12 November 2016

Madama Butterfly by Ormond Opera was magnificent

Madama Butterfly is a genuine classic so I was obviously interested in seeing it performed locally even though I had seen an excellent production of it at ENO not that long ago. I had only recently come across Ormond Opera at a local charity event and I was keen to see them in a more formal setting.

This production was obviously going to be a somewhat different deal with an amateur chorus supporting professional singers in a small church hall. The price tag was different too, this was only £20 and that price I could afford to take a risk but with this being Madama Butterfly it was not much of one.

I was almost the first person to arrive, because the buses were kind to me, and that gave me a seat in the middle of the long front row (of two). There was further seating along the two sides but even then the venue held only around seventy people.

I do not know how Ormond Opera gets its singers but I suspect it is from a small pool and that would explain some of the casting; Madama Butterfly looked nothing like a fifteen year old Japanese woman/girl, her maid (Suzuki) looked even less Japanese and the American Counsel was too young. And none of that mattered in the slightest.

What did matter was the singing and that was superb. All of it.

Butterfly is slow moving and emotional and so it relies heavily on the singing of the four main characters and when they work the opera works. I will give a special mention to Caroline Carragher as Suzuki for the beauty of her voice but only on the understanding that there was not much to choose between all of the main roles.

A surprise, only because I had not read the details beforehand, was that the music was all provided by one piano and one pianist, Jakob Rothoff. That worked exceptionally well and I did not miss the orchestra at all. I do not know the opera well enough to comment on the score but I thought that some bits were shorter (e.g. Prince Yamadori's proposal to Madama Butterfly) and others longer (e.g. the waiting overnight for Pinkerton to return) than in the production at ENO.

The other big difference was the language. ENO performs in English (hence the "E") while this was sung in the original Italian with a helpful translation displayed on the screen above and behind the performing area; in the picture above it says, "Madama Butterfly Giacomo Puccini".

I was expecting this production of Madama Butterfly to be a bit rough and ready, and I would have been very happy with that, but it was so much more. The professionalism oozed over all aspects of the show adding to the strengths of the fabulous music and the sweet singing. It was a complete joy for me and a triumph for all involved in making it.

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