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Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly [Festival Puccini/Gilgore] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Dynamic
  • Blu-ray Release Date: March 27, 2012
  • List Price: $42.99

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B006UM051Q[/amazon-product]

[amazon-product]B006UM051Q[/amazon-product]

Purchase Madama Butterfly on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:2.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:2.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Performance

[Rating:2.5/5]


Giacomo Puccini loved to vacation in Tuscany, particularly in Torre del Lago, the site for this 2007 Puccini festival performance of Madama Butterfly.  This outdoor venue  challenges the video and audio engineers, both points that will be addressed further in this review.  The cast has mostly local artists covering the leading roles: Madama Butterfly (soprano Elmira Veda) , Lt. B.F. Pinkerton (tenor Carlo Barricelli), US ambassador Sharpless (Luca Salsi), and Suzuki, Butterfly’s servant (mezzo-soprano Annamaria Popescu).  The orchestra and chorus are led by maestro Laurence Gilgore, a rising American star, and the production was staged by Stefano Vizioli. Madama Butterfly presents an ill-fated love story between the young Japanese girl, Cio-Cio San (Butterfly) and the American naval officer, Pinkerton. Butterfly takes their marriage vows seriously and when Pinkerton leaves for America (and his “real” American wife), she is convinced that he will someday return.  In the intervening period, Butterfly gives birth to their son and when Pinkerton finally does return, it is only to take this child back home with him.  Having given up her son, she commits hara-kiri with her father’s ceremonial dagger, her only honorable course.

This production uses a minimalist classic Japanese house set and traditional period costumes. I was unfamiliar with the singers prior to watching this BD and given the overall level of performance given here, I do not expect to see any of them appearing in the more major opera houses. The recording given to the principals is quite forward, not necessarily to their advantage. Tenor Barricelli delivers most of his lines at fortissimo levels with little shading or subtlety.  Soprano Veda comes across both vocally and visually as a very “mature” teenager although she has a much better idea of what to do with her role.  Unfortunately, her voice reveals stress in the more demanding passages (and there are quite a few of those). The supporting cast is adequate if not outstanding.  The strength of this production comes from the performance in the pit where the pacing and dynamic does good service to the Puccini style.

Video Quality

[Rating:2/5]

Outdoor evening performances are notoriously difficult to capture on video and this one is no exception.  The stage lighting is not very brilliant and there are frequent close-ups that almost have a veil over them. Distant shots at times appear blurry, diminishing the advantage of high definition Blu-ray recordings. The colors also have somewhat of a washed out appearance.  I have seen DVDs with better capture of detail and color palette

Audio Quality

[Rating:2.5/5]


The singers appear to be quite closely miked relative to the orchestra, lending additional stridor to several of  the voices. This is certainly a different balance than would one would have gotten in a traditional opera house.  Most of the acoustic picture is up front, making the Dolby Digital and dts MA 5.1 tracks nearly equivalent. There is little ambience in the surround channels.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]


No extras are given here, a bit surprising since the lovely venue was particularly special to the composer Puccini.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:2.5/5]


We are not wanting for video recordings of Madama Butterfly. While there is only one other Blu-ray performance (previously reviewed on Blu-rayDefinition),  it is also a lackluster affair with vocal weaknesses similar to the current entry. What does in this one, however, is the inexplicably poor quality of the video recording. I have reviewed numerous other outdoor productions and most have substantially better visual quality than this one.   My first choice for Butterfly video remains the venerable von Karajan DVD with Placido Domingo and Mirella Freni.  The recent Met Opera release of Anthony Minghella’s rethinking of this work has interesting sets and superior vocalism (Patricia Racette and Marcello Giordani in the leads).  For me, I am going to keep hoping against hope that a truly first-rate BD recording of this beloved opera gets released in the future. This one simply does not fill that bill.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B006UM051Q[/amazon-product]

[amazon-product]B006UM051Q[/amazon-product]

Purchase Madama Butterfly on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:2.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:2.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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