La Scala counts a 14-minute ovation for restored Butterfly

La Scala counts a 14-minute ovation for restored Butterfly


norman lebrecht

December 08, 2016

The annual opening has been pronounced a triumph.

Riccardo Chailly’s insistence on performing Puccini’s original Madam Butterfly, the one that bombed in 1904, was acclaimed both inside then opera house and outside by watchers on a giant television screen.

The Uruguayan Maria José Siri stole the show as Cio-Cio-san. Annalisa Stroppa  was Suzuki, Bryan Hymel  sang Pinkerton, Carlos Alvarez appeared as Sharpless. The director was the controversial Latvian, Alvis Hermanis.


  • Olassus says:

    Well, Bryan Hymel stole Act I (which was all I had time for, alas). Excellent singing from Siri and Álvarez, too, certainly. Chorus and orchestra sounded fine. Chailly took a slightly clinical approach but has my respect.

    The thing was marred by excessive stage movement. Hermanis doesn’t understand the virtue of stillness — or perhaps doesn’t trust the music to work its own magic.

    Will try to catch Act II on Arte.

  • erich says:

    Stole Act 1? Really. A voice as Italianate as fish and chips and zero charisma.
    Siri? Serviceable, no more, no less and no oil-painting as a supposedly 15 years old Japanese Geisha.
    The comprimarii were all appalling and the faux musicalhall Japanese production a caricature and an embarrassment.
    Chailly and the orchestra good – but Karajan he ain’t.
    Opening night of La Scala. Pleeeese……

    • Olassus says:

      Live in your Decca studio jobbie if you want, but this is how voices and balances sound in the real world.

      • Erich says:

        Sadly true…but then, why do it if the voices don’t exist? And actually I was thinking of the Callas/Karajan/Scala recording…

        • Olassus says:

          Well, for the most part, they *don’t* do it.

          Giulini, Abbado, Muti, C. Kleiber = 1 live Butterfly between them, and from the Berliner!

          So hats off to Chailly, the first great Italian to tackle Butterfly in generations.

          As for your Karajan, he led Butterfly live seven times at the age of 23 and then precisely four more times, in Wien, during the 58 years remaining to him.

          Your attacks on Hymel and Siri are unfair.

  • urania says:

    Siri great – Hymel…hmmm…’s tenor voice, no charisma…Chailly fine, better in 2nd act. But I missed a more profound Puccini Sound. Have heard Bfly better in a small German house: Würzburg.

  • herrera says:

    Muti has said if there is one opera that he will never conduct, it’s Butterfly; he says he retches every time he hears the beginning of Un bel di

    I’ve yet to see a production of Butterfly that is not tacky japoneserie, and this one is worse than most.

    The singing is serviceable. Usually I’m bawling by the end of Act I. Not this time. Age makes me cynical and crotchety, I guess. I think I’m beginning to feel about Butterfly how Muti feels.

    • Olassus says:

      Muti should do it. He would serve it well.

      I wonder whether your reaction to Act I yesterday had more to do with the Fassung and Chailly than the singers.

  • Stuard Young says:

    Muti should indeed NOT conduct Butterfly. His heart, like the Grinch, is a few sizes too small for this music. The best he could do, approaching it from his level of dislike, would be to scrub away all the emotion. This is not a condemnation of Muti as a conductor. He certainly has his strengths. I attended many of his Philadelphia Orchestra concerts over the 15 or so years he was either a guest, or Music Director. Even heard an incredible Tosca, which was recorded in concert for commercial release. But Tosca appealed to Muti’s Verdian, more leanly dramatic personality. He is right to avoid the sentiment of Butterfly. One characteristic of Muti which has attitributed to his enormous success is that he has been smart about performing only the music which speaks to him in a certain way. Unlike many other prominent onductors, his recorded legacy contains very few “complete” sets.