Landor Theatre 4 – 22 November. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Madam Butterfly Returns is sheer class.
A one man opera in two acts, Andrew G Marshall has written a wonderful libretto exploring what happened to the son of Madam Butterfly after the final scenes of Puccini’s opera. Thirty years later, Tomisaburo travels to America, where his father is now Governor of Atlanta. The public finding out that he has a mixed race son is unthinkable, and while Pinkerton, his wife and advisers confer, Tomisaburo is left to sit in the lobby for 3 days. His story, memories and hopes for the future are shared with the audience as he waits.
Composer Michael Finnissy’s score uses inspiration from Puccini and traditional Japanese music styles to create an evocative atmosphere.
Ignacio Jarquin’s performance is phenomenal. As he tells his story he transforms himself into different characters with a flick of his costume and different body stance. His Butterfly is demure and proud, Suzuki the maid is bent, wrinkled and very funny, and the American characters are all slouch and cigars. Jarquin is a fantastic singer and dancer, and his interpretation of Akiko Ono’s choreography is sublime. Using traditional Japanese Noh and Kabuki techniques, every gesture, each drape and line of his costume and every glance are placed carefully and have meaning. His mask work is hypnotic.
The set is simple, using backlit screens to show “the polished door” behind which Pinkerton is sitting. The screens are used wonderfully for silhouette work showing Butterfly and Pinkerton in Nagasaki, and show their secret signalling using lights.
Tomi’s struggle to accept that his father doesn’t want to acknowledge him is framed by his time in the Catholic mission in Nagasaki and his Samurai teachings. His solution, when he acknowledges that his father would prefer that he didn’t exist, is both honourable and heartbreaking.
Madam Butterfly Returns is a wonderful continuation of the Butterfly story – Tomisaburo is an exquisite character whose tale needed to be told. This production is a treat for both Butterfly fans and those new to the opera. A deliciously satisfying piece of theatre.