REVIEW: Madama Butterfly at the Buxton Opera House

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Moving and magnificent. You will fall in love with the Butterfly.

THE CONCEPT: American Naval officer, Lieutenant F B Pinkerton, marries an exotic bride for his duration in Japan. He enjoys the flight of fancy and treats it as such but the woman he marries, Cio-Cio-San – or Madama Butterfly – dedicates her life, heart and soul to her new husband. Much of Madama Butterfly is a study in devotion. Madama Butterfly loves the Lietenant and while he is away for three years she dedicates her life to devoted raising the son he does not know he has. When he finally returns to Japan, with his new bride, he is not interested in seeing Madama Butterfly until he discovers she has his child, which he decides to come and collect. The Lieutenant comes across with a great deal of American swagger and thinks little of his conquests over the ocean. On the other end of the spectrum, Madama Butterfly is pure with intentions and has cast away her family, religion and community to be with a man who will ultimately betray her. What happens to Madama Butterfly when the Lieutenant returns to collect his son with his new wife? This is opera and all opera is tragic so the heartache is easily spelled out in only the way Puccini enthusiasts know it to be – with great passion.

 

THE SUCCESSES: I can’t emphasize the timeliness of this opera to today. The metaphors regarding the arrogance of America and the Asian influence coming at each other from entirely opposite perspectives. Concepts of assimilation and alliances are easy to spot, as are the themes of morality and devotion. Aside from that, the production by Ellen Kent was superbly done. Understated elegance. The set remained the same for the two act play and the performances were left to speak for themselves. A good indicator of whether or not an opera has struck a chord with me is if I am sobbing silently at the end of it…which I was. It was a good cry. A cathartic cry. Only women will understand this. Truly much of that road towards my eyes leaking was the performance by Alyona Kistenyova who did an outstanding job of both developing a relationship with the audience, embodying the character and providing a vocal strength that had the audience invested in Madama Butterfly’s wellbeing. Kistenyova was impressive with her coquettish wiles in Act One and her naïve devotion in the second. All the performances were memorable from Ruslan Zinevych as the Lieutenant, to Vladimir Dragos as his friend and Consul to Japan, to Joshua Haslem as Madama Butterfly’s son and even Zarui Vardanean as Suzuki – the maid. A strong production with a strong cast set in the intimacy of the Buxton Opera House made for a thoroughly delightful evening, which is probably why the place was packed to the gills.

 

THE SETBACKS: Really not too much to report on here. My only mild complaint – and it seems almost not worth mentioning – is that it would have been worth seeing Alyona Kistenyova as Madama Butterfly be slightly braver in her vocals in Act One. She seemed personable in act one but really brought out her glowing pipes in the second act. Even a hint here or there of it in Act One would have let the audience know what we would be in store for after the intermission.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS: A truly outstanding production built on talented vocalists and performers. Moving and magnificent. You will fall in love with the Butterfly.

 

Would the Ladies Take On Madama Butterfly by the Opera & Ballet International Company again? Answer: When is the next performance?

 

Although Madama Butterfly was on for one night only at the Buxton Opera House, you can look forward to more Opera in Buxton both at the Opera House throughout its season, but also during the Buxton Festival. If you want to enjoy this production of Madama Butterfly you can do so by checking out dates on the Opera & Ballet International website.

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