Melody Moore, Stefano Secco, Lester Lynch; Gulbenkian Chorus & Orchestra/Lawrence Foster
Pentatone PTC 5186 783 (CD/SACD) 143:22 mins (2 discs)
In this new recording, the opera’s symphonic quality is emphasised to the max by conductor Lawrence Foster. Much of the orchestral playing, flatteringly recorded, is voluptuous – shimmeringly beautiful at Butterfly’s entrance, in the love duet and in the intermezzo. Some of the tempos, however, are indulgently slow, notably in the opening scene, lessening the impact of those moments that require a certain dynamic spark.
Some of the singing is also on the heavy side. One doesn’t necessarily want the ‘little girl’ voice some sopranos adopt at the start of this opera, but one needs some sort of transition from the naive Butterfly to her more mature self. Nevertheless, Melody Moore’s deeply resonant, almost mezzo-like voice is a thing of beauty, and she certainly brings intensity to the opera’s ending. Stefano Secco sings Pinkerton sensitively, albeit with occasional tightness in the upper range.
As I noted in December’s Building a Library, the Butterfly back catalogue is vast yet still dominated by vintage recordings. This new set may not necessarily be a top-ranking choice – giving Puccini the full Wagner treatment only works up to a point – but it is certainly one with new things to say. It is also good to see Pentatone giving a new generation of singers the opportunity to put its stamp on core repertoire works such as this.