Monday, 4 April 2016

Exquisite torture (Met/Butterfly)

Puccini, Madama Butterfly (Karel Mark Chichon cond. Opera of the Metropolitan Opera)

Scene from production. Photo: Met Opera
On Saturday night (2nd April), a stunning Butterfly from Kristine Opolais brought audiences to tears around on both sides of the Atlantic. The whole thing is nothing short of torture. Happy moments before marriage, the horror of rejection by her family, and the long wait for absolute rejection.  Only a heart of stone would fail to be moved by this, but I suspect Opolais might get a tear even from granite. Her faithful servant Suzuki (Maria Zifchak) by her side shared in the pain as closely. Butterfly's love was Pinkerton (Roberto Alagna). I am afraid that his acting seems unbelievable to me. Only in a spectacular Rondine have I ever been convinced by him vocally or dramatically; maybe he just needs to be heard in the flesh. Consular assistance was provided ably and reliably by Dwayne Croft. So gripping was the drama, the music almost just happened incidentally, which is meant as a credit to Chichon and the Met Orchestra - the music really just fitted the drama like a glove.

The production is a visual feast, but the close-range camera work lost much of the effect of Michael Levine's sets. Puppetry (credited to Blind Summit Theatre, moved by Kevin Augustine, Tom Lee, & Marc Petrosino) brought Butterfly's child to life. What might have been creepy or just odd was effective and at times deeply unsettling. I think from the stalls rather than zoom lens, it would have been convincing as a child at times.

You can hear it again on iplayer for 30 days (ish) or go to the Coliseum to see it sung in English (16 May-7 July).

Cast and credits:
Conductor: Karel Mark Chichon
Production: Anthony Minghella
Director and choreographer: Carolyn Choa
Set designer: Michael Levine
Costume designer: Han Feng
Lighting designer: Peter Mumford
Puppetry: Blind Summit Theatre
Lt. B.F. Pinkerton: Roberto Alagna
Goro: Tony Stevenson
Suzuki: Maria Zifchak
US Consul Sharpless: Dwayne Croft
Cio-cio-san: Kristine Opolais
Imperial commissioner: David Crawford
The Registrar: Juhwan Lee
The Bonze, Cio-cio-san’s uncle: Stefan Szkafarowsky
Yamadori: Yunpeng Wang
Kate Pinkerton: Edyta Kulczak
Cio-cio-san’s child: Kevin Augustine, Tom Lee, Marc Petrosino
Ballet soloists: Hsin-Ping Chang & James Graber

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