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Convincing Forcefulness

A documentary on Puccini's
'Madame Butterfly' -
seen by

'... riveting stuff ...'

Madame Butterfly - The Trace of the Butterfly. The Story of the Opera. © 2009 Digital Classics

If you think you have the grasp of all that goes on in Puccini's overtly popular opera then think again. This relatively short but hugely insightful film by Marie Blanc-Hermeline not only deals with exploring the expressiveness of the music but also focuses in detail on the historical and cultural aspects of the story.

Watch and listen -- Puccini's masterpiece
(chapter 1, 0:05-1:15) © 2003 Audiovisioconcept / Fondazione Festival Pucciniano

Indeed, Butterfly's noble suffering and dignified integrity are brought to the attention of the viewer with convincing forcefulness, and her harakiri is in total conformity with her lofty ideals of love and fidelity. The documentary is brought to life with extracts from a 2003 performance mounted at Puccini's birthplace in Torre del Lago. Sadly the fare presented lacks bite and commitment, and only soprano Hui He (Butterfly) succeeds in delivering a truly dramatic rendition of the tragic protagonist.

Stefano Secco (Pinkerton), Antonio Salvadore (Sharpless) and Maria Guarnera (Suzuki) are all in good voice throughout, but their involvement in the drama is rather bland. Conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson conducts with energy and conviction, but the orchestra do not have the bit between their teeth, and the response is mostly lackluster.

Watch and listen -- A true tragedy
(chapter 7, 41:50-43:33) © 2003 Audiovisioconcept / Fondazione Festival Pucciniano

Still the objective of this project is to help opera lovers discover the hidden clash of opposing cultures and diverse personalities that are the founding reasons of the work. One can also appreciate Puccini's musical genius; how he captures all the complexities of the story into a complete canvas of oriental and western sounds mixed into one perfect whole. Despite the excerpts' deficiencies, this is riveting stuff all the same.

Copyright © 30 September 2009 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta






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