Minghella’s tragic magic
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.
Scenes from Madama Butterfly.