BBC Music Magazine - - Opera Reviews -

Madama But­ter­fly (DVD)

Er­monela Jaho, Marcelo Puente, Scott Hen­dricks, El­iz­a­beth Deshong; Royal Opera Cho­rus & Orches­tra/antonio Pap­pano; dir. Moshe Leiser, Patrice Cau­rier (London, 2017)

Opus Arte DVD: OA 1268 D;

Blu-ray: OA BD7244 D 138 mins Tra­di­tion­al­ists need not avert their gaze from Moshe Leiser and Patrice Cau­rier’s pro­duc­tion: there’s a house on the hill with slid­ing paper walls, there’s min­i­mal fur­ni­ture, and when the walls be­come doors we are treated to a spec­tac­u­lar view of Na­gasaki har­bour be­low. Yet ev­ery­thing is not quite what it seems. The tragedy is played out on a kind of Kabuki stage, and But­ter­fly’s make-up and that of other ‘lo­cal’ char­ac­ters bor­rows from tra­di­tional Ja­panese theatre. This Cio-cio San is mar­ried in a western bridal veil and in Act II wears a long skirt that Kate Pinker­ton might have fan­cied. ★ere is a ver­sion of Puc­cini’s opera with a very mod­ern moral, namely the dan­gers of cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion.

Antonio Pap­pano is par­tic­u­larly alert to Puc­cini bor­row­ing tra­di­tional Ja­panese melodies; at times he makes you hear this score, as well as the drama on stage, as a tug of war be­tween East and West, one in­sid­i­ously pas­sive and the other brassy and im­pe­rial. All well and good but some­times he chooses idio­syn­cratic tem­pos. The open­ing of the opera is al­most com­i­cally fast, while the Act III In­ter­mezzo is pos­i­tively lugubri­ous, de­spite some rav­ish­ing playing by the wood­wind.

Er­monela Jaho is suit­ably girl­ish for a teenage child bride in Act I, but doesn’t quite have the re­quired vo­cal heft for her aban­don­ment and sui­cide. Marcelo Puente sings Pinker­ton care­fully, but his third act re­morse is about as af­fect­ing as a sheet of card­board. It’s Sharp­less and Suzuki who steal the show – a con­sul with a ten­der con­science from Scott ★en­dricks and El­iz­a­beth De­hong as a maid who could melt the stoni­est heart. It’s when she tells But­ter­fly the truth about Pinker­ton that the tears be­gin to flow. Christo­pher Cook PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★ PIC­TURE & SOUND ★★★★

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