Puccini: Madama Butterfly / Neuhold, Et Al
This is a very well sung performance. Bulgarian soprano Svetlana Katchour is a big lyric (going on spinto) with an attractive sound, her pitch is dead-center, the voice is well and evenly produced, and when her Italian isn't garbled, it's not bad. Her Butterfly is severely undercharacterized, however: she seems a bit shy in Act 1 and pretty unhappy in Act 2, but she never truly moves us as the greatest Butterflys (such as Dal Monte, Scotto, or Callas) do. Pity--the voice is marvelous. Tenor Bruce Rankin, having to make Pinkerton nothing but a cad (without his final, sympathetic aria), does so very well. His also is a lyric voice, but the sound is appealing, the technique in place, and a lively mind is clearly behind his interpretation. It will be nice to hear more of him.
Fredrika Brillemburg's Suzuki is right there with Butterfly, sympathetically and with nice tone in the Flower Duet. Baritone Heikki Kilpeläinen sounds very young for Sharpless, but it's a quality voice. Gunter Neuhold takes six minutes less in the first and 10 minutes less in the second act than Charles Rosekrans on Vox, and the latter hardly lags. I must admit that even though things occasionally do seem rushed on Naxos at 57 and 82 minutes respectively (per act), perhaps getting through them somewhat quickly is not such a bad idea. The Bremen Orchestra is very good, the chorus less so. Naxos' sound is excellent. The Vox performance featured an okay cast--no more. This new Naxos set is the one to own if you want the original, and fans of the opera (particularly at Naxos' price), will need this.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: 8660078-79
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Günter Neuhold
Orchestra/Ensemble: Bremen State Philharmonic Orchestra, Bremen Theater Chorus
Performer: Andreas Haller, Armin Kolarczyz, Birgit Binnewies, Bruce Rankin, Daniel Ratchev, Elisabeth Bunge, Fredrika Brillemburg, Gustavo Brillemburg, Heikki Kilpelainen, Karsten Kusters, Kristen Strejc, Laura Pedersen, Loren Christopher Lang, Swetlana Katchur, Uwe Eikötter