Still today after +50 years, this is – IHMO – the best recording (in technical sense) and the best performance of Cho-Cho-San “Butterfly”. If you always looked for a reason to love on your knees Leontyne Price, this is the right time to do it.
# Composer: Giacomo Puccini
# Singer: Leontyne Price, Richard Tucker, Rosalind Elias
# Orchestra: RCA Italiana Orchestra and Chorus
# Conductor: Erich Leinsdorf
# Vinyl (1962)
# Number of Discs: 3
# Format: Flac
# Label: RCA Living Stereo
# DR-Analysis: DR 12
# ASIN: B000G759L2
# Size: 2.0 GB
# Scan: yes
# Server: FileFactory
This 1962 recording has been much reviewed and debated since its appearance nearly fifty years ago, yet I haven’t found many reviews I’ve read to be very helpful or informative. Maybe this one won’t be either, but I’ll try. This set seems either to attract intemperate condemnation, grudging respect or unqualified – and undiscriminating – adulation. Leaving aside for the moment the central question of Price’s singing and her suitability to the role of Butterfly, let’s look at the secondary issues first, starting with the sound – which is superb: open, full, beautifully balanced and extraordinarily satisfying for so old a recording.
Next, Leinsdorf’s conducting. Far from finding him “stiff and unyielding”, as one fellow reviewer opines, I find him to be quite the opposite: rather stop-go, one minute indulgent and the next pushing ahead rather erratically – but he conducted a great deal of Italian opera and is responsible for many a favourite of mine, so I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the flow. He certainly belies his reputation for literalism and seems to me to be exceptionally considerate of his singers. He can crank it up, hence he manages very nicely the concerted passage just before the quiet conversation between the newly-weds in which the fate of Buttefly’s father is briefly discussed, building to a splendid climax, whereas the subsequent love duet is very leisurely indeed.
The third issue is Tucker’s Pinkerton. I think it wholly unfair to accuse him of “bawling”; that is more a reaction to his vocal make-up in general, which some respond to and others do not. Although he hardly sounds exactly young, his bumptious manner adds to the impression of thoughtless caddishness; too sweet and puppyish a Pinkerton such as Valletti delivers risks our generating some undeserved empathy with the blighter, which you don’t want. He’s a hateful, selfish pig and Tucker’s slightly bombastic grandstanding sends the message that he is a user and a deceiver. His singing as singing per se is excellent; he fines down his hefty, slightly throaty tone very successfully for the love duet.
The supporting cast, Maero’s ordinary Sharpless notwithstanding, is also fine – and Rosalind Elias is in outstanding voice as Suzuki – if rather grand for a servant.
Finally, Price’s Butterfly has been bashed for all sorts of real and imagined reasons: she is too grand, she is embarrassingly arch and coy when affecting girlishness, she is too knowing, too calculated, she has too lush and heavy a voice, her screams are melodramatic etc., etc. I don’t give a hoot; for me this is a ravishing, miraculous and devastatingly beautiful souvenir of one of the greatest lirico spinto sopranos ever and testament to the greatness of a voice in its absolute youthful prime. I also happen to think that her characterisation works rather well, given the difficulty that Puccini imposed upon any soprano attempting to encompass the demands of a role which moves from tittering ingénue to tragic heroine, abandoned wife and desperate mother. Something’s gotta give here and Price seems to me to be as successful as Mirella Freni and certainly more so than Tebaldi or Callas. From her smoky low notes through the vibrant middle to her radiant top, she gives a commanding and fearless performance to delight any Puccinian.
So get it!
Analyzed folder: /96k Puccini – Madama Butterfly – Price-Tucker
DR Peak RMS Filename
DR11 -0.96 dB -17.34 dB sideA.wav
DR12 -0.43 dB -17.66 dB sideB.wav
DR12 -0.35 dB -17.72 dB sideC.wav
DR12 -0.35 dB -18.06 dB sideD.wav
DR14 -0.75 dB -20.17 dB sideE.wav
DR13 -0.80 dB -19.71 dB sideF.wav
Number of files: 6
Official DR value: DR12
- RCM: Okki Nokki
- TT: Clearaudio Champion Level II
- System: Denon DL 103 (loaned)
- NEW ! Phono stage: Pro-Ject Phono Box RS
- ADC/DAC: RME Fireface UC
- Pre Amp: Unison Research Unico Pre (Tube)
- Finals: Opera Consonance 9.9 Mono (Tube)
- Speakers: Dali Helikon 400
- Connections: MIT Terminator, Audioquest Emerald, Audioquest Quartz
- Software: iZotope RX Advanced v2.02, Adobe Audition CS 5.5, Twisted Wave 1.9
- Light de-Clicking with iZotope, significant clicks manually removing, no De-Noising
If You hear some clicks and pops here and there, Who cares?
Id rather have a few light anomalies instead of destroying the music. Enjoy the music, not the ticks & pops.
- DR-Analisys before converting to Flac
- Converting Wave -> Flac: Twisted Wave 1.9
- Artwork: Sony Alpha 350, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Photoshop CS 5.5
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