Top positive review
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Visually authentic and musically very good
on 15 November 2010
This is the most authentically Japanese stage production of Madam Butterfly which is available. It was filmed at La Scala, Milan in 1986 and stars the Japanese soprano Yasuko Hayashi as Madam Butterfly. The production was staged by the Japanese director Keita Asari and the set, costumes and lighting were all designed by Japanese experts. Suzuki is played by the Korean mezzo-soprano Hak-Nam Kim. The result is highly successful and the most visually authentic presentation of one of Puccini's greatest materpieces.
Musically the Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Alla Scala are conducted by Lorin Maazel and produce outstanding results. The soloists are all excellent. The Italian baritone Giorgio Zancanaro gives a marvellously detailed and perceptive performance as the American consul Sharpless. The Czech tenor Peter Dvorsky has all the power and upper range quality required in the role of Pinkerton. He, like the two female soloists, has a very slight roughness at times but this is not out of place with his character. Yasuko Hayashi is excellent as Cio Cio San. She is not believably 15 but of course in all other respects she looks and most importantly moves right to give one of the finest dramatic portrayals of Butterfly that I have ever seen. Vocally she is very powerful, slightly rougher than someone like Freni would be in the role but giving a strength to the character that is surprising but welcome in the latter stages of the drama. Hak-Nam Kim is also sometimes a little rough vocally but she absolutely looks right and moves correctly and has an excellent lower register. This is, therefore, not the finest vocal performance I have ever heard but it is still very good indeed.
There are too many extraneous audience and back-stage noises in places, this is particularly annoying in the Hummimg Chorus. There is also a far too audible prompt giving feed lines especially in the First Act, which is annoying in quieter passages. The sound is, however, generally very good and enhances the visual excellence of the production, although it is only in PCM stereo due to the age of the production. Similarly the picture is in 4:3 format. In spite of this the DVD is very good and the sound and picture quality hardly betray its age at all. There are optional subtitles in English, French and German.
Overall the pluses here far outweigh the negatives and it is one of the most believable and satisfying performances that I have ever seen of this opera.