Madama Butterfly, live relay, Metropolitan Opera, New York, 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.

4 Responses to “Madama Butterfly, live relay, Metropolitan Opera, New York, March 2009”

  1. Nadine Bascom says:

    Let me preface my comments with nothing but praise for the voices and orchestra. Their performances were marvelous, and the use of the puppets, particularly that of the child ,were wonderfully moving and beautifully done.

    My criticism is reserved for the costuming. I watched the performance in Nagoya, Japan. I am a longtime resident (32 years), and would not characterize myself as a Japanophile, or necessarily pedantic about the culture – BUT – I found the costumes appallingly inappropriate and even vulgar. I was stunned, in this era of virtually instant access to research, and information to see such obviously ill-informed interpretations of dress and hair styles. All due respect to artistic license, interpretation, innovation, and creativity. The kimono were worn in such a slovenly, disheveled manner they looked as if they had been slept in. Butterfly’s costume in the second act seemed to be a variation on the most intimate under-layer of a kimono, under which NOTHING is worn , it’s primary purpose being to protect the finer silks worn over it. One would never hang about the house dressed thusly. And her hair! Worn down like that! This was not the Heian era. And what in the world was the skinny little braid she was frequently handling?

  2. Nadine Bascom says:

    To continue…
    I won’t even go into the men’s costumes.
    I was the only non Japanese in the audience, and there were giggles, laughs, and even guffaws. It really distracted from the magnificence of the production.
    Too bad.
    I thought it was telling that when it was revealed that the designer was Chinese, “yappari” was heard in whispers. (it sort of translates as “that explains it”).

  3. Nadine Bascom says:

    I would be interested in comments or explanations.

  4. Marilyn de Saqui de Sannes says:

    It is so easy, unfortunately, to shock other cultures. My young daughter once dressed in a lovely Japanese, silk kimono for Halloween, in France, but one neighbor was married to a Japanese man and told my costumed daughter, in hushed tones, that her kimono was crossed in front right over left, which is the direction used only for cadavers! We had not meant to offend but had not done our homework either.

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