Saturday, 26 November 2016

Theatre 2016: Review Thirty-Six

Madama Butterfly, Glyndebourne on Tour, Theatre Royal, Norwich. November 2016.

I have to thank a friend and colleague for the chance to see this as she very kindly let me take her second ticket to this show.

It has been over four years since I went to the opera last and while I wrote about it favourably at the time I do know that I was nervous about seeing a more conventional production. I had found the confusion caused by so much singing and yet so little translation appearing on the surtitles confusing.  Studying Othello over the pas few years, and seeing the (filmed) opera version of this had explained more to me and so I was much more open to trying again with the format.

I think that it also helped 'knowing' the full story of Madama Butterfly more - after all it does form the basis of Miss Saigon!

Whilst from the first bars of music I was captivated with much of the performance I did find the decision to reset the opera into a post WW2 setting strange - especially seeing as Nagasaki was one of the cities destroyed by the dropping of an atomic bomb, would it really have been a place that welcomed marriages to US sailors or even able to support a thriving Geisha community?

However this soon faded into the background as the story, singing and acting soon made me forget the time period and I was just swept away with Butterfly's story.  Her voice was just out of this world and I really believed that she was a naive 15 year old in love with her American sailor.

Pinkerton was a little more of a problem for me as I didn't really think he came across as quite caddish enough (although as he was boo'd in the curtain call I might be alone in this), he was certainly weak in character - not voice or stage presence - but his persona was for me more of easily lead child than opportunistic and callous opportunist which is what the surtitles seemed to say he was.

The supporting cast were all wonderful both in acting and vocal talent and I admit that at several points I found myself welling up.  The scene where Butterfly and her son were just standing motionless in silhouette at the back of the stage waiting for Pinkerton while off stage the cast performed the Humming Chorus was heartbreaking.

A little bit of me missed the opulence that a Madama Butterfly set in late 1800s early 1900s would have given but I adored this, I've had the score on a constant loop since and I know that I will be trying more opera in the future.

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