Minghella’s tragic magic

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Stage - Tanya MacNaughton

WATCH­ING direc­tor An­thony Minghella’s vi­sion of MadamaBut­ter­fly is like see­ing the fa­mous opera un­fold for the first time.

Known for di­rect­ing films The English Pa­tient and The Tal­ented Mr Ri­p­ley, Minghella turned his di­rec­to­rial prow­ess to the op­er­atic stage in 2005, where the the­atri­cal pro­duc­tion pre­miered at the Lon­don Coli­seum for English Na­tional Opera, star­ring English so­prano Mary Plazas as But­ter­fly (Cio-Cio San).

Minghella may have died in 2008, but his breath­tak­ing achieve­ment with Puc­cini’s tragic opera about a geisha and Amer­i­can naval of­fi­cer lives on and is a supreme high­light of this year’s Perth In­ter­na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val pro­gram.

Plazas has reprised the ti­tle role while orig­i­nal con­duc­tor David Parry also re­turned for a mem­o­rable evening at His Majesty’s Theatre.

From the open­ing scene fea­tur­ing the stark sil­hou­ette of a geisha on the raked stage against a crim­son lit cy­clo­rama, it is ev­i­dent Minghella skil­fully ap­plied his cin­e­matic prow­ess to bring an in­ti­mate filmic beauty to his first, and last, opera.

The in­clu­sion of Ja­panese Bun­raku pup­petry is just one of the pro­duc­tion’s trib­utes to Ja­panese cul­ture, as is the cho­rus of geishas whose colour­ful ki­monos pop against the sim­plic­ity of the dark glossy stage and over­head pan­elling.

Dancers dressed in black con­trol the mov­ing set of slid­ing screens, while a team of three pup­peteers cre­ate a show high­light with their ma­nip­u­la­tion of the pup­pet of Cio- Cio San’s three-year-old son dressed in a sailor suit.

His life-like por­trayal is re­mark­ably emo­tional, which hits hard dur­ing the heart­break­ing fi­nal scene where red rib­bons of blood flow from But­ter­fly’s waist.

From pa­per lanterns to origami birds and fall­ing pe­tals, MadamaBut­ter­fly is a vis­ual spec­ta­cle to be­hold, with Plazas lead­ing a stel­lar in­ter­na­tional cast teamed with WA Opera Cho­rus and WASO.

MadamaBut­ter­fly is show­ing un­til March 7.

Pic­ture: Toni Wilkin­son

Scenes from Madama But­ter­fly.

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