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

Oedipe at Covent Garden

George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

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):