Opera by the harbour
A unique waterside setting will add another dimension to a stage classic, writes Sarah Nicholson
WHEN Opera Australia’s production of Madame Butterfly premieres in Sydney on Friday there will be an extra character in the ensemble.
Puccini’s famous opera, which tells the tale of an American visiting Japan, will be staged under the stars at Fleet Steps in the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens so the twinkling lights of the harbour can combine with the alfresco set to add another dimension to this epic story.
Hiromi Omura, who will play Cio-Cio San in this year’s Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, predicts the waterside setting will have a “very special effect on the performance of Madame Butterfly’’ for both the audience and multicultural cast.
“In the original score the house of Madame Butterfly stands on the hill that overlooks Nagasaki Harbour, so the Sydney audience will be witnessing an almost identical landscape, and this is an incredible opportunity to feel as if we are really in Madame Butterfly’s world,’’ the Japanese soprano explains.
“At times it will feel as if the audience and Madame Butterfly are sharing the same experience, like when Butterfly hears the Pinkerton ship has entered the harbour, and I can imagine the emotion will feel intensely real.
“My Japanese and French friends are so interested in this project, they think this production of Madame Butterfly is so original and wonderful in terms of both its creative concept and of course the setting, and I have friends coming from Japan just to see the show.’’
Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, which is on until April 12, is in its third year with Opera Australia’s artistic director Lyndon Terracini explaining audiences in previous seasons have been made up of veteran enthusiasts and beginners.
“In the first year, 61 per cent of the audience had never been to an opera, last year it was 44 per cent, and we find 28 per cent of those attending Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour buy a ticket to see a production in the Sydney Opera House,’’ he says.
“Those who know opera have the chance to see one of the most popular stories ever written, and Hiromi Omura is probably the world’s greatest Madame Butterfly, while those that have never attended an opera before will have an incredible experience on Sydney Harbour.
“The show has a huge set with a 12m sun and moon rising out of the water, there are two big fireworks moments, cars and taxis are driven on the stage, a character arrives in a speedboat, the costumes are really beautiful, and it will take more than 600 cast and crew to stage the production.’’
Terracini’s team will also create a “mini shopping mall’’ at Mrs Macquaries Point so the audience can enjoy the waterside venue by dining before the performance.
STUNNING BACKDROP: Japanese soprano Hiromi Omura (above and below left) will play the lead in Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour's 2014 season of Madame Butterfly. Picture: Opera Australia