The Voice of an Angel
There is no denying this is one incredibly gifted young woman. However, whether the world needs a "Best Of" DVD is another question altogether. One which we will explore together—briefly.
Prelude is a compilation disc, culling together several of Charlotte's most compelling pieces from three previous DVD releases—Charlotte Church: Voice of an Angel in Concert (1999), Charlotte Church Live in Jerusalem (2000), and Charlotte Church: Enchantment from Cardiff, Wales (2001). If you already own these three discs, stop reading now. You currently possess 98% of what is included on this release. The disc showcases 17 songs ranging from traditional/classic (Ave Maria, Amazing Grace, Danny Boy) to operatic (Habanera, Pie Jesus, La Pastorella) with a brief stopover on Broadway and the Top 40 charts (Imagine, Bali Ha'i, Bridge Over Troubled Water) cut together without narrative or seeming direction. Consider it a time traveling concert, as Charlotte changes ages and location from selection to selection.
When singing in Latin, Italian, or Spanish, her voice is almost otherworldly. Even the Broadway ballads (Bali Ha'i, Somewhere) are incredible. However, as American Idol's Simon Cowell might say "Stick to what you do best and don't subject us to the rest." Like clothes that don't fit right, Charlotte's renditions of John Lennon's "Imagine" and Simon and Garfunkle's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" are uncomfortable. But just when you are ready to turn it off, she turns in a masterful duet with talented young balladeer Josh Groban on Celine Dion and Andre Bocelli's "The Prayer" that surpasses the original. Like any artist, Charlotte wants to push the envelope and see how far her talent reaches. I respect that. Madonna has made a career of evolving her voice and image, consistently reinventing herself to stay one step ahead of the times. Charlotte is ten times the artist and a throwback to centuries old vocalists. It will be interesting to see where she allows her talent to take her. The entire music portion of the disc runs approximately 58 minutes.
From a technical perspective, the video quality is good but not exceptionally so. The 1.33:1 full frame transfer is relative to a clear cable television signal; free from noise and distortion but nothing in the image really pops. The colors and blacks are both solid with no evidence to digital enhancement. The menu titles are nice but relatively static. The audio track, on the other hand, is exceptional. Offered up in both Dolby 5.1 and PCM 2.0, set your receiver to Concert configuration and you will get the feeling of being in the room hearing Charlotte sing live. Don't worry about the picture, just close your eyes and savor the music.
In terms of special features, disappointingly several segments are repurposed from previous releases. The backstage interview is taken from Voice of an Angel and the home/school/family interview is direct off the Enchantment release. Both pieces give us an interesting glimpse into how grounded this young lady is/was, despite being thrust into worldwide superstardom at such a young age. The new pieces include a guided walking tour of Charlotte's hometown (Cardiff, Wales), a helicopter tour of South Wales, an updated biography, discography, and gallery of photos taken from album cover shoots and set to music. Again, nothing of any tremendous value to the casual observer, but loyal fans might be more entertained.
While it's interesting to see Ms. Church's progression from awkward pre-teen to confident young woman, the magic is in truly her voice. In other words, save your $19.98 and purchase the CD soundtrack of the same name (Prelude—The Best of Charlotte Church). You'll get more use out of it. Case dismissed!
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