Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

La Bohème, Manitoba

Manitoba Opera’s first production in nine years of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème still stirs the heart and inspires tears with its tragic tale of bohemian artists living — and loving — in 1840s Paris.

Arizona Opera Presents Don Pasquale in Tucson

On April 12, 2014, Arizona Opera opened its series of performances of Donizetti's Don Pasquale in Tucson. Chuck Hudson’s production of this opera combined Commedia dell’arte with Hollywood movie history.

Will Don Quichotte Be the Last Production at San Diego Opera?

This quotation from Cervantes was displayed before the opening of the opera’s final scene:

“The greatest madness a man can commit in this life is to let himself die, just like that, without anybody killing him or any other hands ending his life except those of melancholy.”

Gound Faust - Calleja and Terfel, Royal Opera House London

Gounod's Faust makes a much welcomed return to the Royal Opera House. With each new cast, the dynamic changes as the balance between singers shifts and brings out new insights. In that sense, every revival is an opportunity to revisit from new perspectives. This time Bryn Terfel sang Méphistophélès, with Joseph Calleja as Faust - stars whose allure certainly helped fill the hall to capacity. And the audience enjoyed a very good show.

Syracuse Opera’s Porgy and Bess
Got Plenty O’ Plenty

The company ends its 2013-14 season on a high note with a staged performance of Gershwin’s theatrical masterpiece

A New Rusalka in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka is visually impressive and fulfills all possible expectations musically with unquestioned excitement.

Karlsruhe’s Mixed Blessing Ballo

The reliable Badisches Staatstheater has assembled plenty of talent for its new Un Ballo in Maschera.

Louise Alder, Wigmore Hall

This varied, demanding programme indisputably marked soprano Louise Alder as a name to watch.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Powder Her Face, ENO

As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.

Iphigénie Fascinates in the Pfalz

Kaiserslautern’s Pfalztheater has produced a tantalizing realization of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, characterized by intriguing staging, appealing designs, and best of all, superlative musical standards.

ROH presents Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Never thought I’d say it but......

Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Wigmore Hall, London

Celebrating the 80th birthday of one of the UK's greatest composers (if not the greatest), this concert was an intriguing, and not always stimulating, mix. Birtwistle with Carter makes sense, but Birtwistle with Adams does not - or at least only within the remit of the concert series. The concert was actually entitled “Nash Inventions: American and British Masterworks, including an 80th Birthday Tribute to Sir Harrison Birtwistle” and was the final concert in the “Inventions” series.

Requiem for a Lost Opera Company

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, General Director Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera announced that the company would go out of business at the end of this season. The next day the company performed their long-planned Verdi Requiem with a stellar cast including soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

The Met’s Werther a tasty mix of singing, staging, acting and orchestral splendor

Visual elements in Richard Eyre’s striking production offset Massenet’s melodic shortcomings

Chicago’s New Barber of Seville

New productions of repertoire staples such as Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia bear much anticipation for both performers and staging.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera

On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

From the moment she walked, resplendent in red, onto the Wigmore Hall platform, Anne Schwanewilms radiated a captivating presence — one that kept the audience enthralled throughout this magnificent programme of Romantic song.

Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera

Magnificent! Following the first night of this new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, I quipped that I could forgive an opera house anything for musical performance at this level, whether orchestral, vocal, or, in this case, both.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

EMI Classics CD 2 64187 2
03 Aug 2009

Puccini: Madama Butterfly

EMI's publicity for this studio recording focuses on soprano Angela Gheorghiu and her portrayal of Cio-Cio-San.

Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly

Raymond Aceto, Fabio Capitanucci, Jonas Kaufmann, Angela Gheorghiu, Enkelejda Shkosa, Gregory Bonfatti. Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra, Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus. Antonio Pappano, conducting.

EMI 2 64187 2 [3CDs]

$32.98  Click to buy

But within moments of Puccini’s music for Madama Butterfly starting, as that frantic first theme gets cut short by a sort of stumbling phrase, the real star of this set becomes apparent — conductor Antonio Pappano. The strings dart and glitter like a flight of brilliantly colored birds, and then the cellos and basses tramp through like thunderclouds. Elsewhere a wind detail flutters by, or the tempo slows precipitously, only to race forward again a moment later. Pappano drives this score like one of the race cars the composer favored, only with the technology and engineering of the 21st century. The ride exhilarates, leaving at the end the nagging question — is this about the story of Cio-Cio-San or about the conductor’s skill?

Not that Gheorghiu doesn’t shine as a star should in the title role. The natural beauty of her voice contains a muted sob, a shadow of pathos appropriate to much of the role. She can also darken the tone for the sudden depths of anger and despair found in the second act. She doesn’t try to sound 15, letting the music and the drama provide the broader aspects of the characterization. And in the recording studio, at least, she has the power for Butterfly’s final moments of tragic grandeur.

The rest of the cast may prompt either controversy or, sadly, indifference. Fabio Capitanucci’s Sharpless doesn’t quite become the conduit for the audience’s perceptions that the role does in its greatest interpreters. The voice is handsome enough. Unfortunately, the tenor here has a darker hue to his instrument, and at times, a similarity in tonal quality between the two singers arises. Jonas Kaufmann is a rising star, and he certainly comes across here as an intelligent singer with a masculine sound. He simply never convinces as Pinkerton. The top doesn’t have the easy swagger it needs, and when he lightens the voice in the love duet, he loses his manly appeal. Put it this way — he doesn’t sound American, and he doesn’t sound Italian. He sings well, but he doesn’t sing Pinkerton. Enkeledja Shkosa does well as Suzuki.

EMI provides the usual thick booklet, although it only consists of the expected essay, adequately penned by Stephen Jay-Taylor (if one forgives opening with a reference to the lame TV comedy Friends). The usual synopsis precedes the four-language libretto. A few nice photos would be even better if followed by biographical notes on the performers, or even their comments on their roles and the opera. Some bonus features are available through a program called OpenDisc on disc one, but your reviewer declined to fill in the survey information required for access.

The market for these expensive studio recordings has all but disappeared. As fine as the components for this Madama Butterfly set are, it seems unlikely to remind people of the long-lost days when such sets prompted excitement. For those who love Puccini’s great score, however, Pappano and the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia deliver enough of interest to warrant a recommendation. Your reviewer will return again to the De Los Angeles, Di Stefano, and Gobbi recording, conducted by Gavazzeni, when ready to revisit Puccini’s masterpiece.

Chris Mullins

EMI Classics - Puccini: Madama Butterfly Angela Gheorghiu - visit www.emibutterfly.com

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):