Sun | Sep 24, 2017

'Madama Butterfly' at Carib 5 tomorrow

Published:Friday | April 1, 2016 | 4:00 AM
A scene from Puccini’s 'Madama Butterfly'.
Kristine Opolais reprises her acclaimed portrayal of the title role as the young geisha, Cio-Cio-San or Madame Butterfly.
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Puccini's Madama Butterfly will be shown tomorrow at the Carib 5, starting at 11:55 a.m.

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) was immensely popular in his own lifetime, and his mature works remain staples in the repertory of most of the world's opera companies. His librettists for Madama Butterfly, Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, had also collaborated with the composer on his previous two operas, Tosca and La Boheme. Giacosa, a dramatist, was responsible for the stories and Illica, a poet, worked primarily on the words themselves.

Madama Butterfly had its world premiere at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy, in 1904.

In 1907, Giacomo Puccini visited the United States for the first time, for the Met premiere of Madama Butterfly. Geraldine Farrar sang the title role and her 139 appearances in this opera remain a Met record.

 

JAPANESE GEISHA

 

The title character of Madama Butterfly - a young Japanese geisha who clings to the belief that her arrangement with a visiting American naval officer is a loving and permanent marriage - is one of the defining roles in opera. The story triggers ideas about cultural and sexual imperialism for people far removed from the opera house. Film, Broadway and popular culture in general have riffed endlessly on the subject. The lyrical beauty of Puccini's score, especially the music for the thoroughly believable lead role, has made Butterfly a timeless classic.

Anthony Minghella's production of Madama Butterfly for the Met Opera has thrilled audiences since its premiere in 2006. Kristine Opolais reprises her acclaimed portrayal of the title role as the young geisha, Cio-Cio-San or Madame Butterfly, opposite Roberto Alagna as Pinkerton, the naval officer who breaks Butterfly's heart. Karel Mark Chichon conducts, while Carolyn Choa is the director and choreographer. The set designer is Michael Levine, costume designer Han Feng, lighting designer, Peter Mumford, and puppetry is done by Blind Summit.

The opera takes place in the Japanese port city of Nagasaki at the turn of the last century, at a time of expanding American international presence. Japan was hesitantly defining its global role, and Nagasaki was one of the country's few ports open to foreign ships. Temporary marriages for foreign sailors were not unusual.

 

SOPHISTICATED SCORE

 

Puccini achieved a new level of sophistication with his use of the orchestra in the score for Madama Butterfly, with subtle colourings and sonorities throughout. However, the opera rests squarely on the performer of the title role. Onstage for most of the time, Cio-Cio-San is the only character who experiences true (and tragic) development.

The singer must convey an astounding array of emotions and characteristics, from ethereal to fleshly to intelligent to dreamy bordering on insane to resigned in the final scene.

Tickets are on sale for The Met Opera's 2015-16 season at the box offices and via the web at www.palaceamusement.com, with a Palace Card.