My personal favourite production of Madama Butterfly
As I have said many times previous, I am a very keen opera enthusiast. Puccini has always been a favourite, and while I prefer Tosca and La Boheme finding their stories more plausible, I find Cio Cio San(aka Madama Butterfly herself) charming and the music among Puccini's most beautiful, particularly the act 1 love duet.
Of the four or five productions/films I've seen- the Jean Pierre Ponelle film which was very good, one from 1983 which I loved, an underseen film from 1954 which was sublime and the film from 1955 which was excellent mostly despite some touches I wasn't entirely enthused by- this 1986 La Scala production is my personal favourite.
One of the reasons why that is are the costumes and settings. Of the Madama Butterflys I've seen, this one is the most authentic. The settings are breathtakingly beautiful and the costumes and make-up are wonderfully oriental, benefited by some skillful video directing and clarity in the picture quality.
The sound is mostly very good, though with some hindrances. For instance in the humming chorus, for my liking(like an Amazon reviewer says) there is a little too much audience and back-stage noise, and there are times in the more musically composed/hushed moments of Act 1 where the prompter is annoyingly audible. Regardless of this, it is not enough to ruin this performance.
Musically, this Madama Butterfly can't be faulted either. The music is of course brilliant, and it is brought to life by the orchestra who play with a lush, emotional sound and Lorin Maazel's genteel conducting. Nor with the staging, the most effective being the finale which is the most dramatic and emotional end to Madama Buttefly I've seen yet.
The performances are exceptional. First and foremost that of Cio Cio San. I loved Yasuko Hayashi in the role, she mayn't fit the bill age-wise then again few Butterflys do but she looks the part, she sings beautifully and conveys the tragedy of the character very well. Peter Dvorsky also sings wonderfully, and acting-wise does what he can with a somewhat one-dimensional character. Hak-Nam Kim excels too as Suzuki with a fruity low register and excellent interaction with Hayashi throughout. I loved though Giorgio Zancanaro's Sharpless the most, it is a very beautifully shaped and vocally even performance.
Overall, one fine Madama Butterfly. 9.5/10 Bethany Cox
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