5 July 2016

Madam Butterfly at the ENO was magnificent (again)

I loved Madam Butterfly so much when I saw it back in 2012 that it was an easy decision to go and see it again on its return in 2016.

Four years ago I did not record my seats numbers, which is a shame as I like to know where I've sat before when making a new booking at any theatre. This time I went for a reasonably expensive seat in the Upper Circle, A23, which cost me £52. This was actually somewhat cheaper that the advertised price as I got a discount for Undressed Member Year 2. I do not understand why somebody who goes to the opera as often as I do and who is fairly comfortable financially qualifies for a discount but I am not complaining.

My seat was practically in the centre, which was good, and shows the value of noting my seat numbers. Next time I will know that A23 is good but A24-26 may suffer a little from the screen used to show the cast the conductor during performances.

It was the production that brought me back and I enjoyed it even more on a second viewing. It was all very stylish from the traditional Japanese costumes, to the set with its sliding paper walls, to the back and side lighting to the puppet characters - especially the puppet baby and its three handlers who got their own encore. The poster gives a good clue as to what the mood of the production was like.

The crowning point of the production is also indicated in the poster with the red sash around Madam Butterfly's waist bookending the story being wound up at the start and unwound at the end.

Of course style is not sufficient to make an opera a success and this production of Madam Butterfly had all of the other essential agreements too. Puccini's music was evocative and tuneful while the plot was, in turns, uplifting, haunting and desperate. The singing was excellent too. Madam Butterfly and her companion, Suzuki, held the stage beautifully throughout and were more than ably supported by B. F. Pinkerton (husband, louse, American) and the American Consul who, as the plot dictated, were absent for a long period in the middle of the opera.

I am not sure that I would rush to see another version of Madam Butterfly but I am certain that I would like to see this one again.

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