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Puccini - Madama Butterfly

3.7 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Mirella Freni, Placido Domingo, Christa Ludwig, and Robert Kerns star in this Jean-Pierre Ponnelle-directed version of the Puccini opera, with Herbert Von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.

Special Features

  • Sung in Italian with subtitles

Product Details

  • Actors: Mirella Freni, Plácido Domingo, Christa Ludwig, Robert Kerns, Michel Sénéchal
  • Directors: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
  • Writers: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, David Belasco, Giuseppe Giacosa, Jean-Louis Martinoty, Luigi Illica
  • Producers: Fritz Buttenstedt
  • Format: Classical, Subtitled, Color, DTS Surround Sound
  • Language: Italian (DTS 5.0), Italian (PCM Stereo), English (DTS 5.0), English (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, German, French, Mandarin Chinese
  • Dubbed: Italian
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
  • DVD Release Date: June 14, 2005
  • Run Time: 146 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007P0LO8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,536 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Puccini - Madama Butterfly" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This supposedly new release from Deutsche Grammophon is actually the same 1974 production previously released under the Decca label in 2001. That older title is still available at Amazon. This is a film version, not a stage production. It was directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and starred some of the finest performers available at the time. The great Herbert von Karajan conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna State Opera. It is without question a magnificient performance. Mirella Freni sings the role of Butterfly as few others can match. Placido Domingo is in equally fine form. Christa Ludwig is excellent as Suzuki. And yet the film as a whole doesn't really work. The trouble is that while Ponnelle tries to make this into a movie version of Butterfly, he neither has the resources nor the capability for doing so. The staging looks decidedly cheap, lacklustre and as some have commented, tacky. An effective movie version would benefit from realistic settings, a real house on a hill, with a sparkling Bay beneath. It could have done without some of the sensationalist/ridiculous set directions, like having Domingo jump out through the paper walls of the house, ostensibly for dramatic effect. This production could have worked (indeed would have been a triumphant success) if filmed purely as a stage based opera. However Ponnelle's final choice puts it neither here nor there. We have sets that look like they belong on stage (and not a very good stage at that), yet the performers are made to act as if they were in a movie. We get to see Placido Domingo chewing gum while he contemplates marrying Cio Cio San, presumably to show what a cad he is. And he continues to chew gum even while he's supposed to be singing.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
To my very surprise this DVD is already for sale in the Netherlands where I bought it yesterday, 18th May 2005, whereas it is not yet released in the USA. That said, I already owned the earlier release and had hoped that they would have remastered the film for DVD. Alas, they did not, although they put the sound on DTS 5.0 which I am not yet able to listen to, which is the only difference compared to the DVD I already owned. (I think the sound might be great on DTS, but I do not know for now).

I think the singing on this DVD is superb and impeccable (I am a big fan of Domingo and Frenis pianissimos are the most beautiful you will ever hear). But the film looks as if somebody put it directly from VHS tape unto DVD (which is probably the case if I am to guess) which is a shame, seeing as the price I paid would have suggested that they did some work on it.

Five stars for the singing and three for the quality of the DVD (and shame on all the big companies for daring to sell us this kind of quality), makes for the four stars given.
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Format: DVD
I completely disagree with some of the reviewers. How easy it is to misunderstand a fine director's intentions!
The story of "Butterfly" is one of the most sordid tragedy in all opera repertoire. Think about it. An innocent 15 year old girl to escape poverty, thru a profit-hungry marriage broker, marries an opportunistic and unscrupulous American sea captain who seduces and abandons her.. She is cursed and abandoned by society, robbed of her child and driven to suicide.
So what do the reviewers want? Pretty Japanese scenery with Fujijama in the background?
The director created a unique film that's atmospheric, surrealistic, colorless to suit this story. The set: a nondescript cottage surrounded by a depressing barren field. Characters are well drawn, even the secondary ones. (eg. the grotesque but frightening Goro or the terrifying Bonzo).
It is unfortunate that the 15 year old Cio-Cio San is played by a much older singer which is illusion destroying, but Mirella Freni is superb, it is HER role.
Musically this set is absolutely without equal,(perhaps the magical Sinopoli comes near,but that's a CD) but I must emphasize the contribution of Karajan, who is the genius behind it all. I never thought he was a Puccini fan, but obviously he has a special feeling for this work. He takes a dramatic view of the score and almost re-discovers the opera. His ear for detail is uncanny, the love-duet is sensuous with soaring melodic lines, the great aria (Un bel di) rarely sounded more dramatic, full of emotion. It just builds and builds! And the 3rd act is so powerful, it will leave you breathless. You won't forget this film easily.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Oh puhleeeeeez - Freni's teeth not suitable? Not good enough for what? Is this Miss Japan beauty pageant or what??! I guess most of the reviewers were expecting another level of Oriental exoticism and, when they didn't get any, were subsequently disilliusioned. If that's your first and foremost wish, get the Frederic Mitterand 1995 film with the Chinese soprano (now THAT should get rave reviews, shouldn't it, because she's got the Oriental eyes; and the Tunisian location will easily fool you into thinking that this indeed is Nagasaki). For everyone else, I wholeheartedly recommend the Karajan/Domingo/Freni version. It's got depth. It hasn't got dental perfection. Thankfully.
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