Madama Butterfly, live relay, Metropolitan Opera, New York, March 2009Posted on 8 March 2009
This production by the late Anthony Minghella — perhaps the best Butterfly I’ve ever seen — was beautifully directed by his widow Carolyn Choa, who also did the original choreography. It portrayed the child as a puppet, which worked extremely well, allowing Butterfly to act with him rather than with a small boy unable to follow musical cues. Later during the prelude to Act III, Butterfly herself became a puppet, acting with a dancer portraying Pinkerton. The excellent puppetry was by the Blind Summit Theatre, the magnificent costumes by Han Feng, and the clever lighting by Peter Mumford. Altogether, Minghella’s production shows an intimacy that suits this personal tragedy very well, and it came over perfectly in a cinema setting.
The cast did a superb job. Patricia Racette acted the part of Butterfly with sensitivity and emotional conviction, singing with suitably restrained passion. Marcello Giordani was a hedonistic Pinkerton who sang like a god, and Dwayne Croft was outstanding as Sharpless, acting and singing with enormous sensitivity. Maria Zifchak as Suzuki expressed sympathy with Butterfly, while showing she understood the transient nature of Pinkerton’s affections. Back this up with conducting by Patrick Summers that allowed the singers room to express themselves, and this became a great performance of Butterfly.