Of the Madama Butterflys I've seen my favourites are the 1986 La Scala, 1983 Raina Kabaivanska and 1956 Anna Moffo versions. I also do quite the Met and 1975 Ponnelle versions and also the 1995 film. This Madama Butterfly is not one of my favourites, but it does beat the outrageous 2004 Daniela Dessi performance by some considerable distance. There are several things I did like very much.
It does look great. The sets are very simple, but effective in that. But what makes them even more effective are the bold use of colour and some of the abstract designs like the strokes to signify Japanese cultural tradition. The American and Japanese flags above the house though were a little too overstated for my tastes. The costumes are traditional and authentic. Nothing is out of place, and nothing surprises you in a bad way. It was interesting to see Cio Cio San dressed as an American for Act 2, almost like she had somewhat converted to Pinkerton's traditions.
Technically it is also fine, apart from a couple of places where it is out of sync in the editing. However most of the video directing, picture and sound quality are fine.
Musically, it is all very solid as well. The orchestral playing is lush and beautiful, which helps with the pathos and delicacy of Puccini's score. Laurence Gilgore's conducting is sympathetic to dynamics and textural balances, and doesn't drag or rush too much. The chorus are great, the ladies especially are very ethereal-sounding. On a musical front the crucial scenes(the Act 1 love duet, Humming Chorus, Flower duet, Un Bel Di Vedremo, Sharpless reading Pinkerton's letter and the final scene) do have their impact.
And on the most part the singing is fine. Elmira Veda sings movingly and passionately especially in the affecting final scene, and I do think the dark, powerful quality of her voice is ideal for the lower middle parts of the voice and the lyric-spinto requirements of the role. Her high notes are uneven, most are great and soar but others could have done with more intensity within the music. I also think that there were parts that could have done with a more girlish quality, for example the scene with Sharpless reading the letter from Pinkerton was sung well but lacked innocence that even Dessi brought to that scene.
Carlo Barricelli is not bad at all either as Pinkerton. He could have blended more with Veda in their big Act 1 duet, or rather they could have blended together more. However, he sings with a lot of power and is both dashing and selfish complete with a wolfish grin. Of the cast I found the consistent to be the sympathetic Suzuki of Annamaria Popescu and the nuanced, and also warning and caring, Sharpless of Luca Salsi. Emanuele Giannino's Goro is appropriately oily. In fact the only real let-down was Bonzo, his voice was unattractive for my ears and he is nowhere near fearsome enough.
In conclusion, a good solid Butterfly with not much wrong, but not quite enough at the same time for it to properly distinguish itself. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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