[Met Performance] CID:140590
Madama Butterfly {260} Matinee Broadcast ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 01/19/1946., Broadcast


Metropolitan Opera House
January 19, 1946 Matinee Broadcast


Cio-Cio-San.............Licia Albanese
Pinkerton...............James Melton
Suzuki..................Lucielle Browning
Sharpless...............John Brownlee
Goro....................Alessio De Paolis
Bonze...................Osie Hawkins
Yamadori................George Cehanovsky
Kate Pinkerton..........Maxine Stellman
Commissioner............John Baker

Conductor...............Pietro Cimara

Director................Désiré Defrère
Set designer............Joseph Urban

Madama Butterfly received ten performances this season.

Review of Virgil Thomson in the Herald Tribune

A Happy Return

Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" came back to the Metropolitan yesterday afternoon. The war had caused it to be put in storage, apparently because it shows Japanese behaving more or less properly and a United States naval officer behaving (with consular benediction) improperly. The work seems to have been extremely popular in Italy during our occupation of that country. Italian families loving to point out to their daughters the unfortunate results of becoming seriously attached to members of our armed forces. It will probably be popular here too now, though less
for moralistic reasons than for the fact that it is a beautiful and touching opera.

The present production, though not a world-beater, is good. Licia Albanese sings the title role with full vocal beauty and acts it with style. Her power of vocal projection is somewhat weak in the lower passages, but her top voice sails out admirably. James Melton sings Pinkerton most pleasantly, except for the inability to project with resonance any note above A-flat. The notes are in his voice; he merely doesn't know how to make them carry. John Brownlee's work, as Sharpless, is distinguished, if a bit tame. Lucielle Browning sings Suzuki with handsome sounds. Osie Hawkins, as the 'Uncle-Priest, does the most striking bit of acting in the whole show.

Mechanically, too, yesterday's performance was well adjusted and quite reasonably pleasing. Pietro Cimara, who conducted, began nervously and too fast; but after Butterfly's entrance, some ten or fifteen minutes later, he settled down to a normal pacing and got real music out of the orchestra. It was regrettable that somebody had not noted in rehearsal the injurious effect on the love duet of a scenic device that might well, in more appropriate circumstance, have been any electrician's pride. The moment was a tender one, and the two principals labored admirably. But a garden background full of fireflies was no help to them. Nobody should be asked to sing a difficult and romantic number against an animated lighting effect that cannot fail to distract the audience's attention.

It was refreshing to discover, after not hearing "Madame, Butterfly" for some years, what a fine piece of music it is. Every phrase has meaning, and the texture is admirably economical. It is not padded anywhere. A well-made play with clearly and simply drawn characters in it is explained in detail by music of the most ample clarity. Not once does the composer lose interest in the plot and start writing hubbub. The score is full of apt invention and it all serves the play. Since the play, even unaccompanied, is an unfailing tear-jerker, with music of pointed expressivity and masterful cut it becomes a work of great power and no inconsiderable charm, in spite of its lack of even the most elementary intellectual content, or thoughtful tone. "Madame, Butterfly" is not a work of art in the class with "Pelléas and Mélisande" or of "Don Giovanni." But it is a masterpiece of effective musical theater. It is a pleasure to have it back in repertory, especially with Albanese singing it.

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