If I had ever had to name my favorite opera singer (of any voice type) -- and, sadly, I never had to; nobody has ever asked me such a thing -- I would immediately have responded with the name Mirella Freni. She was the embodiment of vocal beauty, in my opinion. I was saddened to hear of her death.

I returned to one of my favorite discs in homage to her voice and her character: the Decca recording 417 577-2, Puccini's Madama Butterfly with Pavarotti, Ludwig, Kerns, the Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Herbert von Karajan, and, of course, Mirella Freni in the title role. I've never been a big fan of Karajan recordings, but this is one I treasure. To admit that my favorite operatic moment remains the love duet in Butterfly leads me to confess that the "Bimba dagli occhi..." of this recording ranks as my top choice. I've heard many Butterflies but have never been as moved by the love duet as in this recording.

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And her other work is excellent, too.

A great loss to opera, to music, and to humanity. Rest in peace, dear Mirella. But be assured that your voice shall continue to ring triumphantly in my listening room, as long as I have ears to hear. There are few sounds as glorious.