TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 April 2014
This is a clever Butterfly for today, yet with that layer of tradition that lulls you into a sense of false security. There is no little house with a garden, which is part of the staging in the two other Butterfly's that I own. They are traditional and I like them. This staging does what any good production should do, it makes you think. Vincent Boussard, the stage director, states "Puccini manages to lend his characters very rich and complex profiles, their psychology comes from the music. For the composers obsession was for truth and poetry. To make this opera work today means generating the spark to ignite its inherent psychological potential. I wanted to make an effort not to show linear time, where there is none, and to engage with fragmentation.
"For Puccini suspends time. before letting it run a different course. He creates the conflict between Butterfly's waiting, which is beyond reality, and the process of reality itself. We do not show linear time but fragmentation. The three months with Butterfly are the only freedom that Pinkerton has experienced in his life. The child is merely an object so that others can unburden their conscience. For Butterfly the child is a reality, so she can pursue her fantasy."
You may think, how has Butterfly become that complicated. It is a simple story; a cad enters into a sham marriage, sleeps with Butterfly, gets her pregnant, then comes back with Kate and takes the child. Wait a moment, she believes in the marriage and has even become a Christian, so that Pinkerton will eventually live with her and the child. Pinkerton realizes in the end what he has done. Also,Butterfly is aged now 18, 15 when she marries him. No singer alive could sing the role at that age.
A room which is the Japanese house has rose petals on the floor; a spiral staircase goes up to the ceiling, from a hole in the floor. On the white walls are outlines of flowers, which both change colour depending on the mood; very light Pink, violet, or Blue hues. Parts of the walls open up to show a garden, or sunset over the valley below. There are hardly any props, apart from a leather seat in Act 2, also a bottle and glasses. The scenery is subtle. Act one is utterly traditional, early 1900 Japanese dress, with Pinkerton dressed in an American Navy uniform of that era, and Sharpless wears a suit. Butterfly wears golden and light pink traditional dress, with a red sash. Now you are in familar territory, beautiful love duets. You can sit back and relax and let the beautiful melodies drift through your lounge. You are in for a surprise.
Act 2 begins. Butterfly wears a pair of jeans and a linen top, with a mini dress. Suzuki has a traditional top with jeans, and Sharpless is still in his 1900 suit,and others in their traditional garb. But four men are wearing business suits of the period. The fragmentation of time, literally going in another direction. The traditional Act one was the reality, now in the other Acts she clings to her child which is a doll in this production, not a real child as is usual. The fantasy world is her dream of a better life which never happens. Her modern dress is the Western dress, a life to which she aspires. When she dies, she wears a black traditional kimino. The doll breaks. Actually,the scenery and costumes are traditional in a way.
To make this happen, you require good singers. Alexia Voulgaridou has a very distinctive voice, and is a fine singer actress, who brings the suffering of Butterfly to life and makes the role believable. One fine day is a tour de force. The sheer emotion of her voice makes this a Butterfly to remember. Suzuki Cristina Damian a mezzo,is her Maid and her voice is made for the role. Teodor Ilincai is Pinkerton, who was Rodolfo in La Boheme, Covent Garden, bluray. A tenor who has a great future ahead of him. Sharpless Lauri Vasar is a baritone we will hear more of. The singers are all young. Alexander Joel conducts the Philharmoniker Hamburg with feeling and tenderness, bringing to the fore, the emotional impact that this opera has. " I will make you weep" stated Puccini. Is it worth owning? I certainly think so. I like this production because it makes you think about Madama Butterfly, so I begun to view the opera in an entirely different light and not take it for granted.
By the way, there is an excellent traditional La Boheme, with Gai James, Aquiles Machado. Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, cond Chailly with swift tempi,capturing the emotional nature of the piece. The singers are young and excellent. Recorded live Dec 2012. I cannot understand why people missed it. See my review. I hope this Butterfly does not end up forgotten.
PCM Stereo. Subtitles: English. German. French, Spanish, Korean. 16.9. REGION World wide. 10801 High Definition. Live from the Staatsoper Hamburg, November 2012. Use the pop up menu to obtain Audio, Language and Chapters. Then press it again to turn it off. NOTE: WORLD WIDE Viewing.