Puccini: Madama Butterfly

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Madama Butterfly
PERFORMER: Maria Spacagna, Richard Di Renzi, Sharon Graham, Erich Parce, Richard Markley, James Butler, Balazs PókaHungarian State Opera House Chorus & Orchestra/Charles Rosekrans
This is a highly specialised recording of Butterfly for it does not offer merely the familiar revised version of Puccini’s score, but instead presents a complete performance of the opera as heard at its unsuccessful Milan premiere in February 1904, followed by the Brescia revisions of some months later, and the further changes made for Paris in 1906. There are quite significant differences, and these are discussed in the helpful accompanying booklet which also contains a chart showing listeners with multiple-disc programmable CD changers how to programme a complete performance of any one of the three versions.


Although the chorus and orchestra are those of the Hungarian State Opera House, the conductor and all seven principal singers are American. Maria Spacagna is an appealing Cio-Cio-San, sympathetic in Act I and rising magnificently to the heavy vocal demands of Act II. Richard Di Renzi brings a fresh, virile timbre and strong personality to the difficult role of the unsympathetic Lieutenant Pinkerton, and Erich Parce is an excellent Sharpless. Sharon Graham’s Suzuki, and the contributions of Richard Markley (Goro), James Butler (the Bonze) and Vivica Genaux (Kate Pinkerton) are all satisfactory. Charles Rosekrans conducts a vividly dramatic account of the work. Charles Osborne