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Madama Butterfly / Opera Australia, Cheryl Barker, Jay Hunter Morris
Madama Butterfly / Opera Australia Cheryl Barker Jay Hunter Morris
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2008     2hr 21min

Puccini's tragic opera of sacrifice, love and the clash of East and West.


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Movie Details

Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Musicals
Studio: Kultur Video
Format: DVD - Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 05/27/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 21min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

The Art of Opera
Barry Stone | 12/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"We should be thankful to be living in a day when we have access to seeing as many opera productions as we can. Opera is an art form that involves the lot, singers, orchestra, sets, costumes, lighting and the drama. Opera was not written for a CD, it is meant to be seen as well. Thank god we have recordings, but now we can watch as well. This butterfly is as full an experience as you could imagine. Yes I have amongst others the magnificent Scotto and Callas recordings as well as a unique recording by the great spinto Eleanor Streber. I have wonderful DVDs of Freni, Kabaivanska, the stunning La Scala production with Yasuko Hayashi and the filmed version by Frédéric Mitterrand. All are good and great in their own way and I detract from none of them. However this performance by the beautiful Cheryl Barker is a stunner. I would not call it minimalist, but elegant and powerful, It is no use complaining about the supposed acoustic difficulties of the Sydney Opera House as in the over 30 years I have travelled there I have nothing to complain about. I have seen wonders there in both artists and productions, I have bruised my hands clapping, injured my feet stamping and swollen my throat cheering. Yes I have had the experience of great live opera there as well as elsewhere. I have seen a rather dead Butterfly in Vienna one night followed by a magnificent Macbeth another. It matters not where, but who. I also have attachments to this opera such as seeing the very young and large in stature and voice, Jane Eaglan sing it here in Brisbane in a heart thumping, exciting production in a voice that indicated the Wagner and big Verdi roles she would later conquer. I also remember opening night of a beautiful Butterfly with the great Australian Soprano Joan Carden a day after I nearly drowned on a boat trip with her and a couple of others from the production. Fortunately, only I did the drowning. Another season I was invited to attend every night as I was involved with supporting the opera in those days.

In this DVD Cheryl Barker begins as the wide eyed young girl and ends with devastating emotional impact. Her voice is strong and beautiful. She sounds like an opera singer and can act more convincingly than any Butterfly I have seen. There is a lot of originality in the characterisation of familiar roles and all works to reveal the story and the reality of the human drama enfolding. Impact, impact,impact. The handsome blond Jay Hunter Morris (Pinkerton)from Texas, is the perfect flirtatious cad whose lovely voice is seductive and manipulative. We see a best friend in Suzuki and a beautiful son. Add flower petals, some white silk, a pond and the soaring orchestra and magic is born."
Good but disappointing
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I had no knowledge of the cast or company prior to reading other reviews. Based on the enthusiastic comments, I ordered and looked forward to watching and listening to this most recent Madama Butterfly.
The voices are technically excellent but overall, this is hardly a 5 star product. The scenary is well done for a minimalist approach. I acknowldge that I prefer more classical staging and scenary but even with a minimalist approach, more is certainly possible - specifically the "entrance of Butterfly" - in my mind, one of the most beautiful scenes in opera. She should be heard before she is seen, her voice soaring above her companions, building expectations. I have seen this as a magically moment - even when the Butterfly is in reality overweight and older. It is theatre magic when done right. This production moves through it almost mechanically.
Even the best live performances are frequently performed by non-Asians but more certainly could have been done with makeup, particularly when you have the closeness of the video camera and the well-lit [perhaps too well lit] production. Yes, Pinkerton should be exuding testosterone but I found our handsome Pinkerton's and attractive Butterfly's acting (and singing) too mechanical.
This production would have been better as a CD as opposed to a DVD as the bright lights, limited make-up, minimalist scenery, ordinary stage management do not add to the experience.
Finally, although the vocal elements are technically very well done, they lack feeling. I listened to an old Tebaldi-Bergonzi CD afterwards and one realizes what expert reviewers are talking (or writing) about in terms of investing the roles with feeling, passion, drama. Some time ago, I saw (and heard Scotto) near the end of her performing career - you did not see her age or weight - she was magically transformed. Sorry, this DVD disappoints; it just does not do it for me."
Another Reason to Love the Aussies
Old Bill | Louisiana, USA | 09/10/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The vocal performances are outstanding. I would have made this a 5 star review if the costuming and makeup could have reflected a more Asian/Japanese mood to enhance the beautiful efforts of Ms Barker."
The best performance
Roderick Keech | Australia | 07/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I can only reiterate what the first reviewer has stated. Opera Australia has a knack of getting to the heart of the matter, without using distracting gimmickry of staging etc.

I have long believed Cheryl Barker to be one of the most under-appreciated sopranos in the world. Her ability to act are on a par with that outrageous Diva Angela Gheorghiu, yet her 'Australian-ness' has kept her grounded and a complelety professional and delightful performer.

The acoustics of the Sydney Opera House have always been difficult. It is a great pity that the ABC didn't record this in Melbourne during its season, as the acoustics are far superior. It is clear that no wizardry has been weaved to enhance the sound of this 1997 production, and that is evident also on the CD release (ABC Classics/Universal Music 476104-0). One can only hope that with all the new technology available for audio and video restoration, that ABC Classics will release an improved version, because this performance, in my mind, is hard to beat.

I guess what Opera Australia do best is bring plausibility to their productions, which instantly make them more accessible and enjoyable. Casting fine singers who look the part is also another part of their success.

Despite the caveats of the sound, I still return to this production for sheer enjoyment. While I don't mind updating Opera settings, I find the 2003 Netherlands Opera performance Madama Butterfly - Giacomo Puccini / Netherlands Opera, also starring Cheryl Barker, to be alienating in its austerity.

Fingers crossed for a complete Blu-Ray restoration of this beautifully sung and staged performance."