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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Madama Butterfly (1904)
Fiorenza Cedolins (soprano) - Cio-Cio-San; Marcello Giordani (tenor) - Pinkerton; Francesca Franci (mezzo) - Suzuki; Juan Pons (baritone) - Sharpless; Mina Blum (mezzo) - Kate; Carlo Bosi (tenor) - Goro; Alessandro Battiato (baritone) - Yamadori; Carlo Striuli (bass) – Bonze
Chorus and Orchestra of Arena di Verona/Daniel Oren
LPCM Stereo. DTS 5.1. 16:9 anamorphic. NTSC. Region 0
rec. live, Arena di Verona, 10 July 2004

Various DVD Butterflies have flitted past me. I stick to my guns that Edo de Waart’s Netherlands version (with Cheryl Barker as Cio-Cio-San) sits on the top of the list (review ); Domingo as conductor in an insectile production tops the curiosity value list but little else, while Karajan is Karajan with all that entails

This TDK version is from the Arena di Verona and as such is a big affair. The Stage Director, Franco Zefirelli, pulls no punches. In using such a large space, it becomes clear the camera operators are stretched – in big crowd-scenes camera movement is sometimes jerky. There are some stunning effects, though – the sheer colour-coordinational prettiness of Butterfly’s entrance is entrancing, a real feast for the eyes. This is underlined by the absolutely crystal clear picture. Here you hear her voice but see, initially, a sea of kimono. The most appealing part is the Moon-Weaver, who makes his presence felt during the Humming Chorus performed by a black-clad chorus. The least appealing is the dream-like soft-focus used for Butterfly at one point.

Cio-Cio-San here is Fiorenza Cedolins. Her voice is fine, and frequently more so although her floated high notes are frequently only nearly floated. The problem is that she is about as un-Japanese in looks as could possibly be – and if she’s a teenager, I’m a bus stop. Worse, she is hardly fragile and therefore the vulnerability of the central character is compromised. Her best moment possibly comes at ‘Un bel dì’; huge – and interruptive – applause follows this.

Marcello Giordani is an acceptable Pinkerton; Juan Pons a good, confident Sharpless - particularly in Act 2. Striuli makes a commanding Bonze even though his voice is rather coloured. Giordani in fact takes time to warm into the role. He is significantly more impressive towards the end of Act 1 than at his entrance. The weak link is Battiato’s Yamadori, loud of voice but without depth.

Francesca Franci is a rich voiced Suzuki. Her ‘Povera Butterfly’ in Act 3 is most affecting. The Kate of Mina Blum is appealingly fresh-voiced.

The recording of the orchestra is lacking in depth; the portions around ‘America Forever’ being cases in point. Towards the end of Act 1 it becomes absolutely clear that the balance unnaturally favours the brass. By mid-Act 2 it was driving me crazy.

Lovers of opera-in-the-round spectaculars will like this. Musically it is no disaster, it’s just that there are better around. And beware that orchestral recording quality.

Colin Clarke


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