Madame Butterfly review – brutal realities overtake romance in new staging WNO | Opera


Welsh National Opera has gone from iconic to deliberately iconoclastic. Joachim Hertz’s 1978 long-running staging of Madame Butterfly has been replaced by Lindy HumeThe new production of, in which Japan and Japonism is abandoned in favor of an “imagined biosphere”, a service sector for the pleasures of the rich. Hume’s lightbox set highlights not only the sexist mores where Cio-Cio-San is a commodity, but the supremacist, imperialist and colonialist attitudes of the characters embodying male law and coercion. At its core, Puccini’s opera has always been shocking: callous Pinkerton forges his way to a deal based on trafficking in young girls; Equally uncomfortable is Butterfly’s desperate urge to embrace the marriage fantasy. But Hume’s approach makes the experience more unsettling than the romantic chords this work is supposed to be.

Softened only briefly by a video cloud of fragile butterflies, the designer’s minimalist hard edges Isabelle BywaterThe central white cube ‘s house – situated on a turret – is reflected in the stern lines of the costumes, partly utilitarian, partly space-age Courrèges. With Butterfly’s bridal outfit giving her an almost grotesque figure – the skirt is nothing more than a frilly vulva – the disjunction between the signature of a sex deal and Puccini’s moments of tenderness is total.

Bad romance … Peter Auty (Pinkerton) and Alexia Voulgaridou as Cio-Cio-San. Photography: Richard Hubert Smith

In the title role, Joyce El Khoury (who alternates with Alexia Voulgaridou) was sure of steel, if somewhat uneven, as if she was in conflict between the feminine tones of Butterfly when she was not sure of herself and the more assertive demeanor when she could. let yourself be torn with sound. Leonard Caimi (alternating with Peter Auty) made Pinkerton’s anguish at the awareness of his duplicity credible, and Brand Pierre made Consul Sharpless feel the powerlessness of his diplomacy. Anna harvey depicts a stressed Suzuki, the housework is not well ordered: the touching domestic scene is where, with Butterfly’s grandson, they decorate a wall to welcome his father.

The concept is skillfully delivered, but the saving emotion of the evening comes from the WNO orchestra, with the award-winning conductor Carlo Rizzi attentive to all the nuances and bringing out a brilliant game.

At the Wales Millennium Center, Cardiff, September 28, October 1, 2, then on tour until May 14.

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