The Mail on Sunday, 22 March 2009
Puccini:/Madama Butterfly/EMI ( two CDs) /*****
Now here's a complete Madama Butterfly which, and this is high praise, is fit to be mentioned in the same breath as the Scotto, Bergonzi, Barbirolli set made in the same city 40 years before. Pappano is a natural Puccinian but he has never displayed a more total immersion in the idiom than here. Aided by a recording of remarkable transparency, every detail of Puccini's delicate orchestration emerges as never before. Neither of the two principals, Angela Gheorghiu or Jonas Kaufmann, has sung Butterfly in the opera house and neither, I suspect, ever will. Gheorghiu because the part is too vocally demanding done live and Kaufmann because the role of Pinkerton is so thankless, being both short and dramatically unattractive because Pinkerton is a rat. Gheorghiu says she wanted to record Butterfly in the mid-Nineties, and she might have sounded better then, because her voluptuous voice undeniably spreads a bit these days. But she is still as good as it gets among contemporary Puccini sopranos. As for Kaufmann, every time I hear him, my admiration grows. He, too, has a splendidly heady Italianate voice , used with a Northern European restraint. This is much to the music's advantage and is, of course, essential in a recording intended for repeated listening as there are no irritating mannerisms. This Butterfly is a triumph and joins the Barbirolli and Karajan sets

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