film adaptation (that I think enriches the story-telling), and the fact that I fell in love with Anna’s Mimi. My second choice is the Beecham recording featuring Victoria de los Angeles. I also like Freni as Mimi, but the audio quality causes me to rank this recording lower. I know this may rile Callas fans, but I didn’t fall in love with Maria’s Mimi, and the audio quality of the remastered Callas recordings IMO falls short of the best (which is understandable considering that it was recorded in 1956). I think that the audio quality of the Stratas / Carreras DVD is marginally acceptable – but for a video recording I far prefer the Blu-ray with Netrebko / Villazon - in every way.

    I do not own any earlier release of the 1972 Karajan “La Boheme”, so I can’t comment on whether or not the 2016 remastered Pure Audio Blu-ray (or CDs) sounds better than earlier CDs (or LPs).

    I look forward to reading other TC members’ thoughts.

    (Next up, later this week I’ll start listening to Decca’s 2016 remaster of “Lucia di Lammermoor” featuring Sutherland and Pavarotti.)

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    Send your complaints to Universal Decca if you are that disappointed.
    I did order the Price/ Karajan Tosca ans I looking very much forwards to it although I am quits sure that the latest remastered in the "Legendary Recordings" can't be beaten.

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    Is it easy to navigate the tracks on your Oppo player for the blu ray audio disc?

    Do you have to use screen or can you use remote to control track functions?

    Does blu ray audio have the same track breaks as CD version?
    Last edited by DarkAngel; Jan-11-2017 at 17:28.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    Is it easy to navigate the tracks on your Oppo player for the blu ray audio disc?

    Do you have to use screen or can you use remote to control track functions?

    Does blu ray audio have the same track breaks as CD version?
    Yes – IMO it’s reasonably easy to navigate the Pure Audio Blu-ray disc – with or without an HDTV screen – with one caveat.

    Pages 8 and 9 of the printed book summarizes the tracks for CD1 and CD2. (And this track listing references the associated page # in the libretto, which is convenient. And the libretto has CD track #s.) On Page 10, for the Pure Audio Blu-ray “queue points”, it simply says: (1-10) Act One, (11-16) Act Two, (17-24) Act Three, (25-31) Act Four. For full track-listing see pages 8 and 9”. The problem – as I’m guessing you are aware- is that on CD2 the track numbers start over. For example – unless I’m missing something – if you don’t have a TV screen and you want to go directly to “Sono andati …” in Act 4, which is track #14 on CD2, you must add 16 (the number of tracks on CD1) to 14 to yield track #30 on the Blu-ray. (Therefore I think that the “track breaks” are the same, but I haven’t checked them all.) It seems to me that the person who wrote pages 8 and 9 in the book could have easily provided a similar full track-listing for the Blu-ray, saving the customer the math.

    (I haven’t listened to Decca’s remastered “Lucia di Lammermoor” yet, but I looked at the booklet – it has the same convention re track listings for CD vs. Pure Audio Blu-ray.)

    On the Oppo BDP-105 you can simply punch the track # and press “enter”. (BTW, the Oppo BDP-105 has parameter settings in the Set-Up menu for “auto-play mode” and “auto resume”.)

    Bottom line, IME an HDTV screen is not required when using an Oppo BDP-105 to play this Pure Audio Blu-ray disc.

    If you have an HDTV connected to your Blu-ray player, then navigation is pretty easy. A description of the track-listings is presented on the HDTV screen. (Which is better than I’ve seen on a different Pure Audio Blu-ray disc.)
    Last edited by RobertKC; Jan-11-2017 at 23:07.

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