“Madama Butterfly,” a classic opera written by Giacomo Puccini, premiered at Fairfield at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Performing Arts through the Met Live program on April 3. The timeless story follows the cross cultural love story between the American Navy Lieutenant, Pinkerton, and the titular character, a young geisha in Japan.
“Madama Butterfly” has managed to find its way into popular culture in a couple of ways. Considered to be one of the triumphs of Puccini’s long career, Madama Butterfly is held up high in operatic history. On the other hand, fans of Weezer may also recognize that “Madama Butterfly” is the inspiration for their classic album, “Pinkerton.”
This reimagining of “Madama Butterfly” comes from the late film director, Anthony Minghella, who decided to transition his talents to the stage in 2006 when he took on the task of updating Puccini’s classic opera for a modern audience. This production has since been transferred to director Carolyn Ochoa, who carries over the same elements and design used by Minghella. And what beautiful design it is.
The set design and production for this version of “Madama Butterfly” is stunning, as the exotic backdrop of early Japan is captured beautifully throughout. Colors are vibrant and eye-catching, and the dramatic lighting sets each scene perfectly. The land of the rising sun lives up to its nickname in this production as there is always the presence of a bleak, red sun that permeates the background. There is a particularly stunning scene at night, which finds Pinkerton and Cio-Cio San singing a duet on their wedding night in a Japanese garden basking in the glow of the pale moonlight.
This production stars Roberto Alagna as the conflicted Pinkerton and Kristine Opolais as Cio-Cio San, the beautiful and naïve geisha. Interestingly enough, both Alagna and Opolais shared the stage together in the recent production of another Puccini classic, “Manon Lescaut.”
Both of the stars are able to perfectly capture the energy needed for the draining roles of Pinkerton and Cio-Cio San, especially since both actors are required to be on stage for the near entirety of the production. Alagna in particular is more comfortable in the more mature role of Pinkerton, compared to his turn as the young and rash Des Grieux in “Manon Lescaut.”
The story follows the tumultuous relationship between the two leads, as Pinkerton instantly falls in love with the young Cio-Cio San, who renounces her Japanese heritage in order to be with him. However, Pinkerton betrays Cio-Cio San to a lonely and desperate fate when he decides to return to America without her.
The latest version of the classic opera, “Madama Butterfly,” is another beautiful iteration in an already long list of famous productions. The actors do a wonderful job portraying the complex characters while the production and design create an unforgettable atmosphere that is sure to please audiences.