OP0618. MADAMA BUTTERFLY, recorded 1974, w. von Karajan Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Mirella Freni, Christa Ludwig, Luciano Pavarotti, Robert Kerns, Michel Sénéchal, etc. 3-London 414 577, w.Elaborate 253pp. Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 028941757722
"For so popular an opera, BUTTERFLY has been meanly treated on CD so far, but in every way except one the transfer of Karajan's radiant Vienna 1974 recording for Decca could hardly provide a firmer recommendation...Economically the spread on to three discs is regretable, but it does at least allow each act to be self-contained on a single disc, and for such a performance as this no extravagance is too much.
Movingly dramatic as Renata Scotto is on both the Maazel version and the LP reissue of the Barbirolli/EMI set, Mirella Freni is even more compelling. The voice is fresher, firmer and more girlish, with more light and shade at such points as ‘Un bel dì’, and there is an element of vulnerability that intensifies the communication. In that I imagine Karajan played a big part, just as he must have done in presenting Luciano Pavarotti- not quite the super-star he is today but already with a will of his own in the recording studio - as a Pinkerton of exceptional subtlety, not just a roistering cad but in his way an endearing figure in the First Act. Significantly CD brings out the delicacy of the vocal balances in Act 1 with the voices deliberately distanced for much of the time, making such passages as ‘Vienna la sera’ and ‘Bimba dagli occhi’ the more magical in their delicacy. Karajan, both in that duet and later in the Flower duet of Act 2, draws ravishing playing from the Vienna Philharmonic strings, getting them to imitate the portamento of the singers in what is also an echt-Viennes manner, ravishing to the ear."
- Edward Greenfield, GRAMOPHONE, June, 1987