I’LL be honest. Opera was never really my thing — but after seeing Madama Butterfly last Friday, it’s safe to say I’ve been converted.
This is a long way from just a few months ago during my first-ever attempt at watching an opera production, whereby I dozed off in two of the four acts. I’ll keep the name of that show unnamed.
But Madama Butterfly? Wow. Just, wow.
From the pitch-perfect operatic performances of each singer, to the gut-wrenching story, and the breathtaking backdrop of Sydney Harbour as you watch it from the Fleet Steps at Royal Botanic Gardens — there is so much to love about this show.
The story of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is a familiar one, and one of the most-performed operas around the world. In short, it begins with a wedding in Nagasaki, Japan, where US Naval officer B.F Pinkerton marries 15-year-old Cio-cio-san — the Japanese word for butterfly. The marriage is somewhat a financial transaction more than anything and Cio-cio-san is naive and unaware.
However, after her estranged uncle learns Cio-cio-san is converting to Christianity and her family renounces her, the stars come out (and Sydney Harbour glitters) on their wedding night and the newlyweds fall in love. A soaring duet creates magic between the characters and audience members alike. Unfortunately though, the story is not exactly roses and sunshine from here on in.
The team behind this adaptation of Madama Butterfly sees a cast of 60 from 11 different countries on stage, complete with fireworks, a giant sun and moon rising from the harbour and modern costumes and set design to bring the early 20th century opera in to the modern era.
However, it’s Puccini’s famous music that makes it unforgettable. Each song is performed extremely well, and the emotions of each character conveyed brilliantly. This plays an integral part as the story unravels, where audience members can’t help but feel sympathy and heartache for Cio-cio-san. At times the plot and performances are far too melodramatic, but this is opera. It’s meant to be that way.
So much so, that it had me a little misty-eyed at show’s end. Not to say I am heartless or not sensitive — but it takes a lot to make me cry.
I also rarely give standing ovations. But you know what? I was more than happy to give one for this.
INFO: Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour: Madama Buttefly is showing until April 13. Details: click here
(Main photo credit: James Morgan)