Friday, April 27, 2018

Dal Monte/Gigli Madama Butterfly

A while back, I finally ordered this famous pre-war recording of Madama Butterfly, starring the lyric soprano Toti Dal Monte and the great tenor Beniamino Gigli, conducted by Oliviero de Fabritiis.

By famous, maybe I mean "notorious." Dal Monte made an interpretive choice for the recording unlike that of any other soprano: she actively tries to sound like a 15-year-old.

And....I found it nearly unbearable. She has to distort her natural sound and hold back an awful lot, and honestly, it's a mistake. The music is written for an adult soprano, not a kid.

She can't keep it up throughout, either. When she finally gets to the finale, she has to let loose with her full voice, and she does.

What I remember from the rest of the set - because, really, it's Butterfly's show - is that Gigli is predictably magnificent. And also that the Dal Monte recordings added as an appendix have her singing naturally, and they are lovely. So, if you're a completist for either of the artists, or the opera, or you want to unusually eccentric interpretation of the title role, go for it. Otherwise, there are plenty of Butterfly sets that represent the title role better.

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