Madama Butterfly, a review
Whoever said love makes us do crazy things hadn’t met the Madame Butterfly. She throws a whole new perspective on the matter, but in the most adorably disarming way that to a lesser degree, many can relate to.
The premier return of the renowned Madama Butterfly is playing at the Melbourne Arts Centre for the month of May, bringing back to the stage what neo-classics lack: resplendently written and perfectly performed operatic notes entwined around a love story ages old.
Musically narrated by the legendary melodies and prowess in conducting of Guillaume Tourniaire to the direction of Moffatt Oxenbould, the production sports an easy-to-digest format both through stage acting and melodic harmonies. Most notably, the audience is carried away to another world, if only for a time, with the clever use of nods to the American national anthem alongside Puccini’s inclusion of traditional Japanese elements like bells and tam-tams.
The Madame herself (Hiromi Omura) is flawless, and an eternal crowd pleaser. The nature of the script does wonders in framing her as the victim in the love story that blooms early in Act 1 between herself and fellow protagonist, Pinkerton (James Egglestone) and the seemingly constant mini-project of Sharpless the Consul, played by Michael Honeyman.
Omura allows the musical and tediously dramatic persona of the title role encapsulate, while her sorrow and gossamer-like sensibilities build to the second act where the Butterfly truly takes flight.
It is only too easy to pity the young character whose heart on her sleeve approach to life is as much her draw-card as it is her downfall.
Egglestone as Pinkerton, the loved-to-be-hated character of the unwavering tumultuous time in Puccini’s life, performs the role ensnaringly. With the confidence of positive intentions and jibing with the vocal stressors of emotional turmoil, Egglestone’s portrayal is charming for a character that is so agitating.
Honeyman, is a relatively recent addition to the ranks of primary roles in Australian opera. Singing in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir for a number of years and having been heard by the Choir of Hard Knocks’ Jonathon Welch has aided in giving Honeyman the spur in his side to adopt a character as pivotal as Sharpless.
With the presentation of one of the world’s most known and respected arias, Un Bel Di (One Fine Day), the story of the Butterfly comes to life. The sorrow and happiness the aria embodies is the crux of the performance, engaging each audience member wholly into the torment, self-inflicted on and by the Butterfly.
The tale of love and false hope, broken heartedness and the fait accompli of waiting for the right time are all themes of the play that although over 100 years old, are still common today.
It is something about the timelessness of the tale and the ability for the play to adapt to the city and sensibilities of the audiences around the world that have seen it to date that make Madama Butterfly one to remember.
On til 30 May, tickets at the Arts Centre website.
This article was first published on the Sydney Star Observer’s website at this link.
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