Puccini: Madama Butterfly

COMPOSERS: Puccini
LABELS: Royal Opera House Heritage Series
ALBUM TITLE: Puccini
WORKS: Madama Butterfly
PERFORMER: Victoria de los Angeles, John Lanigan, Geraint Evans, Michael Langdon, Joyce Livingstone; Covent Garden Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Rudolf Kempe
CATALOGUE NO: ROHS 006
Georg Solti claimed that before his arrival Covent Garden’s standards were provincial. Not so in this 1957 Madama Butterfly, which is conducted with a light touch by Rudolf Kempe in a way that is entirely at the service of the score. The orchestra does him proud.

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So does the cast, even if it’s not quite in the stellar league of Solti’s for Don Giovanni (see Opera Choice). John Lanigan would later become a leading character tenor, but his Pinkerton is always creditable despite his lack of a truly Italianate tone. The invaluable Geraint Evans provides a thought-through Sharpless. One may have expected Victoria de Los Angeles to be too slight for Butterfly’s biggest moments, but she rises to all its challenges with aplomb in an account that describes the nobility of the heroine to perfection. It’s one to set beside Renata Scotto’s version with Barbirolli conducting (again on EMI), which usually takes the palm.

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The sound here is better than in Don Giovanni, though still enclosed and not offering much in the way of range. The set is finely packaged with a thoughtful note by Alexandra Wilson. George Hall