Mayflower Theatre, Southampton- until 4 November 2021
Reviewed by Gill Gardiner
It is often said that great art transcends time and place, Welsh National Opera have succeeded in proving just how true this is for Puccini’s work in their new production of Madam Butterfly. The setting for this production is neither in Japan nor specifically any country. Rather than being set in the past it is set in a near future version of our own society, where wealthy male clientele can buy young girls like Butterfly as child brides for sexual exploitation. Real world contemporary parallels are obvious, sex trafficking of children remains a global business.
The cruel and tragic wreckage of a fragile 15 year old girl is skilfully depicted in this production. Isabella Bywater’s minimalist set is stunning, a revolving neon lit, white cube house allows interpretation as a shiny show house, a pleasure suite and a squalid prison for a single mother.
Joyce El – Khoury gave a stand out performance receiving a standing ovation from the audience for her excellent portrayal of Butterfly. As a reflection of his skill in portraying the callous Pinkerton Leonardo Caimi received simultaneously an ovation for his performance and boos from the audience for the character that he represented.
I confess I was very sceptical before the show as to whether this classic opera could be portrayed in the modern world; I was wrong, this powerful story of unrequited love, pain and suffering, intensified by Puccini’s glorious music, is as relevant now as it was over a century ago. A first rate production, I was thoroughly drawn into the narrative, the music and the setting.