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Customer Review

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful Butterfly lost in the fog., 5 Mar 2006
This review is from: Madama Butterfly: Wiener Staatsoper (Karajan) [DVD] [2005] [NTSC] (DVD)
This could have been a truly memorable performance had it not been ruined by the stage Director. Musically, you will be very hard pressed to find a better Butterfly. Mirella Freni has a fresh and full voice in 1974 and delivers the demands of the title role with superb singing and wonderful acting. Her big expressive eyes, although neither Japanese nor fifteen years of age, portray all the agony that this young woman was subjected to. Her singing matches these emotions with great warmth and vocal accuracy, although at times you hear her sing but you do not see her sing as the soundtrack was superimposed onto the film at a latter stage and the principals do not mimic their own singing convincingly all the time. Placido Domingo is in truly great voice, one of his best ever vocal performances on DVD. His acting is superb, portraying the arrogant American sailor. Christa Ludwig is a jewel in the set. Both her very fine singing and her emotional acting bring a perfect portrayal of Butterfly's maid. Robert Kerns is a very good Sharpless (the American Consul) and Michel Sénéchal portrays a very vulgar Italian-style marriage broker. The Vienna Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan provide an incredible orchestral background and under Karajan's direction the entire singing and flow of this very dramatic score reaches the finest climaxes imaginable.
So why do I give only 4 stars. Almost the entire opera is filmed on a non-discript fog bound colourless heath, covered by dry grass. Is this Mr Ponnelle's idea of a Japanese garden during the cherry blossom ? If it is, the man has a weird and twisted view of this world, a world in which the word beauty has no place. The man, judging him from his other stagings of operas, like the "Barber of Seville" also on DGG DVD, has taste. So what happened here? What have we ordinary mortals and viewers of this performance done to deserve such treatment? Having said all that, he still does provide us wit some lovely shots of the opera, but unfortunately these are rare compared to that terrible fog and the colourless heath. A filmed theatrical performance would have been much preferable.
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Initial post: 5 Feb 2014 11:22:10 GMT
Until recently, I had problems with the setting too. I now think the wilderness represents the hostile world Butterfly thinks she is escaping but only into a flimsy paper house that in the end does not protect her as she thinks it will. I found that thinking that, right or wrong, helped me accept the odd filming.

As for the performance of all the cast, I cannot imagine a better one. Magnificent! I watched it last night, for about the tenth time, with a group of opera lovers and there was not a movement from any of us so gripped we were by it. Not a dry eye, either. Buy it!
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