Another year, another excellent Ellen Kent opera at the New Theatre: this time she gave us a splendid version of the classic Madama Butterfly by Puccini.
Developed in several versions in the early 1900s, this tragic opera is about Cio-Cio San (Butterfly), an impoverished, 15 year old geisha, who sees an opportunity when B.F. Pinkerton, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, arrives in her home port of Nagasaki. She falls in love with him, or perhaps with the advantages he might provide. He takes advantage of the lax Japanese laws on marriage and, driven by desire, enters into a marriage of convenience, brokered by Goro, the matchmaker. Pinkerton has no intention of staying married to Butterfly: post-consummation, he plans to annul the contract and return to America to find a more suitable American wife. Pinkerton is counselled with wisdom by Sharpless, the
Left behind in
In the third Act, Pinkerton does return accompanied by Kate, his American wife, and reveals that he has no intention of reuniting with Butterfly, and that he now wants to take his son back to America. Cue tragedy.
This is all presented with aplomb by Ellen Kent’s talented team. She herself directs and produces the opera, and the Music Director, Nicolae Dohotaru, stylishly conjures a good orchestral performance throughout. The set is magical, with a Japanese “paper house” centre stage, lanterns and blossoms everywhere, and at stage right, a shrine with statues and a fountain providing tinkling water sounds. The singing is accomplished, with all roles performed to a high standard. Myroslava Shvakh-Pekar stands out in the minor role of Suzuki, and Iurie Gisca likewise as Sharpless.In the major roles, Giergio Meladze (Pinkerton) is highly convincing and sings well, despite some booing at the end, doubtlessly because of the character not the performance. His acting is not as strong as his singing, unless he is deliberately going for “unemotional”. This opera is, of course, a gem of a sing for Butterfly (Elena Dee), and she does not disappoint.In fact, she gives a brilliant performance - full of nuance and emotion, capturing the torment and conflict in the character. A real triumph and perhaps the best Butterfly I have ever seen.
Yes, another year and yet another success for Ellen Kent.