Madama Butterfly

 

Puccini Madama Butterfly opera to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Directed by Alvis Hermanis at the La Scala in 2016. Stars María José Siri (Madama Butterfly/Cio-Cio-San), Annalisa Stroppa (Suzuki), Bryan Hymel (F. B. Pinkerton), Carlos Álvarez (Sharpless), Carlo Bosi (Goro), Costantino Finucci (Prince Yamadori), Abramo Rosalen (The Bonze), Leonardo Galeazzi (Yakusidé), Gabriele Sagona (Imperial Commissioner), Romano Dal Zovo (The Official Registrar), Marzia Castellini (Cio-Cio-San’s Mother), Maria Miccoli (Cio-Cio-San’s Aunt), and Roberta Salvati (Cio-Cio-San’s Cousin). Riccardo Chailly conducts the Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala. Set design by Alvis Hermanis and Leila Fteita; costume design by Kristīne Jurjāne; lighting design by Gleb Filshtinsky; videos by Ineta Sipunova; choreography by Alla Sigalova; dramaturgy by Olivier Lexa. Directed for TV by Patrizia Carmine. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

Critics often call Madama Butterfly Puccini’s greatest opera; it seems it is so great that nobody has figured out how to make a good HD video of it. It’s now April 2019, and more than 600 opera Blu-rays have been published. We have 4 recordings of the now standard three-act Butterfly, and none of them hit the bull’s-eye. Subject La Scala production is Puccini’s original two-act version that flopped in its 1904 premiere (also at La Scala) and was thereafter all but forgotten. La Scala, Chailly, and Hermanis revived this as an homage to Puccini, and it could be they have also made, with the help of Patrizia Carmine, the best Butterfly video ever. Hugo Shirley in the 2019 March Gramophone (pages 87-88) calls this a “handsome show” that makes a “powerful, persuasive case for Puccini’s first thoughts on his great tearjerker.” The official clip from La Scala below is the prettiest YouTube opera trailer that I can remember seeing. The big problem is, of course, how do find a mature soprano who can sing this while producing a plausible image of a 17-year old single mom. María José Siri has maybe come closer than any other.