4 October 2014

Madama Butterfly at Normansfield Theatre

I like to go to the operatic and musical nights at Normansfield Theatre because they have always been good, they raise money for charity and it's a nice walk to the theatre and back, with the walk back taking in one of the pubs by Teddington Lock.

And so I went to see Madama Butterfly.

I got there about half an hour before the performance started and went downstairs to get a beer. This was almost a mistake as I soon discovered.

I went upstairs just before the show started to find almost all of the seats claimed with coats by people down in the bar. Getting a good seat is not normally a problem as the stage is so high that it can be seem from anywhere but this time the show was being performed on the floor of the auditorium and so a good seat mattered. I should have gone in to the theatre first.

Luckily there was one seat on its own in the front row and I claimed that.

Madama Butterfly was an a abridged and reduced version of the (rightly) famous opera. The story was told by a narrator who also played the piano, the only instrument used. We were introduced to the main characters and scenes that were then sung by just three people playing the parts of Madama Butterfly, Pinkerton and the US Consul.

Unusually for the Normansfield Theatre they sang in Italian, rather than English, hence the need for a narrator and the Italian name of the opera.

I was at the very end of a horseshoe of seats and most of the singing took place one or two metres from me.

A few props were used, mostly to suggest the location of the scene, and there was some movement but overall there was little acting, except through the singing. Costumes were used so this was very much a semi-staged opera rather than a recital.

I knew the story and while it was a little strange to miss chinks of it, particularly all the dialogue between Madama Butterfly and her maid, this performance worked well as a "greatest hits". The ending was enhanced by the appearance of the couple's son and the young boy did very well to play his part at what I hope was well past his usual bedtime! We also saw Pinkerton's new wife at the end as they came back to Japan to claim his child with tragic results.

All of the singing was lovely though I have something of a soft spot for baritones at the moment so it was the Consul's singing that I liked the most. That is just my bias, they were all good.

Despite the predictable ending Madama Butterfly was a very gratifying evening and it left me wanting more of the same. It looks like that wish will be met with Don Pasquale in November.

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