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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 April 2014
This is a clever Butterfly for today, yet with that layer of tradition that lulls you into a sense of false security. There is no little house with a garden, which is part of the staging in the two other Butterfly's that I own. They are traditional and I like them. This staging does what any good production should do, it makes you think. Vincent Boussard, the stage director, states "Puccini manages to lend his characters very rich and complex profiles, their psychology comes from the music. For the composers obsession was for truth and poetry. To make this opera work today means generating the spark to ignite its inherent psychological potential. I wanted to make an effort not to show linear time, where there is none, and to engage with fragmentation.

"For Puccini suspends time. before letting it run a different course. He creates the conflict between Butterfly's waiting, which is beyond reality, and the process of reality itself. We do not show linear time but fragmentation. The three months with Butterfly are the only freedom that Pinkerton has experienced in his life. The child is merely an object so that others can unburden their conscience. For Butterfly the child is a reality, so she can pursue her fantasy."

You may think, how has Butterfly become that complicated. It is a simple story; a cad enters into a sham marriage, sleeps with Butterfly, gets her pregnant, then comes back with Kate and takes the child. Wait a moment, she believes in the marriage and has even become a Christian, so that Pinkerton will eventually live with her and the child. Pinkerton realizes in the end what he has done. Also,Butterfly is aged now 18, 15 when she marries him. No singer alive could sing the role at that age.

A room which is the Japanese house has rose petals on the floor; a spiral staircase goes up to the ceiling, from a hole in the floor. On the white walls are outlines of flowers, which both change colour depending on the mood; very light Pink, violet, or Blue hues. Parts of the walls open up to show a garden, or sunset over the valley below. There are hardly any props, apart from a leather seat in Act 2, also a bottle and glasses. The scenery is subtle. Act one is utterly traditional, early 1900 Japanese dress, with Pinkerton dressed in an American Navy uniform of that era, and Sharpless wears a suit. Butterfly wears golden and light pink traditional dress, with a red sash. Now you are in familar territory, beautiful love duets. You can sit back and relax and let the beautiful melodies drift through your lounge. You are in for a surprise.

Act 2 begins. Butterfly wears a pair of jeans and a linen top, with a mini dress. Suzuki has a traditional top with jeans, and Sharpless is still in his 1900 suit,and others in their traditional garb. But four men are wearing business suits of the period. The fragmentation of time, literally going in another direction. The traditional Act one was the reality, now in the other Acts she clings to her child which is a doll in this production, not a real child as is usual. The fantasy world is her dream of a better life which never happens. Her modern dress is the Western dress, a life to which she aspires. When she dies, she wears a black traditional kimino. The doll breaks. Actually,the scenery and costumes are traditional in a way.

To make this happen, you require good singers. Alexia Voulgaridou has a very distinctive voice, and is a fine singer actress, who brings the suffering of Butterfly to life and makes the role believable. One fine day is a tour de force. The sheer emotion of her voice makes this a Butterfly to remember. Suzuki Cristina Damian a mezzo,is her Maid and her voice is made for the role. Teodor Ilincai is Pinkerton, who was Rodolfo in La Boheme, Covent Garden, bluray. A tenor who has a great future ahead of him. Sharpless Lauri Vasar is a baritone we will hear more of. The singers are all young. Alexander Joel conducts the Philharmoniker Hamburg with feeling and tenderness, bringing to the fore, the emotional impact that this opera has. " I will make you weep" stated Puccini. Is it worth owning? I certainly think so. I like this production because it makes you think about Madama Butterfly, so I begun to view the opera in an entirely different light and not take it for granted.

By the way, there is an excellent traditional La Boheme, with Gai James, Aquiles Machado. Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, cond Chailly with swift tempi,capturing the emotional nature of the piece. The singers are young and excellent. Recorded live Dec 2012. I cannot understand why people missed it. See my review. I hope this Butterfly does not end up forgotten.

PCM Stereo. Subtitles: English. German. French, Spanish, Korean. 16.9. REGION World wide. 10801 High Definition. Live from the Staatsoper Hamburg, November 2012. Use the pop up menu to obtain Audio, Language and Chapters. Then press it again to turn it off. NOTE: WORLD WIDE Viewing.
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on 31 October 2014
great job!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 April 2014
Can Madama Butterfly survive a production without the cherry blossoms, silk kimonos and bamboo houses with paper screens? If Puccini's masterpiece is strong enough to stand on its own terms without the kitsch elements, there are nonetheless certain expectations for a stage production that perhaps shouldn't be meddled with too much. Vincent Boussard finds a way to retain the essence of this imagery in a relatively minimalist fashion in this Hamburg production without losing anything of the exotic spectacle. There are however one or two interpretative twists here that not everyone will agree work well or even consider necessary.

The costumes, by Christian Lacroix, look stylised traditional with obis and big hats, although reflecting Cio-Cio-San's adoption of American ways she wears jeans and a sweatshirt for Act II. In terms of the set design itself however, this Madama Butterfly looks every bit as minimalistically oriental and yet subtly elegant as it ought to do. The set for the entire three acts is based around a spiral staircase at the centre of the stage, with only large panels behind. These however slide back to open up to the seasons and the passage of the day outside, as well as being used for off-stage locations for Madama Butterfly and Suzuki to retire to at significant points. It's very much an 'interior' design then and functional for the purposes of the work, but a subtle play of light and colour suggests other moods and situations.

If it's all about establishing the essential mood for each scene, you could say that Boussard's production is a little over-elaborate in its use of colour, but there's no doubt that the set and lighting follows and relates closely to the score. There are rapid switches between one extreme emotion and another in Madama Butterfly, between romantic illusion and harsh reality and Puccini holds an amazing suspended tension between them. Boussard's production, mood and lighting, follows these developments very closely but it leads the director to make a few decisions that don't perhaps hold up well. One can understand how Cio-Cio-San can make a little shrine of artefacts to her delusions, but whether those should be seen as extending to their child is another matter. It's clear from the libretto that the child is real, but Boussard muddies the issue by using a large doll instead of a real child. He also takes the final scene off-stage, which is a brave decision, but there's no denying that it robs the conclusion of some of its intended emotional impact.

If the intention is to let the strength of the music and the singing speak for itself, at least the Hamburg production has some fine singers who are capable of giving the work a full and nuanced expression. It's absolutely essential that you believe in these characters that are so well written by Puccini (in spite of some stereotypes). If sung well they really come to life and they certainly work here. Freed from the usual mannerisms, Alexia Voulgaridou is able to emotionally delve into the work anew and sings wonderfully and with tremendous force. It's a riveting performance. Teodor Ilincal is a lyrical tenor in the classic mould, his B.F. Pinkerton naive and romantic rather than exploitative and insensitive. Christina Damian's Suzuki is also very fine and adds considerably to the overall quality of this production. As too does the excellent account of the work by the Hamburg Philharmonic conducted by Alexander Joel.

On Blu-ray, the video transfer is very good. It looks a little softer than most, mainly on account of the colour saturation, but the colour reproduction and the beauty of the set is impressive. There's only one audio track on this release, a PCM stereo track, but it's strong and gives a good account of the singing and the orchestration. Other than trailers, there are no extra features on the BD, but the booklet comes with an interview with Vincent Boussard that discusses his approach to the work. Region-free, subtitles on the release are in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish and Korean.
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on 3 May 2014
This not a review but only my opinion.

It's a pity that Amazon does not give a direct link to a preview that is readily available on YouTube. Nor does it allow links in reviews or comments. Amazon does however seem to allow them in the Product Discussion Forum at the bottom of the page.

As a pre-requisite for posting this as a review I had to allocate some stars and based on the preview I can only give it 3 stars.
1 star off for the minimalist staging, 1 star off for the atrocious costuming and I should have taken another star off for the bad acting.
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