J!-ENT, March 11, 2009
No. 1 UK Classical Chart position for EMI Classics recording of ‘Madama Butterfly’ starring Angela Gheorghiu
European Entertainment News
EMI Classics is delighted to announce that on Sunday 8th March, its brand new complete studio recording of the Puccini opera Madama Butterfly starring Angela Gheorghiu in the title role, went straight to No. 1 in the UK Classical Chart.

“Immaculately recorded, spacious and evocative.” The Times

“Her [Angela Gheorghiu] voice is dazzlingly beautiful and her depth of characterisation as complex as Kaufmann’s.” Metro

Madama Butterfly appears on EMI Classics for the first time in many years in a new studio recording. The role of Cio-Cio-San is stunningly performed by Angela Gheorghiu, partnered by the exciting young German tenor Jonas Kaufmann as her lover Pinkerton, both making their debuts in these roles. Suzuki is sung by Enkelejda Shkosa, Sharpless by Fabio Capitanucci and Goro by Gregory Bonfatti. Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in the two-act opera. The recording took place in the Santa Cecilia Hall of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome in July 2008, the year commemorating the 150th anniversary of Puccini’s birth.

Given the lapse of 42 years since the appearance of the last seminal recording of Madama Butterfly with Renata Scotto/Carlo Bergonzi - and even earlier releases with Maria Callas/Nicolai Gedda and Victoria de los Angeles with both Giuseppe di Stefano and Jussi Bjorling - all recorded by EMI Classics– this new production has attracted keen anticipation among press and music lovers worldwide.

In an era when record companies have virtually ceased to make studio recordings of operas - one of the last being EMI’s Tristan und Isolde with Plácido Domingo and Nina Stemme, and in the words of Producer David Groves, speaking shortly after the recording sessions, “When it is so exceptional to make a studio opera recording, to find the perfect circumstances in which to record Madama Butterfly is both rare and precious. It was the right place at the right time with the perfect cast, conductor, orchestra and venue. The orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia played the music as though it was written for them and the partnership between the soloists Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann and conductor Antonio Pappano was a magical combination”.

Angela Gheorghiu, also commenting at the conclusion of the recording sessions, said, “It is the culmination of a long-held dream for me to record the role of Cio-Cio-San. Puccini’s music always touches me very deeply. In Madama Butterfly, as in all his operas, Puccini shows a great understanding of how human beings, and especially women, think and feel. Working together with Tony Pappano, Jonas Kaufmann and the rest of the cast in this recording has been a great joy.”

The operatic superstar Angela Gheorghiu made her international debuts at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, at the Wiener-Staatsoper as Adina in L’elisir d’amore and at the Metropolitan Opera as Mimi in La Bohème. Her performance as Violetta in La Traviata at the Royal Opera House under Sir Georg Solti was broadcast on the BBC in 1994, since which time she has been in constant demand internationally. An exclusive EMI artist since 1998, Gheorghiu has recorded Puccini’s La Rondine and Gianni Schicchi, Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, Massenet’s Werther and Manon, Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Bizet’s Carmen, as well as several albums of duets and arias with Roberto Alagna, Verdi’s Requiem and recitals at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the Teatro alla Scala, Milan. Angela Gheorghiu is generally considered the leading Puccini soprano of our time and has performed the roles of Puccini’s heroines in La Bohème, La Rondine, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi, Manon Lescaut and Tosca many times to great acclaim. She has sung Un bel dì vedremo on many occasions yet this is her role debut in the entire Madama Butterfly. Ms. Gheorghiu’s next EMI release is a compilation of her finest Puccini interpretations “My Puccini” scheduled for release in October 2008. In autumn 2008, she appears in La Bohème at San Francisco Opera and in a new production of La Rondine at the Metropolitan Opera.

Jonas Kaufmann appeared on the September 2008 cover of Gramophone magazine: “he has burst upon the international scene as a fully mature, major artist.” He was also featured on the cover of Opera News in May 2008. Jonas Kaufmann has made sensational debuts in recent seasons at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (in Puccini’s La Rondine, alongside Angela Gheorghiu), Metropolitan Opera, New York, Chicago Lyric Opera, the Bavarian and Vienna State Operas, Salzburg Festival and Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels. He has also sung many leading roles with Zurich Opera with which he has been closely associated since 2001. His performance as Don Jose in Carmen at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in December 2006 received tremendous critical and public acclaim. Mr. Kaufmann has appeared in concert with the Berlin Philharmonic under both Sir Simon Rattle and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra under Franz Weiser-Möst and the Vienna Philharmonic under Helmut Rilling; he has also been highly praised as an interpreter of Lieder repertoire in recital with pianist Helmut Deutsch. In 2008/2009, Kaufmann appears in Manon in Chicago opposite Natalie Dessay, Fidelio at the Opéra National, Paris, in a new production of Tosca for Zurich Opera and in the title role in a new production of Lohengrin at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich.

Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann have made triumphant appearances in La Rondine at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and in La Traviata at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan and the Metropolitan Opera, New York: “Musically … this is superb. The lovers, Magda and Ruggero, are played by Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann. Gheorghiu, with her dark, liquid tone, beautifully captures the lonely anguish of a woman who must ‘abandon the illusions she’s mistaken for life’. Kaufmann … is virile and shy, and sings gloriously.” (The Guardian on La Rondine); “Gheorghiu combined with the ebullient Alfredo of tenor Jonas Kaufmann … to make it a night of Verdi the way it used to be, one that had the crowd applauding and yelling approval from start to finish.” (San Francisco Chronicle on the Met Traviata)

Antonio Pappano has been Music Director of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia since 2005. Reviewing their recent recording for EMI Classics of Respighi’s Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals, Gramophone wrote, “As in Italian opera, Pappano has a natural feeling for flexible phrasing without exaggeration … [He conducts] with all the flamboyance needed for such boldly extrovert music. These are unashamed picture-postcards in music, and the images they evoke are always exceptionally vivid.” When Pappano conducted the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia at the BBC Proms in 2007, The Guardian said, “Pappano offered interpretations that were thrilling in their immediacy and subtly thoughtful. …. The orchestral playing […] was faultless.” Antonio Pappano has triumphed with this orchestra in performances of varied repertoire but Italian music - and Puccini in particular - is their life’s blood.

Enkelejda Shkosa (Suzuki) has performed in all the major Italian opera houses, at the Opéra Bastille and the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam and in the opera houses of Seville, Barcelona, Munich, Dresden, Brussels and Vienna with conductors including Colin Davis, Riccardo Chailly, Myung-Whun Chung, James Conlon, Antonio Pappano and Daniele Gatti. She sang in Così fan tutte at Covent Garden, Verdi’s Otello with the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis and La Cenerentola at the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels. Forthcoming engagements include Matilde di Shabran at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Falstaff and La forza del destino at the Gran Teatre de Liceu, Barcelona, Carmen at Canadian Opera, Madama Butterfly at the Opéra National de Paris and Otello at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich.

Fabio Maria Capitanucci (Sharpless) has performed regularly at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan (La Bohème, Un giorno di regno¸ Madama Butterfly, Manon, Così fan tutte) and, since 2005, at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro. Among other engagements, he has also appeared in Elisir d’amore in Frankfurt, La Bohème in Dresden, Madrid, and Atlanta, Le Nozze di Figaro in Dresden and Falstaff and La Cenerentola in Dresden. Recent and future engagements include Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Madama Butterfly in Dresden, Eugene Onegin in Genoa, La Bohème in Atlanta and at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, Le Nozze di Figaro in Madrid, Elisir d’amore in Florence and Munich, Il Pirata in Marseille, Falstaff at the Staatsoper, Vienna and Il Viaggio a Reims at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Following his debut as Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola, Gregory Bonfatti (Goro) has performed in all the major Italian opera houses as well as in Paris and London. He has collaborated with such conductors as Riccardo Muti, Daniele Gatti, Carlo Maria Giulini, Andrew Davis and Antonio Pappano, and sung with colleagues including Plácido Domingo, Ruggero Raimondi, Barbara Frittoli, Juan Diego Florez, Renato Bruson and Samuel Ramey. Mr. Bonfatti recently took part in a production of Turandot at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan with Riccardo Chailly and The Gambler at the Staatsoper Berlin with Daniel Barenboim. Future engagements include The Gambler at the Teatro alla Scala with Daniel Barenboim, Falstaff at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie, Liège, and the Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse, Cavalleria Rusticana at the Teatro Lirico, Cagliari, and Il corsaro at the Teatro Regio, Parma.

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