Superbly sung Butterfly with Mirella Freni and Placido Domingo

Continuing the Jean-Pierre Ponnelle marathon we come to his 1974 film of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with Mirella Freni in the title role and a young Placido Domingo as Pinkerton.  Musically this is the most satisfying of the Ponelle productions I’ve yet come across.  Freni is superb.  Radiant is not too strong a term,  Domingo sings pretty much as well (we’ll come to points of dramatic interpretation later) and the supporting cast is flawless.  There’s some serious luxury casting here with Christa Ludwig as a superb Suzuki.  Robert Kerns is an excellent Sharpless and Michel Sénéchal equally good as Goro.  Herbert von Karajan conducts.  He tends to go for sheer beauty of sound rather than maximum drama but what beauty of sound!  The soloists are wonderfully backed up by the Wirner Philharmoniker and the Staatsopernchor.  Continue reading

La Belle Helène in Paris

When I reviewed the 1997 Zurich production of La Belle Helène about a week ago the commentariat was strong in the belief that I should take a look at the 2000 Paris-Châtelet production.  So I did and they were right.  It’s excellent.  It also reinforced my belief that operetta; English, French or German, works best when it’s taken seriously by which I mean using the best available singer/actors, a good director and a top notch orchestra, chorus and conductor.  All of these are in place in this Paris production. Continue reading