Skip to content
Published March 23, 2014

We here at Pop Culture-y like to think of ourselves as, well, Culture-y. That being said, when I think Opera, my mind immediately goes here:

Which is a shame, because Opera is so much more than that; a powerful combination of dramatic text with music that can bring tears to our eyes, or rouse us to our feet. Surely one of the most well known of the stories it tells is that of Madame Butterfly, and I was very privileged to attend the opening night of a restaging of Melbourne Opera’s acclaimed production.

madamebutterfly2

Madame Butterfly – adapted as an opera libretto by Giacomo Puccini from a short story of the same name by John Luther Long – tells the tale of a young girl, Cio-Cio-San or “Butterfly”, forced to earn her living as a geisha as her family have fallen on hard times. She is to be married to Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, a US Naval officer.

Butterfly is young, naive and innocent. Pinkerton is a roving Yankee with a philosophy to match; though he has leased a house for 999 years – the only property transaction a foreigner can enter into – he explains to Sharpless (the US Consul) that he can break the lease at a month’s notice. Likewise, he loudly drinks a toast to America and the “real bride” he will one day marry back home.

Before his death in 1924, Puccini wrote five versions of the opera, with his final revision in 1907 being considered the “standard version”; an entire scene is removed from Act 1, and the character of Pinkerton is soften slightly through the omission of some of his gruffer behavior and inclusion of a tenor aria in Act 3. This is the revision performed by Melbourne Opera.

With the exception of a couple of opening night jitters – inevitable with anything that includes moving parts – the performance was exceptional. Indeed, the minor mishap made Goro’s comical enthusing about the modern conveniences of the house slightly funnier. Also, I wasn’t quite sure if saying that Butterfly is sixteen was a deliberate decision by the company, as a few of my fellow patrons were overheard to remark, “isn’t she fifteen?” (and she is described as such in the program). Antoinette Halloran and Jason Wasley were commanding as Butterfly and Pinkerton respectively, ably supported by Roger Howell (Sharpless), Caroline Vercoe (Suzuki) and Jacob Caine (Goro).

Photo credit of Robin Halls

It is impossible to discuss Madame Butterfly without commenting on the famous Un bel dì (“One beautiful day”) aria of Act 2, arguably one of the most popular works in the soprano repertoire, which was…breathtaking. Stunning. I heard sniffles from a few rows behind me and was almost moved to tears myself. For that number alone, Halloran deserves a standing ovation.

Mention also then must be given to Greg Hocking, who conducted the orchestra, and Raymond Lawrence, the Chorus Master / Head of Music. The production was directed by Caroline Stacey.

 CAST:

Cast A

Cast B

Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly)

Soprano

Antoinette Halloran

Emily Xiao Wang

Suzuki, her servant

Mezzo

Caroline Vercoe

Angela Hogan

Kate Pinkerton

Soprano

Jodie Debono

Cheryl Darvidis

Lt Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton USN

Tenor

Jason Wasley

David Rogers-Smith

Sharpless, US Consul

Baritone

Roger Howell

James Payne

Goro, a marriage broker

Tenor

Jacob Caine

Paul Biencourt

Prince Yamadori

Baritone

Michael Lampard

The Bonze, Butterfly’s Uncle

Bass

Steven Gallop

Commissioner

Baritone

Steven Marsh

Official Registrar

Baritone

Michael Carr

Butterfly’s Mother

Mezzo

Maree Macmillan

The Cousin

Soprano

Sue Halls

Sorrow, Butterfly’s child

Olivia Woods

Servants

Tim Daley, Ed Perin

Madame Butterfly is at the Athenaeum Theatre, Monday 24 March @ 6:30PM. Bookings can be made by calling 9650-1500, or through Ticketek.

There will also be a performance at the Alexander Theatre, Monash University, Saturdat 3rd May @ 8:00pm. Bookings on 9905-1111, or Artsonline.

Photos in this article are courtesy of Robin Hall.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *