Puccini: Madama Butterfly
Even though Puccini’s Madama Butterfly flopped so spectacularly at its La Scala world premiere in 1904 that the composer was forced to revise the opera prior to subsequent performances in Brescia and Paris, the opera remains a hugely popular favourite – particularly if, as is the case with our 1961 recording, it stars a singing legend. Sena Jurinac possessed the dark-coloured soprano required to explore the full range of expressive nuances hidden within the role. From her appearance alone, she was anything but the submissive Japanese woman who naively marries an American lieutenant, portraying instead from the outset a self-confident young woman prepared to challenge the conventions of Japanese society. She knew how to use her vocal and dramatic talents to convey both the happiness and sorrows that Cio-Cio-San is forced to endure; the person she represented on stage was one whose fate could move us all. In vocal terms, Sena Jurinac had reached a pinnacle that placed her among the world’s leading sopranos of her day. The conductor of the present recording dating from 25 March 1961 is Berislav Klobuèar. His involvement at the Vienna State Opera had begun with a performance of Madama Butterfly on 15 May 1953. The two male protagonists in our performance joined the company in 1958. During his five-year sojourn at the opera house on Vienna’s famous Ring Boulevard, Ermanno Lorenzi (Pinkerton) was deployed in a wide variety of roles. The Greek baritone Kostas Paskalis, who was immediately engaged at the State Opera following his highly acclaimed guest performances as Renato in Un ballo in maschera and Rigoletto, subsequently developed into a singer of international renown. Of the many familiar cast members – such as contralto Hilde Rössel-Majdan (Suzuki), the company’s leading tenor for buffo and character roles Peter Klein (Goro) and the versatile bass-baritone Alois Pernerstorfer (Uncle) – who fill the minor roles in this live recording, one outstanding talent is the young Gundula Janowitz as Kate Pinkerton.