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Madam Butterfly from the Met

Home > Brisbane > Romantic | Opera | Classical Music | Theatre
by Helen Belli (subscribe)
I am now living in Kariong on the Central Coast
Published June 6th 2016
Innocence betrayed
Madam Butterfly needs a soprano who can musically and dramatically portray a 15 year old innocent girl, whose heart is betrayed by an American sailor who refers to her as 'wedding candy' and has no idea of the consequences of his actions.

courtesy of dendy portside

Kristine Opolais and Robert Alagna, two of the world's greatest singers in Puccini's heartbreaking tragedy, together with a supporting cast who have been singing their roles for over 10 years, results in a triumph for the Met.

It is always all about the singing and Opolais's Cio Cio San (or Mrs. B.f. Pinkertion as she refers to herself), breaks our hearts with her singing and convincing acting. Butterfly begins as a nervous teenager and transforms 3 years later into a betrayed woman who would 'rather die with honour than live with dishonour'.

Alagna's B.F. Pinkerton from the get go has no intention of staying with his 'bride' after the wedding, although it is clear that both are deeply in love. He intends to return to America for a 'real' marriage. It is also clear that there was real chemistry between the hapless lovers. The love duet in Act 1 is electric and while his later actions leave one knowing he is a cad, the remorse he feels when her realises the results of his actions is terrible, and it is somehow easy to forgive him. He convinces us he is young and foolish, not a heartless rake.

This production by Anthony Mingella has been around for 10 years. The use of puppets, clever lighting, wonderful dancing and a kimono clad chorus replaces traditional scenery, enhancing the drama.

Even with the best seats in the house, it isn't possible to see the passion and drama expressed on the faces of the singers, filming in H.D. makes it possible to get up close and very personal with the singers. The subtitles in English (introduced in the seventies by Beverly Sills at the New York City Opera Co.) give an extra push to the drama. Puccini didn't write 'wedding candy', but it does give clarity to the motives of B.F. Pinkerton.

courtesy of dendy portside

Hearts melt as Butterfly sings 'One Fine Day' and the tears flow during the 'Humming Chorus' at the close of Act 3. There aren't enough hankies to cope with the terrible finale of Act 4. It is impossible not to get emotionally involved with the action. I vowed, dear reader, never to see Madam Butterfly when I last saw the opera in 1994 and the man in front of me asked me 'did I want a bucket?'.

This was part of the Met Opera season 2015-2016 filmed in H.D., at the Dendy Portside Cinema. It will be repeated later in the year for those who share a passion for drama. The next in the series is Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, a bel canto masterpiece. In September the Opera Australia's production of 'Turandot' will be screened, an occasion not to be missed.

courtesy of dendy portside

Log onto Dendy Portside for filming times and details. Seeing amazing singing at the Met for the tiny sum of $28 one hopes will continue. It brings much needed funds to an opera company who, sadly, like many other theatres, are in danger of closing due to lack of funds.

courtesy of opera Australia

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