Yesterday we attended Oz Opera's production of Madame Butterfly at Whyndham Cultural Centre.
Butterfly is one of my favourite operas, largely because it has so many wonderful arias. Operas, of cause, tell a story, and require (sung) conversation. These conversational parts of an opera I find uninteresting, as I am just waiting for the next aria. Much of the first act of Butterfly is necessarily describing the characters, their backgrounds, motivations and their first meeting.
From about 15 minutes before the end of the first act and throughout the second act the arias come thick and fast. Although the story of Pinkerton's betrayal and Butterfly's innocence is tragic, the arias are soaringly beautiful.
Often these arias are sung at concerts. Here is Angela GHEORGHIU singing Un bel di vedremo . This is sung during the second act. Butterfly has seen Pinkerton's ship arrive in port and sings in anticipation of the joy of their imminent meeting.
Here is the end of the first act, the second part of the Love Duet, Vogliatemi bene .
Neither of these videos come from the Oz Opera production, of cause. For the lyrics, both Italian and English follow this link .
If you are not moved by these beautiful arias you have no soul.
So what of the actual Oz Opera production?
As this was a touring production it has to be downscaled. The orchestra was reduced to just 13 musicians, but to my ear played very well. The set had to be designed to suit small venues, and in this I thought is was successful. One of my problems with Oz Opera productions is that they are sung in English - at least this is true of the ones that I have seen. (See my review of Cosi.)I suspect the reason for this is to make the operas more accessible to audiences less educated in opera. For me, though, hearing familiar arias sung in English (instead of Italian) has a jarring effect. I prefer operas sung in the original language with surtitles to provide the translation.
The opera was directed by John Bell, of Bell Shakespeare fame. He has often provided interesting modern interpretations of Shakespeare. His innovation in this opera was to set it in post war Japan rather than at the end of the 19th Century. This added some changes in the costuming - Cio Cio San's rather dowdy American dress as she attempts to transform herself into an American and Pinkerton's wife Kate, who was resplendent in deep blue outfit. Another example was the post war American propaganda posters in Cio Cio San's room during the second act. These on the whole were rather minor changes and I wondered if they added any value to the opera.
The audience was untutored in opera but seemed to enjoy it. They good naturedly booed Jason Wasley, who played Pinkerton, as the cast took their bows.
Irrespective of my misgivings about some aspects of the presentation, overall I certainly enjoyed the opera and will certainly attend othe Oz Opera presentations that occur at our local theatre.
Eliza Wilson as Cio Cio San, in the Oz Opera production.