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An acclaimed cinematic adaptation of Puccini's popular opera about the tragic love affair between a naive geisha and the American naval officer who deserts her and their young child. Nominated for two French Cesar awards.
Like the finest of film scores with its fluid beauty and succession of intensely romantic tunes, Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly has a surprisingly cinematic feel. In 1995 director Frederic Mitterand exploited this quality of the story, exposing a young woman's disillusionment against a backdrop of cultural chasms. Shot on location, with Tunisia doubling convincingly as a turn-of-the-century Nagasaki, this Butterfly shines with fragile beauty. The house becomes a brilliantly used set, at once airy and full of the scent of flowers and at the same time a cage for the trapped woman. Archive footage of bygone Nagasaki is used skillfully to underline the distance between the 15-year-old bride and Pinkerton.
Purists may prefer a more traditionally robust, stage-bound Butterfly, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more visually heartbreaking interpretation. Chinese soprano Ying Huang doesn't rock the rafters with her vocal power; hers is a tender, delicately observed performance. Tenor Richard Troxell's self-seeking Pinkerton is well sung. Overall, this is a haunting cinematic treatment of an enduringly popular opera. --Piers Ford
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I think it would be nearly impossible to find another version so accessible to non-opera people like myself. More seasoned opera lovers may, perhaps, criticize the singing; I personally cannot hear why. Huang may be light, but she holds her own against the best "Butterflies" out there; and no other Sharpless I've heard even comes close to Cowan's. Having since compared this with numerous other versions (including Scotto and Freni), I have found no other version yet that more closely captures, for me, the essence of these characters; the carefree, irresponsible charm and rogueishness of Pinkerton, the compassionate gallantry of the Consul Sharpless, the innocent naivete and heartbreaking vulnerability of Butterfly. "B-List singers", indeed!
There are a few decisions the director made, which other reviewers here have touched on, that I didn't quite understand: having the Bonze (Butterfly's uncle, a Buddhist priest) come in as a kind of flying ghost; using footage of old (pre-war) Nagasaki for the dream sequence during the Humming Chorus; and some of the changes made in the staging of the final sequence. Then, there was also just a bit more focus on the matchmaker, Goro, than I felt the role called for (he was even present in one scene near the end where he had no lines and did not seem to belong) But overall I would say this was a very excellent production. Since seeing it I have become rather obsessed; you might say I have Butterflies on the brain!
***One note on the review below by Paul Smith Carter; I believe this must be a review of the WRONG Butterfly, since *Huang* NOT Raina, here sings the title role.
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I was a bit afraid to buy this one because it was second hand but, in fact, it came to me in perfect condition.
I am very happy with my purchase. Joseph April.