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Puccini: Madama Butterfly - Foster

Puccini: Madama Butterfly - Foster

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186783 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Opera


Puccini: Madama Butterfly

Melody Moore (Madame Butterfly)
Stefano Secco (Pinkerton)
Elisabeth Kulman (Suzuki)
Lester Lynch (Sharpless)
Alexander Kaimbacher (Goro)
Kevin Short (Lo Zio Bonzo)
Amatai Pati (Il principe Yamadori)
Liesbeth Devos (Kate Pinkerton)
Florian Köfler (Il commissario Imperiale)
Coro & Orquestra Gulbenkian
Lawrence Foster (conductor)


JAPANESE TRAGEDY WITH SYMPHONIC QUALITIES

After having recorded La Fanciulla del West, conductor Lawrence Foster now expands his Puccini discography on PENTATONE with Madama Butterfly, together with the Coro & Orquestra Gulbenkian, as well as Elisabeth Kulman (Suzuki), Stefano Secco (Pinkerton), Lester Lynch (Sharpless) and Melody Moore (Cio-Cio-San) in the title role. Despite its disastrous premiere, Madama Butterfly has become one of Puccini’s most successful and popular operas. While the Japanese ambience usually captures the attention, the original dramatic conception and exceptional symphonic qualities of the work are often overlooked. Lawrence Foster’s interpretation brings out the symphonic character of the opera, while Melody Moore’s charismatic interpretation of the title role fully realizes the work’s tragic and dramatic potential.

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Comments (11)

Comment by Mark Werlin - April 7, 2022 (1 of 11)

This SACD, and several recent and upcoming Pentatone SACDs, were produced by San Francisco Classical Recording Company, which operates in partnership with Job Maarse and the Polyhymnia team for recordings in Europe, and with Blanton Alspaugh and Mark Donohue of Soundmirror for recordings in the US.

https://www.sanfranciscocrc.com/recordings.html

New, DSD-recorded SACDs of core operatic repertoire from Pentatone are being released: this album of Madama Butterfly, and in May 2022, La Traviata on a two-SACD set produced by Job Maarse, engineered and edited by Erdo Groot.

Pentatone recently announced the appointment of a new managing director, the American classical composer Sean Hickey. Having listened to examples of Hickey's orchestral and chamber music, I believe that his position at the helm will steer Pentatone towards high-quality productions of familiar 19th-20th century repertoire and approachable contemporary classical music. With some releases sourced from Polyhymnia and Soundmirror, there is the promise of continued DSD recording for SACD release, at least in the near term.

Comment by Athenaeus - April 8, 2022 (2 of 11)

Sounds like great news! Thank you for this interesting information, Mark Werlin.

Comment by hiredfox - April 9, 2022 (3 of 11)

Thanks Mark. We only want to hear good news about SACD and DSD recordings and this is certainly good news.

Comment by DYB - April 12, 2022 (4 of 11)

PentaTone seems very inconsistent on when they record in DSD and when not. Some of their recent recordings were 24/96.

Comment by Mark Werlin - April 19, 2022 (5 of 11)

DYB: Pentatone's albums are recorded in numerous venues. At some of those halls, the house recording installation is limited to hi-res PCM. Under those circumstances, it is not feasible for Pentatone to record in DSD. The Pentatone website "buy now" pages display the resolutions, including DSD64, that are available for download, so those who prefer to collect DSD-sourced recordings can decide on that basis.

My own classical music library is evenly divided between DSD-sourced and PCM-sourced recordings, and many of the latter have superb audio quality. I treasure the DSD-sourced chamber music albums that have been released by Pentatone, Challenge, Channel, and other labels, but my chamber music and contemporary classical collection would be very small if limited to DSD recordings.

Comment by hiredfox - April 22, 2022 (6 of 11)

Many DSD recordings have been edited in DXD (PCM) so it is hard to define what we mean by DSD. A chain is only as good as its weakest link.

Comment by Athenaeus - April 26, 2022 (7 of 11)

The thing with DXD is that it's difficult to know how much of it was used. If only a few brief snippets were edited in DXD and, other than those touch-ups, all the rest of the recording is pure, native DSD, that's perfectly okay. In that case, we can say it's a DSD recording and our ears won't notice the edits. In an ideal world, it would be possible to know how much DXD was used on a given album. But that's not going to happen, so all we can do is listen. If the sonics are good, it's all that really matters.

Comment by Mark Werlin - May 9, 2022 (8 of 11)

Excerpt from a press release dated May 9, 2022:

"The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) announced today that it is the new home of PENTATONE, a partnership that will enable students, artists and the public to benefit from the combined resources of a leading conservatory and a legendary label. PENTATONE joins an existing alliance between SFCM and Opus 3 Artists, the renowned management company that the Conservatory acquired in October 2020.

PENTATONE will continue to operate as an independent company."

The full press release is posted here: https://sfcm.edu/newsroom/san-francisco-conservatory-music-acquires-distinguished-record-label-pentatone

Comment by hiredfox - May 11, 2022 (9 of 11)

Mark, what is your reading of this development? Is it good or bad news for SACD (DSD)?

Comment by Mark Werlin - May 11, 2022 (10 of 11)

hiredfox: As a longtime resident of San Francisco (until a move last year) and a frequent attendee of concerts at the old and new locations of the SF Conservatory, I've watched the growth of the Conservatory with some interest. The Conservatory's relocation into the center of classical music in San Francisco was a strategic undertaking. Its acquisition of Opus 3 Artists and Pentatone suggests a new model for musical institutions.

I can think of two major donors who could have made this possible: the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, and the Ute and William K. Bowes Jr. Foundation. Mr. Getty is auctioning his and his late wife's art and furnishings collection, with SF Conservatory expected to be one of the charitable recipients. His relationship with Pentatone, who released several SACDs of his compositions, points to Getty as a mover in the acquisition of the record label for SF Conservatory. The Bowes Foundation have their name on a brand-new building appending the Conservatory, which includes a recording facility. Pentatone engineers will offer workshops to Conservatory students in MCH recording, using that facility.

As to whether Pentatone continues to record in DSD and release SACDs: the SF Conservatory announcement states unequivocally that "PENTATONE... will continue to operate as an independent company." So the decision lies with Pentatone and its new managing director. It seems to me that if there is a sufficient market worldwide to justify the production costs of SACDs, then Pentatone, with the support of its new partner, will have the means to produce new DSD-based SACDs. Bear in mind, however, the limited SACD manufacturing capacity. Yet, in spite of the financial and logistical obstacles, the SACD is not dead.

Comment by hiredfox - May 12, 2022 (11 of 11)

Thanks Mark for this fascinating insight. Brilliant! Fingers crossed. The attached BBC Music Magazine & Pentatone reports may interest some readers but do not add to your note.

https://www.classical-music.com/news/san-francisco-conservatory-of-music-becomes-new-home-of-pentatone/

https://www.pentatonemusic.com/the-san-francisco-conservatory-of-music-acquires-pentatone/