EMPIRE THEATRE, LIVERPOOL – UNTIL SATURDAY 7TH MAY 2022
REVIEWED BY MIA BOWEN
On Wednesday evening at the Empire Theatre, the Welsh National Opera performed an exhilarating new production of Madam Butterfly. Australian director Lindy Hume replaced the company’s famous opera that premiered in 1978 and ran for more then 40 years, with an interpretation that is bold, contemporary and for the 21st century. As well as being relevant and taking risks, it is an emotional and beautiful production.
Puccini’s opera has always been shocking and although written in 1907 is relevant in today’s society, with a tale of sexual exploitation, abuse of power and the clash of cultures.
The opera starts with the ‘marriage broker’ Goro, reassuring American naval officer Pinkerton that his 999 year lease on a house and marriage contract have convenient exit clauses. He intends to leave his bride once he finds a proper American wife. His compatriot, the American consul, Sharpless warns him that the bride is taking the marriage seriously and Pinkerton should proceed with caution. The bride to be Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) who is only 15 years old, has secretly converted to Christianity, adapting to Pinkerton’s American way of life and beliefs, in order to please him. On finding this out, her uninvited uncle, a Bonze comes to the house, curses her and orders all the guests to leave, which they do while renouncing her. Only her servant Suzuki remains loyal. Three years later and Butterfly, her young son and Suzuki is living in poverty and arguing about whether Pinkerton will ever return. Goro tries to arrange another marriage to Prince Yamadori. Even when Sharpless tries to convince Butterfly, that Pinkerton does not wish to see her again, she refuses to listen. She discovers that Pinkerton now has an American wife and they intend to adopt the child. Butterfly is left feeling heartbroken and commits suicide. Pinkerton discovers the blood soaked body.
This production is sung in Italian with English subtitles, which made following the opera, uncomplicated and easy. Puccini’s score is well known and was very well accomplished by the orchestra and gloriously conducted by James Southall.
The two performances that protruded the evening for me and gave ample emotion was Alexia Voulgaridou, who played the lead character of Butterfly and gave a compelling soprano performance and Gareth Brynmor John, who played the Consul Sharpless in his supporting role, giving a marvellous baritone execution performance.
The most moving scenes were the child painting flowers on the wall and Butterfly sitting on her bed waiting, absolutely heartbreaking.
I lived for art, I lived for love – Giocoma Puccini