Puccini: Madama Butterfly

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

WORKS: Madama Butterfly
PERFORMER: Ying Huang, Richard Troxell, Ning Liang, Richard Cowan; Choeurs de Radio France, Orchestre de Paris/James Conlon
Recorded at the Olivier Messiaen Auditorium, Paris, in 1995, this is the soundtrack of a movie directed by Frédéric Mitterand. The principal singers were chosen, according to the accompanying libretto booklet, only after ‘a year of scouting in schools and on stages throughout the world’. Their photographs in the booklet suggest that Butterfly and Pinkerton must make an attractive couple on screen; however, deprived of their physical presence, their attractive and youthful voices are somewhat lacking in personality on disc.


Ying Huang, who graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory as recently as 1992, has a soprano voice of sweetness and charm, but she makes little of the words she sings, and captures the poignancy of Butterfly’s situation only intermittently and superficially. Richard Troxell, a young American tenor with a pleasant enough voice, fails to bring Pinkerton to life, and does not summon up much ardour in the love duet. Much better is another young American, Richard Cowan, as the Consul, Sharpless, with a fine voice and rather more vocal charisma than his colleagues. Ning Liang’s warm-voiced Suzuki is also first-class, and James Conlon conducts persuasively. Charles Osborne