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Puccini: Madama Butterfly / Hayashi, Dvorsky, Maazel

Puccini / Maazel / Hayashi / Kim / Dvorsky
Release Date: 08/25/2009 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 100111  
Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Sergio FontanaErnesto GavazziAnna Caterina AntonacciPeter Dvorsky,   ... 
Conductor:  Lorin Maazel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala OrchestraMilan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Giacomo Puccini

Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly) – Yasuko Hayashi
Suzuki – Hak-Nam Kim
Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton – Peter Dvorksy
Kate Pinkerton – Anna Caterina Antonacci
Sharpless – Giorgio Zancanaro
Goro – Ernesto Gavazzi
Yamadori – Arturo Testa
Bonzo – Sergio Fontana
Yakuside – Claudio Giombi

Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Lorin Maazel, conductor

Keita Asari, Director
Ichiro Takada, Sets Design
Hanae Mori, Costumes Design

Recorded at Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 1986

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Read more code: 0 (All)
Subtitles: Italian, German, French, English, Spanish
Menu Languages: German, French, English, Spanish
Running time: 144 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)


PUCCINI Madama Butterfly Loren Maazel, cond; Yasuko Hayashi ( Madama Butterfly ); Hak-Nam Kim ( Suzuki ); Peter Dvorsky ( Pinkerton ); Anna Caterina Antonacci ( Kate Pinkerton ); Giorgio Zancanaro ( Sharpless ); La Scala O & Ch ARTHAUS 100 111 (DVD 142:00) Live: Milan 1986

The idea behind this 1986 La Scala production was to feature “authentic orientalism,” to do which they used two Asian singers, a Japanese director, a Japanese designer, and a Japanese costumier. That Pinkerton and his wife should, therefore, be Americans was not taken to be a necessary consequence of such reasoning, and if Trouble wasn’t really blond, neither was Lt. Pinkerton (who had enough stripes on his sleeve and battle ribbons on his chest to be at least a naval Captain). Ah, well, it’s all opera, as they say, and Pinkerton is not authentically oriental. Puccini, of course, thought that “authentic orientalism” was not the issue. At stake were very human matters of understanding and misunderstanding that David Belasco’s play, on which Illica and Giacosa’s libretto is based, had put into the polarities of Japan and America in 1900. In the end, theater is not about ideas or even atmosphere, but about human interactions and decisions taken within a larger story. So, what do we get here? Well, Ichiro Takada’s set and Keita Asari’s direction are clean and unfussy, and that’s all to the good, and Derek Bailey’s restrained camerawork matched the quality of the production. Whether the whole show was authentically oriental or not is really immaterial. We are helped to focus on the essentials of the work, and that is the “authentic” part.

Madama Butterfly is about, well, Madam Butterfly. Yasuko Hayashi’s career took place both in her native Japan and in Europe and, though she sang most of the great bel canto roles, Butterfly was the cornerstone of that career. A great actress she is not (though this is a deliberately understated production), and her low, soft, singing is a bit metallic, but once the temperature heats up, she makes a thrilling sound. All the rest of the roles are one-sided figures. If one counters that Pinkerton changes his mind at the end, what kind of a change is it when he runs away again, as he had done three years earlier? He is as irresponsible at the end as at the beginning. No wonder Butterfly doesn’t want to give her son away. Indeed, Dvorsky’s Pinkerton is a consistently unpleasant character: from his first words, there is no love in his voice, only imperial arrogance, perhaps because he always sings rather loudly. Zancanaro’s Sharpless is the only sympathetic outsider, charged with the hopeless task of giving Butterfly the bad news he feared from the beginning would come. His voice is smooth and most pleasing to listen to, an ideal diplomat. The Korean soprano Hak-Nam Kim’s Suzuki is a strong support for Hayashi. Maazel’s conducting is solid, though the orchestra sounds a bit heavy. It is gratifying to be able to distinguish the words being sung.

This is the 1906 revision of the opera, though—except for the synopsis—the DVD presents it as if it were the two-act original version. The subtitles come in English, German, French, or Spanish. The most-recent competitor seems to be the 2003 Netherlands Opera version (BBC/Opus Arte). In 29:5, Arthur Lintgen disliked Robert Wilson’s production, but thought Edo de Waart’s conducting and the singing were good. I wasn’t bothered when I saw it on stage, but I haven’t seen the DVD.

FANFARE: Alan Swanson
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Works on This Recording

Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Sergio Fontana (Baritone), Ernesto Gavazzi (Tenor), Anna Caterina Antonacci (Soprano),
Peter Dvorsky (Tenor), Yasuko Hayashi (Soprano), Hak-Nam Kim (Mezzo Soprano),
Giorgio Zancanaro (Baritone), Arturo Testa (Tenor), Claudio Giombi (Baritone)
Conductor:  Lorin Maazel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904; Italy 
Date of Recording: 1986 
Venue:  Teatro alla Scala, Milan 

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