"Not the Messiah" comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p widescreen 1.78:1 transfer. Whereas the transfer is not up there with the very best that the format has to offer, it still does a very good job of rendering the concert.
The first thing to notice is that the image is pin sharp and also shows up a very good level of detail. Close-ups on people's faces reveal a nice level of detail and even the weave on the shirts is nicely visible. It is (sometimes too) easy to see the sweat on people's faces under the harsh lights, and the pattern and textures on the instruments are highlighted nicely. There is (as one might expect) not much colour present on stage (apart from one dress and some limited lighting) - but where colour is present it is rendered nicely without being particularly bright and vibrant.
What is very impressive from this transfer is the black level. Blacks are deep and dense, and also the contrast level is superb. This is essential for a vista which essentially consists of Black suits and white shirts. Flesh tones are also consistent and accurate, and the cast of ambient light is shown up well on faces.
Where the transfer falls down is on the depth present. The whole image seems a little flat, with very little of the pop that we may expect to see. There is also the odd problem with noise in the image, and very slight occasionally blocking. None of these can be described as major flaws, but they should be mentioned as they do let the transfer down occasionally. Overall, the best way to sum up this image is that it is solid, if rather unspectacular. It is certainly not a bad transfer but lacks the true pop to be a great one.
"Not the Messiah" comes to Blu-ray with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack, and like the rest of the package there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. However, at no point does in ever truly astonish. It is competent at relaying the production without ever going to great sonic lengths to provide atmosphere.
The first thing to note is that the music is rendered beautifully. Every instrument is well represented within the mix and every orchestral note from the loudest to the softest is easily heard. Whether it be a high flute note, a tremolo violin, or the rich sound of the timpani - the whole orchestra is well balanced within the mix. The vocal range is also challenging - four singers (two male and two female) means that a large range has to be dealt with by the sound mixers. I did notice one occasion when the very highest note by one of the female singers seemed way too shrill and almost painful, but apart from this the vocals (from the bassiest note to the top) are well delineated and presented well./p>
There is some ambience presented from the audience, who are presented low in the mix. When they clap and cheer, the sound fills the surrounds making the viewer feel surrounded by the crowd. However, when the audience is quiet there is very little sense of the music and vocals bouncing around the hall, very little ambience.
There is very little wrong with this mix, it is solid and unspectacular. It renders the material well, and provides the viewer with an excellent mix of the whole orchestra. But one cannot help thinking that a little more effort may have provided a more realistic experience. I have attended concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, and I know how good the acoustics are. This is not replicated on the disc.
The theme all the way through this review has been that the package is solid, but unspectacular. Much as i would like to say that the extras on Not the Messiah buck this trend, the fact is that they fit in with it perfectly.
The Road to Albert Hall is easily the best of the lot, a 31 minute documentary about the process of bringing the production to the stage. Including some fascinating behind the scenes rehearsal footage, this is documentary that provides much of interest with little of the filler usually found on documentaries of this type.
Some of the ideas in this documentary are duplicated in Showtime! - a very brief three minute documentary filmed behind the scenes during the show. The Bright Side is a three minute look at Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and finally six songs receive the singalong treatment, including the aforementioned classic but strangely not I'm a lumberjack. There are also four trailers for other Sony releases.
How to sum up a disc like Not the Messiah? Well, as a title I had been looking forward to ever since it received its one-off showing in British cinemas last year (I missed it) I cannot help but be a little disappointed. The actual show would definitely play better if you have a knowledge and a love for oratorio's. If you find that musical form trying, then you may struggle with this. Likewise, if you do not have a good knowledge of The Life of Brian then you may also find the whole production a little bewildering. If, however, you are a fan of both then you are going to have a field day with this disc. Completist Python fans will certainly want to add this to their collection too. Everyone else may want to rent though.
The picture, sound and extras on this disc are all perfectly fine - but there is nothing here to make the production truly stand out. This is certainly not a disc that you are likely to pull out to impress your friends, but in terms of rendering the production on the home cinema screen this does a perfectly serviceable job.
It is to the credit of the format that Sony has enough faith to bring what is always likely to be niche title to Blu-ray, and they should be given plenty of credit for this. They have done a good job, and it is nice to see some extras included as well.
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