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on 29 August 2010
The filming of this Opera directed by Frenchman Frederic Mitterrand is absolutely beautiful. The Bay, the House and scenery look so authentic like a traditional Japanese painting suddenly come alive. Yet it was filmed in Tunisia, and most of the action takes place around the hilltop house, so I suspect that there was a certain economy of setting, in this case less is more. The realism allows the wonderfull Puccini arias to flow like fragrance from the garden, and one of the most lovely film sequences ever must be the procession of Butterfly (Ying Huang) and her female friends and relations to the house to meet Pinkerton (Richard Troxell) on their Spring Wedding Day. Butterfly 15, and a former Giesha carring an orange and yellow parasol wears a mauve kimono printed with white and gold foliage and wooden platform shoes. The others wear similar styles, and her maid Suzuki (Ning Liang) already waiting, wears plain vermillion.
Adding to the realism of this Martin Scorsese presentation is the choice of an American Tenor as Captain Pinkerton, and British Richard Cowan as Sharpless, the Consul. The part of Goro, the liason officer/matchmaker is played by Jing Ma Fan whose often quiet watchfull presence invites us to see the action from a different perspective throughout, a surreptitious MC.
James Conlon directs the Orchestre De Paris, with the Choeurs De Radio France. The sound quality is superb, and all the singing impeccable, with a chioce of subtitles.
A masterly and unexpected stroke is the inclusion of archive black and white footage of the Imperial Japanese Army, and ships in the harbour of Nagasaki. Puccini composed the Opera in 1904,in his Italian lakeside home, with librettist Giuseppe Giaosa, and set it in 1904. The ship may not be the US Abraham Lincoln, but it sets the scene for Pinkerton's return after 3 years with an American wife (Constance Hauman). It is not the 'One Fine Day' that Madam Butterfly dreams of, and suitably her suicide, their sons departure, and their final meeting takes place during a rainstorm, when still with exquisite beauty she dies in his arms.
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on 25 June 2010
I bought this as part of a three Puccini deal from Amazon. The Terfel Tosca (oh yes, yes, yes!). A passable La Boheme ( I can't remember which one, I have three) and this. Speaking totally personally you understand, I believe that Opera composers are geniuses. I believe that they have/had in their humungous brains an exact idea of how the Opera should happen. They design it for the stage, and they dictate exactly how it should unfold. To paraphrase at least two respected sopranos featured on BBC recently 'the music dictates every movement, every gesture'. So, if you want to change anything, if you think you can improve on the original, if you think you can 'bring the message up to date', you really do have to justify that. On the DVD case you really do have to say 'I, Mr Massive Ego, do not think that this guy Puccini really got it right, so I have mucked it about and turned it into a film, oh, and with subtitles to explain the difficult bits, and added archive footage to fill in the boring bits.'

And, by the way, casting a Chinese woman to play a Japanese woman, does not add authenticity, only Hollywood cannot tell the difference.

But that is just me.
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on 7 February 2010
Madame Butterfly is one of those operas that, if done badly, can be pretty dull. If done well, though, it can be extraordinary, and this movie is done very well. I've seen it half a dozen times now and it still gets me every time.
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on 13 September 2006
This is a beautiful film of one of the best loved Operas by Puccini.
The cast is excellent throughout and it makes a great change to see a singer in the leading role who actually looks the part.
The film looks beautiful even if there are some minor mistakes in the design of the set (on the whole accurate) such as the graveyard having stones very unlike any Japanese ones I have seen in Japan as well as the sotoba wooden memorials looking not quite authentic. At least the kimono etc are authentic on the whole like on most other productions of this opera (ENO's production in London comes to mind where the kimono sleeves were very wrong...more chinese than Japanese). These are very small issues but can irritate the viewer as it would have been easy to make things look authentic even if it was shot in Morocco and not in Nagasaki.
My one real complaint lies in the lack of the several languages in subtitles[...]. I bought this here because of the price as a gift for my mother who is finnish. Yet there are only four languages subtitles available on this disc. Curiously I had previously bought this DVD [...] and it does have finnish subtitles. Because of this my mother was unable to fully enjoy this marvellous DVD![...]
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on 18 December 2013
This is truly the best version of this wonderful opera that I have ever seen.

It makes such a change over other versions that the cast actually look like the characters that they are portraying. Butterfly for example is a 15-year old young Japanese woman and too many productions are made with a middle aged fat western woman with too much make-up!

Ying Huang is incredible as Butterfly. Totally believable, beautiful, tragic and what an amazing voice! Suzuki, her faithful maid and best friend was also brilliant. Pinkerton (the viper!) had such a rich and full voice, like chocolate. So nice to hear.

The score was beautifully orchestrated. Puccini is of course a genius, and his work was enhanced by a truly great orchestra.

The Humming Chorus set to black and white film of life in old Japan was done brilliantly. Some people in reviews have criticised this, but I think it simply adds to the show. After all, it's hard to decide what to fill the screen with during that time as there is no "action" taking place.

The set and location were beautiful. Once again completely believable, and a real change from the few paper screens we are usually given in stage versions.

In summary, it is well worth the money since it is a rare DVD these days, and although the supporting cast, directing, location, music, costumes and set were all awesome, it is Ying Huang as Butterfly who totally steals the show.
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VINE VOICEon 22 May 2010
I have seen several versions of Madame Butterfly, both in person and on film. I can say that this is truly one of if not the best presentation. I was pleasantly surprised. The acting is top notch and the photography is crisp even on a 42" screen. The timing put you into the scene as if you are part of the play. The costumes are realistic and not stage egad rated or out of the time period.

The basic story is of an U.S. Lieutenant Pinkerton of the navy, stationed in Japan. He is used to a girl in every port. The 15-year-old girl in this port however gives up her home and religion to become his American wife. She is due for an unbelievable shock when Pinkerton returns to Japan after a sojourn to America.

Everyone looks the part and sings very well.

Ying Huang: Cio-Cio-San
Richard Troxell: Pinkerton
Ning Liang: Suzuki
Richard Cowan: Sharpless
Jing Ma Fan: Goro
Christopheren Nòmura: Prince Yamadori
Constance Hauman: Kate Pinkerton

Directed by
Frédéric Mitterrand
Writers
Libretto
Giuseppe Giacosa & Luigi Illica
Adaptation
Frédéric Mitterrand
Original Music
Giacomo Puccini (music by)
Cinematographers
Philippe Welt
Editors
Luc Barnier
Casting Directors
Isabelle Partiot
Production Designers
Michèle Abbé-Vannier
Taïeb Jallouli¹
Puccini - Madama Butterfly
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on 10 January 2015
The DVD has beside the opera a feature about the making of the film, it is quite interesting and is worth watching first.
Being a film interpretation the interludes and settings benefit the atmosphere without too much distraction, and there is much cutting and close up as one would perhaps expect. The entrance and departure of Butterfly's uncle id however a bit far fetched.
The casting of Japanese and Americans in there respective parts does work very well.
The balance of voice to orchestra is perfect and sound effects not too intrusive.
Ying Huang has a ringingly clear soprano, love her to bits, But Richard Troxell is run of the mill vocally, and perhaps was chosen for looking the part.
I do like Richard Cowan, he has a rich baritone voice and plays his sympathetic role brilliantly, whilst Ning Liang is a very pleasnt mezzo, and blends beatifully in duet with Ying Huang.
There is always a problem for me with film versions of operas, the souls of the director and artistes rarely instill themselves into the production, and this is no exception, there is a distinct feeling of being outside looking in instead of being involved. The current price is also way beyond what is reasonable, there is better value elsewhere.
Sleeve notes are spartan, and there is mo synopsis or programme off disc.
Just an added note, I did not buy this from amazon, it was bought for me by a friend at a local shop at about half the quoted price.
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on 1 March 2009
I had asked for a music disc of MB for Xmas and was a touch dismayed to receive this however I thoroughly enjoyed it, more so than the theatre production, and found it extremely moving and believable.
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on 11 August 2013
The age-old problem of maintaining the dramatic focus while the melodies unfold is hardly a new one for opera directors and conductors. This may be specially accentuated for those who want to transfer the works to film, not least because of the inevitable comparison to regular film dramas (let's face it, we're not competing with Avatar or Police Academy - thankfully).
On the whole, this film of Butterfly works very well. The locations and singers bring much to the finished project, and themes such as colonial arrogance and the significance of transferring national identity come to the fore and render the plot very contemporary. The central performers appear nuanced and multi-dimentional: and while there are no Pavarottis or Muffos in the cast, neither do they lack vocal finesse or power of delivery. It may be that the Carmen of Migfenes and Domingo has finally been joined by a similarly effective opera film production.
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on 27 February 2016
Excellent.
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