This title is currently unavailable.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
For years this has been the benchmark Butterfly (perhaps tied with Callas', but all other things being equal, truly better), and re-hearing it now, it still is. If there is one flaw it is Barbirolli's conducting; he almost loves the score too much, and his lingering occasionally makes you feel that the action lacks impetus. But the upside of that is the gorgeous orchestral detail; it's easy to forget how well orchestrated this opera is, and Barbirolli reminds us.
Elsewhere the performance can't be faulted: Renata Scotto was at the peak of her vocal powers in 1966, with beautiful pianissimos as well as every other dynamic, and a voice whose top had not yet turned acidic. As an
interpretation, she gets Butterfly magnificently. She never overdoes the little-girlness, and the pathetic 18-year-old "I-won't-go-back-to-being-a-geisha" monolog never dissolves into tears, but rather ends with a quiet, resigned, and utterly heartrending "Morta!". Even in the final scene she refuses to cheapen with effects; her vocal color and phrasing tell the story perfectly.
Carlo Bergonzi, too, is at his honeyed best, with the voice beautifully produced from top to bottom, and if he misses Gigli's playfulness in Act 1, well, too bad: his last act is ravishing. Rolando Panerai's Sharpless is well-drawn, and he's very effective in the catastrophic second-act conversation with Butterfly. Anna di Stasio sings Suzuki sympathetically, blending well with Scotto in the Flower Duet. The sound is superb. This is a study in sadness that can't be beat. [11/9/2002]
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
John Barbirolli, cond; Renata Scotto (
); Carlo Bergonzi (
); Rolando Panerai (
); Rome Op House O & Ch
EMI 67720 (2 CDs: 136:54)
At the top of any list of the best
recordings is this EMI, now reissued in superlative sound in their “Classics for Pleasure” series.
has been blessed with an abundance of A-level recordings. Among the best is the 1939 version with the incomparable Pinkerton of Beniamino Gigli and the idiomatic but at the same time highly idiosyncratic Butterfly of Toti Dal Monte. There is the outstanding 1958 recording with Tebaldi at her best, with the nearest Gigli-like Pinkerton to record in stereo—Carlo Bergonzi, and conducted by the expert Tullio Serafin. There is the scaldingly hot Butterfly by Maria Callas, supported by Karajan in top form. There is the superb vocalism of Björling and Los Ángeles, but a little cool for my taste (I doubt there would have been enough passion generated from that pairing to give them any “Trouble”!). There’s the classic pairing of Freni and Pavarotti offering deluxe Italianate vocalism. There’s Leontyne Price in magnificent voice, her gleaming, justifiably celebrated high notes a sensual pleasure unlike on any other
recording, with Richard Tucker ardent and unusually well behaved, the music moved along smartly by the underrated conductor Erich Leinsdorf. At the start of the electric era, there was a fine recording by the exotic Irish soprano Margaret Sheridan in 1931. Many are partial to Rosetta Pampanini, a famous Butterfly who recorded the role in 1928. Plenty of
riches then: any of these recordings could easily be a first choice.
Which brings us back to this fabulous low-budget reissue from EMI: anyone wondering why John Barbirolli was once picked to succeed Arturo Toscanini at the New York Philharmonic can safely be directed to his revelatory work on this recording made in 1966, far and away the best conducted recording I’ve heard of Puccini’s most tragic masterwork. Barbirolli’s tempos are often slow and deliberate, but always work to build the tragedy. The big moments come down like a hammer on your heart. As Butterfly, Scotto—who also recorded it in 1978—is in her best voice. She was a great, great Butterfly: a combination of the sense of fragility only heard elsewhere in Dal Monte’s recording, with the blazing power and passion that Callas brought to the role. Carlo Bergonzi is, as noted, the best Pinkerton on the stereo side of Beniamino Gigli. And finally, a word for Rolando Panerai who is, for me, the most effective Sharpless I’ve heard on records, bar none. Sharpless can break your heart with his empathy, and Panerai does this while offering rich vocalism. The sound is superb. This is the one.
FANFARE: James Camner
Works on This Recording
Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini
Renata Scotto (Soprano),
Carlo Bergonzi (Tenor),
Anna di Stasio (Mezzo Soprano),
Rolando Panerai (Baritone),
Paolo Montarsolo (Bass),
Piero de Palma (Tenor),
Giuseppe Morresi (Bass Baritone),
Mario Rinaudo (Bass),
Silvana Padoan (Mezzo Soprano)
Sir John Barbirolli
Rome Opera House Orchestra,
Rome Opera House Chorus
Written: 1904; Italy
Date of Recording: 08/1966
Venue: Opera Theater, Rome, Italy
Length: 142 Minutes 7 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Very good February 28, 2013
By E. Fisch (Granada Hills, CA) See All My Reviews
"The performances and sound are some of the best. Everyone is in very good voice, although Scotto sounds very Italian. My favorite is still the Moffo/Valetti which has more sincere performances and early stereo."