[Met Performance] CID:141760
Madama Butterfly {267} Milwaukee Auditorium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: 05/5/1946.

(Review)


Milwaukee, Wisconsin
May 5, 1946


MADAMA BUTTERFLY {267}

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

Conductor...............Cesare Sodero

Review of Richard S. Davis in the Milwaukee Journal

Puccini Is Star of 'Butterfly'; Miss Albanese Also Gleams

"Madama Butterfly" which means Puccini at his best, was the irresistible attraction at the Auditorium Sunday night and the word is that more than 5,000 crowded into that dubious temple for the brief visit of New York's Metropolitan. Licia Albanese was the Butterfly, Charles Kullman the Pinkerton and John Brownlee the Sharpless, a casting that met with general approval. Apparently, however, it was the warmly heralded soprano, plus the always potent allure of the Puccini music itself, that drew the impressive house. And if there was disappointment, it could only have been due to the difficulty of seeing and hearing in the distant corners. The Metropolitan, in any case, was neither niggardly nor careless in the way the work went on.

Puccini's score was never more outstandingly a triumph of melody and showmanship - deeply and genuinely emotional music possessed of a dramatic quality rarely found in the operas, even the best of them. It is the American habit to credit the singing stars with the success of opera's costly make believe, but in the case of "Butterfly" the star of them all is still the impassioned Puccini.

The small Miss Albanese - six years in America is surely warrant enough to call her "Miss - was in the Cio-Cio-San role every whit as charming as she had been described. Her voice, even through the amplifiers, retained its persuasive warmth. Dependably in the voice, also, was the firmness that is never constant unless the training has been sure. The soprano is unmistakably an Italian singer, which means that she knows how. Up in front, where this reporter was stationed, the singing of the Butterfly was marred by the insistent voice of the prompter, who for some reason was more forward in her case than with others of the cast, but otherwise her work was, pure delight. Her voice was the essence of loveliness in the always devastating "Un bel di" and in the great duets of the first and second acts it was literally drenched in the appeal that gives the role so much genuine tug. Miss Albanese's notion of Butterfly was not, however, a tearful creature soft to the point of melting, nor was it cloyingly sweet. The role is passion, blaze and spunk, which is, of course, a way of saying integrity. Even in the final act, which is likely to sag with the burden of histrionics, the soprano was credibly a tragic figure.

Mr. Kullman, no stranger to Milwaukee, but not recently a caller, was in excellent voice as the Pinkerton. There were moments when the orchestra made the going extremely difficult for him, especially in the final act, but his tenor was both musical and resolute throughout. The role of necessity is of dwindling importance, but Mr. Kullman stayed with it manfully and did what he could to give it strength. A better journeyman baritone than John Brownlee is not to be found in the opera houses. He has the faculty of looking like a citizen and not exclusively a singer, which always helps, and his voice is big and resonant enough for whatever comes. His Sharpless was much better than merely adequate. Lucielle Browning, a first rate mezzo, was efficient in the somewhat clumsy role - dramatically, that is - of Suzuki. Alessio De Paolis was excellent as the leering marriage broker and the lesser people were certainly not an irritation.

Cesare Sodero, manifestly unaware of what he was up against in trying to make the orchestra distinguished, conducted vigorously and generally with fine effect. The opera was staged as impressively as anyone could ask and because of the fact that no change was necessary between the second and final acts the whole production seemed relatively brisk. At any rate, the night was "Butterfly" and, that in itself is just about contentment.



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