This 1954 Rome recoding is one of several Madama Butterflys by Victoria de los Angeles. The one generally regarded as best was in 1959 with Jussi Björling (EMI), but I'm not so sure this one isn't better. It captures all its participants in their youthful prime. De los Angeles has been criticized as too womanly, too ladylike, for the role of the hapless Butterfly; maybe so, but she more than makes up for it by the radiant beauty of her voice and her sensitivity and commitment to the part, in which she moves from girlish innocence in Act I to heart-breaking pathos at the end. Giuseppe di Stefano is also in good voice, arguably as effective as Björling in the role of Pinkerton – suitably ardent and rueful – and Tito Gobbi is the best Sharpless I have heard, warm and vivid. The lesser parts – Anna Maria Canali as Suzuki and Renato Ercolani as Goro – are equally well sung and characterized. This was the first of Gian Andrea Gavazzeni's many opera recordings, and he does a splendid job keeping the lines of Puccini's imaginative scoring clear and moving it all along briskly and in sympathy with the singers.
There are other Butterflys – Freni, Tebaldi, Scotto – who make more of the essentially Italianate emotionality of the role, but even so, this is among the most satisfying of the available recordings.
Copyright © 1999, Alexander J. Morin