An incomparable Butterfly, the best in modern sound
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 07/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Since its release in 1974, critics have bowed down before an incomparable Madame Butterfly that matched up Karajan, Freni, and Pavarotti at their veyr best. Both lead singers justify their enormous fame. At this early date, about a decade after his recording debut, Pavarotti remained a sensitive Pinkerton who could shade his voice and deliver nuance along with power. Freni was a bit light for Cio-Cio San, but her portrayal runs second only to Callas (and Scotto, perhaps) for pathos and intensity. Karajan had also been Callas's conductor in this opera; his reading here is broader and more sumptuous--his approach to Puccini was ultra-lush, and it pays off. This isn't Bach,a fter all.
Two quibbles amidst the rejoicing. Decca's shrill, over-bright sonics badly need remastering. The company botched the Solti Ring cycle and all his Strauss operas with nasty late-Eighties digitizing. Those sets were brought back to life later, but this one sitll awaits the doctor. Also, at under 160 min. total timing, there's no reason to spread Butterfly out over three CDs--hopefully the future reissues will fit on two, as they properly should."