Madama Butterfly is one of the most-performed stage works in the world and is considered the pivotal opera of Puccini's career. This exquisite and highly acclaimed production from La Scala presents the tragic tale of a wom... more »an's relentless struggle within a traditionally conformist society and a loveless marriage. Japanese director Keita Asari cast two of the Far East's leading singers in the coveted female roles and collaborated with Japanese specialists on lighting, choreography and design. The result is a uniquely stylized and authentic production, subdued like an Oriental watercolor on a silk canvas, beautifully bringing to life Madama Butterfly's metamorphosis. Lorin Maazel conducts the Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Alla Scala, Milan.« less
Good Production and Singing, But My Least Favorite
Peter Serchuk | Los Angeles, CA United States | 02/09/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I think my title says it all. I like the authentic Japanese feel of the production, and the singing is mostly very good. But I consider this the weakest of the "Madama Butterfly" film versions, because I just don't like Yasuko Hayashi as Butterfly. Sure, she's actually Japanese, and her voice is near perfect for the role, but Butterfly is a role that requires good acting, and I think Hayashi falls short in that department. If you think Japaneseness (is that a real word?) is the most important thing in a "Madama Butterfly," get this one, but if you want a good dramatic performance with a convincing actress in the title role, I reccomend either the Ponnelle film with Mirella Freni, or the Mitterand film with Ying Huang."
Puccini goes Kabuki
eureka treasures | Washington DC area | 03/30/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's easy to come to this opera with a lot of expectations and if you are looking for a conventional approach this somewhat low-keyed version may not appeal to you. But if you are in the mood for something different then this stylish and skillful production could be just your cup of tea. The show has been directed attentively in oriental style. The stylized movement and the dramaturgy, costumes and settings all reflect an eastern approach and give the opera a rare sense of authenticity. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom here and you might actually think you were in Japan for a few hours. All the power and glory of Puccini's masterpiece are here in abundance. There are no doubt more melodramatic versions but I found this one to be far easier to swallow dramatically than ... say, the filmed Karajan (Ponnelle)--- which struck me as false through and through. I thought Hayashi Yasuko's ability to convey a range of emotions in her aria Un Bel Di was very impressive. The sense of hope, despair, doubt she was able to convey at the same time was just heart-breaking. The ending, too, is quite effective as the stage turns bright red in a sea of blood. A very oriental effect-- and a mighty powerful way to end this striking production."
Catch this Butterfly
Robert Baksa | new york state | 06/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If one can get over a need for superstars in this opera, here is the DVD to have. Directed by a Japanese director for La Scala, it is totally convincing. Butterfly and Susuki don't have to pretend that they are small Oriental women because they ARE small Oriental women. Hayashi, who sings the title role, does not have as much strength in her lower register as a western soprano but she embodies the role completely. Susuki is excellent in voice and appearance. Dvorsky's Pinkerton is one dimensional...but that's the kind of person who would marry a Butterfly and then forget about her. One cannot say enough good about Zancanaro's Sharpless. Here is a singer whose every line is beatifully shaped. His voice is effortlessly and evenly produced from top to bottom. Having no musical or techincal problems to deal with he is free to act with great sensitivity to the text. Though rarely in leading roles, his presence on a DVD is enough to make me consider owning it.
My only quibbles with this performance are 1) the distraction provided by the hooded "zombies" who enter to push the scenery around when it is required, 2) the English translation is not that faithful to the text of the libretto and 3) there are not nearly enough blossoms in the flower duet.
Aside from that...highly recommended. "
Another Asian Butterfly
Giles Bernard J. Hall | Tasmania; Australia | 10/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here we have yet another Asian Madama Butterfly, with Yasuko Hayashi in the title role and Hak-Nam Kim as Suzuki. Peter Dvorsky's Pinkerton is a little brash, but then he is no prince charming. Giorgio Zancanaro is superb as Sharpless, this man has one of the best baritone voices on the planet. This production from La Scala is of the traditional Kabuki theatre style of Japan. Who better to stage an opera set in Japan, than the Japanese. For those who are not familiar with Kabuki, the basic rules are thus: Any persons dressed in black are NOT actually there. Your minds eye is not meant to see them as they work the sets etc. In other words they are the visible- invisible mechanics of the production. Hard for us Westerners to comprehend, but that is what it is. I actually feel sorry for the child. With all the man or woman handling he has to put up with and to be sung at fondled and squeezed, I'm surprised he made it though the opera, but he behaved exceptionally well and deserves a mention. The Kabuki style finale is about the most breath-taking I have ever witnessed. Entering in a pure white kimono and seating herself on a pure white mat with a supernumerary at each corner, in black (so they are not there) and using the fan to symbolize the sword to stab herself with. As she stabs herself, she slowly opens the fan revealing a blood-red fan giving the elusion of blood spreading across the white kimono and as this is happening the four supernumeraries are slowing pulling the corners of the white mat towards themselves slowly revealing a blood red matt underneath, symbolizing the flow of blood. A very effective and quite a dramatic way to conclude such a wonderful opera. I have had this version on Video for many years now and I am pleased it made it onto DVD. I hope you get as much enjoyment as I have from this production. "
Madama Butterfly at 15 Should be Younger and Slimmer
BLee | HK | 11/02/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Different people have different opinion. Even for the same opinion, they may have different justifications. I rather like this version, despite the fact that the part of Madama Butterfly is not the best one could expect. The reasons are:1) we have an excellent team here and particularly the director/ costumes/sets. Right from the beginning, viewers are, visually at least transcended to another world. We have a Japanese house by the side of some paddi fields with two farmers in Japanese costumes separately tilting and plodding rather stoically in the typically Japanese way, with their heads lowered to make sure that they won't give the story away. In other scenes, the same approach is used with the faces of the pedestrians/pinic goers substantially covered by Japanese umbrellas-- and also note that even the way they moved about or gestured are all Japanese. And then the modern lighting effect is so artistically well employed. It's quite a sensation altogether.2) talking about music, we have a first rate orchestra and chorus from Milan conducted by Lorin Maazel, one of the most celebrated conductors of our time. For the leading parts, they are all taken by not too familiar voices/faces, so that there isn't much cliche and so that the viewers can better concentrate on the drama itself. Needless to say, both the musica and singing are all marvelous including the part of Madama Butterfly herself. The orchestra under the baton of Maazel does compare favourably with Vienna Philharmonic under Karajan. So is the acting as a whole, save the part of Madama Butterfly which is in any event almost as good. But some how the orchestra sounds as though it comes from a distant land, a bit too soft. But there's full support for the singing and for the conveyance of Puccini's music. I don't like the cover photo of Hayashi either. Fortunately or unfortuntely, it's not the typical sight of her part thoughout. Often she is in robes else wearing shawls or the like, we don't actually see the size of Madama Butterly which, according to the play is supposed to to be as "light as nothing". Other than these trivialities, it's a Puccini which is worth all your money and all your while."