Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Prom 57: Semyon Bychkov conducts the BBCSO

Thomas Larcher’s Second Symphony (written 2015-16) here received its United Kingdom premiere, its first performance having been given by the Vienna Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov in June this year. A commission from the Austrian National Bank for its bicentenary, it is nevertheless not a celebratory work, instead commemorating those refugees who have met their deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, ‘expressing grief over those who have died and outrage at the misanthropy at home in Austria and elsewhere’.

40 minutes with Barbara Hannigan...in rehearsal

One of the initiatives for the community at the Lucerne Festival is the ‘40 min’ series. A free concert given before the evening’s main event that ranges from chamber music to orchestral rehearsals.

Prom 54 - Mozart's Last Year with the Budapest Festival Orchestra

The mysteries and myths surrounding Mozart’s Requiem Mass - left unfinished at his death and completed by his pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr - abide, reinvigorated and prolonged by Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus as directed on film by Miloš Forman. The origins of the work’s commission and composition remain unknown but in our collective cultural and musical consciousness the Requiem has come to assume an autobiographical role: as if Mozart was composing a mass for his own presaged death.

High Voltage Tosca in Cologne

I saw two operas consecutively at Oper Koln. First, the utterly bewildering Lucia di Lammermoor; then Thilo Reinhardt’s thrilling Tosca. His staging was pure operatic joy with some Hitchcockian provocations.

Haitink at the Lucerne Festival

Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music. His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.

BBC Prom 45 - Janáček: The Makropulos Affair

Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.

Two Tales of Offenbach: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.

Britten Untamed! Glyndebourne: A Midsummer Night's Dream

This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?

Salzburg encores

A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert.  Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.

Leah Crocetto at Santa Fe

On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.

Angela Meade at Sante Fe

On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.

Turco in Italia in Pesaro

When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.

Proms Chamber Music 5: Shakespeare at 400

It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.

La donna del lago in Pesaro

Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.

Proms at … Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at …’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.

Santa Fe: Straussian Sweet Nothings

With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.

Santa Fe’s Civil War Gounod

When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.

Coolly Elegant Vanessa in the Desert

Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.

Le Comte Ory, Seattle

Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.

Racette’s Golden Girl in New Mexico

Fan interest began raging when Santa Fe Opera engaged venerable artist Patricia Racette to make her role debut as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West.

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):