Associated Press. March 17, 2009
By MIKE SILVERMAN, Associated Press Writer
German tenor Jonas Kaufmann impresses on new 'Madama Butterfly' CD
This umpteenth studio recording of Giacomo Puccini's tearjerker is built around Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu, but it's her co-star, Jonas Kaufmann, who really makes the listener sit up and take notice.

Gheorghiu is blessed with an uncommonly beautiful voice, especially in its upper reaches, but it's on the small side for such a dramatic role. And occasionally her tone spreads slightly under pressure at the climactic moments. It's telling that she has yet to sing the role live in performance.

Kaufmann, a German tenor whose star is rising fast on the opera scene, captures the tenderness and passion, as well as the self-pity, of Lt. Pinkerton. His flexible voice seems to do just what he asks of it at all times. He is masterful in the long love scene that closes Act 1, but just as striking is the delicacy of his initial exchange with Butterfly — for instance, the way he softly sighs the word "grazie."

Nice contributions are made in key supporting roles by mezzo-soprano Enkelejda Shkosa as Butterfly's faithful companion Suzuki and baritone Fabio Capitanucci as the sympathetic American counsel Sharpless.

Conductor Antonio Pappano does a splendid job leading the soloists along with the Orchestra and Chorus of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome.

Ardent Gheorghiu fans will no doubt want to add this two-CD set to their collections. Others, however, may prefer one of the other commercial recordings readily available, including those featuring Mirella Freni or either of the two Renatas — Tebaldi or Scotto.

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