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Puccini: Madama Butterfly [DVD]

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Fiorenza Cedolins, Marcello Giordani, Juan Pons, Arena Di Verona Chorus And Orch, Daniel Oren
  • Format: AC-3, Classical, Colour, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, DVD-Video, PAL, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: TDK
  • DVD Release Date: 27 Feb. 2006
  • Run Time: 142 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000EBEH36
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 195,693 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Daniel Oren leads the Orchestra and Chorus of the Arena Di Verona in this 2004 production directed by Franco Zeffirelli, with Italian soprano Fiorenza Cedolins in the title role.

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A reviewer on the Amazon US site dismissed this production because of Zeffirelli's conception. I must respectfully disagree with him. Zeffirelli is a known quantity -- he tends to mount productions that are traditional but just a bit over the top. Considering that this is Italian opera, I don't see anything wrong with that. (I still love his Met 'Bohème' no matter what others say.) As for the sets, which of course were designed by Zeffirelli, they are not really over the top, although they are lush and absolutely gorgeous to look at.

What makes a 'Butterfly' for me (aside from musical considerations, about which more below) the most important thing is that I believe the action. And in this production I do. Granted neither Cedolins as Butterfly or Giordani as Pinkerton is a youngster. But each of them is a good enough actor to make us believe them. Cedolins is the show, of course, as anyone portraying Butterfly must be. She is a very believable actress and I will admit that I forgot that she was a 40ish Italian soprano; she made me enter into the world of a young and credulous Japanese child-bride. Her Act II and III are heart-breaking. Pinkerton's remorse in Act III is believable (even if he is still an 'ugly American.') Outstanding is the venerable Juan Pons as Sharpless.

Musically, this 'Butterfly' is at or near the top rank. The Israeli conductor Daniel Oren leads an exciting performance. His orchestra is outstanding, the pacing is precise and apt, and Oren is emotionally and musically in sync with his singers. Cedolins is not necessarily an ideal Butterfly musically in that she cannot quite convey the ineffable tenderness and rapture required of this quintessentially lyrico-spinto role and her 'Un bel dì' is slightly disappointing on that score.
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Very good production for an open space theatre. Very good sound. Nice voices. Well performed. One of the best-known Puccini's operas in a different setting
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars 9 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Zeffirelli 'Butterfly' at the Verona Arena 4 Jun. 2006
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
A previous reviewer dissed this production because of Zeffirelli's conception. I must respectfully disagree with him. Zeffirelli is a known quantity -- he tends to mount productions that are traditional but just a bit over the top. Considering that this is Italian opera, I don't see anything wrong with that. (I still love his Met 'Bohème' no matter what others say.) As for the sets, which of course were designed by Zeffirelli, they are not really over the top, although they are lush and absolutely gorgeous to look at.

What makes a 'Butterfly' for me (aside from musical considerations, about which more below) the most important thing is that I believe the action. And in this production I do. Granted neither Cedolins as Butterfly or Giordani as Pinkerton is a youngster. But each of them is a good enough actor to make us believe them. Cedolins is the show, of course, as anyone portraying Butterfly must be. She is a very believable actress and I will admit that I forgot that she was a 40ish Italian soprano; she made me enter into the world of a young and credulous Japanese child-bride. Her Act II and III are heart-breaking. Pinkerton's remorse in Act III is believable (even if he is still an 'ugly American.') Outstanding is the venerable Juan Pons as Sharpless.

Musically, this 'Butterfly' is at or near the top rank. The Israeli conductor Daniel Oren leads an exciting performance. His orchestra is outstanding, the pacing is precise and apt, and Oren is emotionally and musically in sync with his singers. Cedolins is not necessarily an ideal Butterfly musically in that she cannot quite convey the ineffable tenderness and rapture required of this quintessentially lyrico-spinto role and her 'Un bel dì' is slightly disappointing on that score. Butterfly, of course, is a horribly difficult role because, like Violetta, it almost requires two different voice types in one singer. As for Giordani's Pinkerton, it is quite impressive. Giordani is strangely little-known but he really does have a marvelous Italianate tenor and this part fits him like a glove. Granted, it is strange to see little blond Trouble as the child of two Italian brunet(te)s -- Cedolins and Giordani -- but verisimilitude be damned: the child is winsome and a good little actor, too. (It was strange to read the English subtitle that has him named 'Pain' rather than the more traditional 'Trouble', but no matter.) Juan Pons is both sympathetic and musically magnificent as Sharpless. Francesca Franci's Suzuki is good but not outstanding. The rest of the secondary characters are more than acceptable. (I did wonder why Goro was wearing a kimono made out of what looks for all the world like Burberry plaid!)

As far as the stage action, costumes and set I have absolutely no complaints. Indeed, I was more than a little impressed by them. Seeing this after seeing Robert Wilson's kabuki-inspired 'Butterfly' was like coming home after a trip to a strange (read: weird) land.

TT:142 mins; Subtitles: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish; Sound: (excellent!) Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1, LPCM Stereo.

Scott Morrison
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and perfect! 2 April 2006
By Joseph Hart - Published on Amazon.com
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I too have been searching for a good Butterfly, and this is my 3rd try. And this IS it. The soprano was spectacular. She's Puccini, not bel canto, but this is Puccini. Yes it does begin on the side of a hill that opens to Butterfly's home. That home is NOT grandiose, it is simple. The tenor had a beautiful voice too. Sharpless did a marvelous acting job. The direction was perfect. The harpies were a perfect touch and did not at all detract from the traditional staging. The colors and music were absolutely beautiful. One Fine Day took my breath away; she sang it perfectly. The opening hill and the harpies are the only unconventional touches I noticed, the only signs of a nontraditional director's hand with the possible scenes of frenzy from Butterfly toward the end. That too was good. She IS in a frenzy, frantic. And as for Pinkerton's being too old, have you ever seen a production of Butterfly with a 15 year old girl? I loved it. I applauded the soprano (none of these names is familiar to me). I've seen an Oriental Butterfly (East meets West, Italian opera doesn't mix with Japanese artifice), and I've seen the mimed movie version with Freni and Domingo (which I thought was ridiculous), all in my search for a GOOD production of one of my favorite operas. I kept wondering why no one ever made one, they make as written films of other operas. And finally as for Zeffirelli, as in Boheme, Pagliacci and Cavaleria (the only others of his I've seen, and I own them), his touch was gifted and perfect. At last and many wasted dollars later, I have my Madama Butterfly. That soprano's singing was out of this world.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cedolins is fantastic 26 April 2008
By Patrick Maschka - Published on Amazon.com
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This DVD has certainly provoked some strong negative feelings and opinions, some of which just seem crabby and unfair to me. While it's not perfect (always room for improvement!), this video recording of Madama Butterfly live at the Arena di Verona is well worth viewing, if not owning.

Fiorenza Cedolins is fantastic as Cio-Cio-San. She manages the treacherous role of Puccini's tragic heroine with grace and aplomb, both vocally and dramatically. She sings with delicacy (lovely high pianissimos) and great power when needed, never seeming to strain or work very hard (no ugly facial contortions like some singers). Her performance is believable and touching, and she is the most memorable of the cast.

Marcello Giordani also gives a great performance. Pinkerton, of course, is the less sympathetic of these lovers, so he is harder to like, but Giordani has a beautiful voice and acts his part well. His self-described bel canto style applied to this verismo work creates gorgeous results and he is a pleasure to listen to.

In the pit, this production is in the masterful hands of Daniel Oren, who carries this show with great sensitivity. Every tempo and dynamic seems perfectly matched to the actions and emotions on the stage.

Now for the minor quibbles. Emphasis on "minor," because none of these in any way ruins this fine production:
1. Act I is a bit over-peopled for my taste. Another reviewer described "swarms" of people, and it is true. If all of those supernumeraries added something important to the drama, then that would be fine, but they don't.
2. Whatever was used to lighten Marcello Giordani's hair makes it look green under the stage lights. Yes, green. It's weird enough to be distracting, which is so unfortunate, because his singing is beautiful.
3. The mysterious dancers during the humming chorus and the finale are odd. I'm convinced that the panoramic view in the arena was probably more effective, but on video with so many close-ups, these "angels of death" (or whatever they are supposed to be) detract from the story.
4. Mina Blum as Kate Pinkerton is simply awful. Her voice sounds rough and she looks more suitable as a wife to the aged Sharpless of Juan Pons than Pinkerton. Fortunately, her part is very small and quickly forgettable (well, almost).

I almost did not buy this DVD because of the mixed reviews, but I am very glad I did. I tend to cycle through opera DVDs, but I think this one may be a keeper. Recommended.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegance on a basic story. 17 July 2007
By Jaydoggy - Published on Amazon.com
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Although almost all operas are made to be seen in person, Madama Butterfly is a show I think one HAS to see in person in order to fully take in its effect. A DVD could never do this show justice.

This DVD is no different, but I feel did a very good job in putting up a great show. My biggest criticism (as others have put here) is an over-abundance of elegance. Suzuki is a poor girl, there is no way she would be living her lifestyle that they portrayed.

The stage though was beautiful. Gorgeous and detailed set, and equally beautiful costumes. I was surprised considering how this performance was done, that the sound was so pure. This is not a particular favorite opera of mine, but the performers were wonderful in both acting and singing.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Butterfly 22 Nov. 2008
By William H. Taber - Published on Amazon.com
After Fiorenza Cedolins' entrance as Butterfly in which she floats top notes to die for, one member of the audience yells out "Brava, Fiorenza" so everyone can hear. This really sums up my response to this performance. Callas, Scotto, and Price were all great Butterflys, none greater than Callas in my book. And in this DVD, Cedolins takes her place with the greats. For those who commented on her weight, it is apparent that they never saw Tebaldi or Price in the role. I'll take a little weight with a voice like this any day. In fact, when the Met opened their season with Butterfly not too long ago, they gave us a soprano without the extra pounds but without the needed voice as well.
If Cedolins were the only performer to assess here, I would simply rate this with five stars, but, although both are very good indeed, Giordani and Pons are four-star singers and actors for me, though I like both of them very much. And as been repeatedly pointed out by others, Mina Blum as Kate Pinkerton is simply horrible.
As for Zeffirelli's productions, you either like them or you don't. Critics hate them. The public goes ecstatic over them. I am one who appreciates what the great man does, even if he goes over the top from time to time.
I would highly recommend this performance for a great Butterfly and an enjoyable evening.
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