Review of 'Madam Butterfly'

madame_butterfly.jpeg https://www.eno.org/whats-on/madam-butterfly/

Puccini's Madam Butterfly is a wonderful if terribly tragic opera and we were lucky enough to see it staged at the beautiful London Coliseum. The story follows a young naive Japanese woman Cio-Cio-San (Natalya Romaniw) falling for a young US navy lieutenant F. B. Pinkerton (Dimitri Pittas). Pinkerton, knowing how easy it is to divorce in Japan, marries Cio-Cio-San then shortly leaves to return to duty. Three years later Cio-Cio-San, now with a child, still waits for the return of her Pinkerton despite others urging her to re-marry and move on. When he eventually does he has a not very pleasant surprise for her…

The staging here is minimalist with a simple shiny black stage steeply ramped up towards the back with many exits and entrances occurring here (often the performers themselves even seemed to have problems making it over the top…). The costumes are spectacular with fantastic use of bright reds and whites against the dark stage. Being Japanese there is plenty of opportunity here for magnificent kimonos and long flowing robes, an opportunity the production team very much take advantage of.

Performances are a bit hit and miss with Natalya Romaniw in the leading row not providing the power necessary to convey the deep passion required and with a range that caused her to struggle a bit on the lower notes. As Pinkerton, Dimitri Pittas has a wonderful voice though not as powerful and resonating as is required without amplification – Often he was difficult to follow (thank goodness for the surtitles). The supporting cast are quite reasonable including Stephanie Windsor-Lewis performing Suzuki, Cio-Cio-San's maid.

Madam Butterfly is fairly long, split here into act 1 (55 minutes), act 2 part 1 (50 minutes) and part 2 (35 minutes) with two intervals of 20 and 15 minutes (respectively). It does tend to drag a bit in the middle with Butterfly going on and on about things and the final part slowly revealing the terrible tragedy about to unfold like a very slow moving train wreck. It is decidedly not a happy ending.

A reasonable show with some fantastic modern staging sadly let down by a few average performances. Disappointing.

Rating:

Review Date: 2020-02-29



London Coliseum

Location: London (England)

Address: St Martin's Ln, London WC2N 4ES ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Leicester Square TUBE Charing Cross

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7845 9300

URL: https://www.eno.org/

Home the English National Opera, the London Coliseum is easy to find with the rotating globe on the roof with it's name on top of it just north east of Trafalgar Square, just up the road from St Martins-in-the-Fields.

In recent years the Coliseum has been substantially refurbished and looks very much better for it from the wonderful wood, brass and glass main doors to the completely restored auditorium it is a sight to behold. Despite this new work it is still quite crowded on performance nights with access to the three balconies (Dress Circle, Upper Circle and “Balcony”) restricted to a single staircase.

Despite being home to an opera company there are a surprising variety of performances here with the acoustics and sounds systems very good indeed. Visibility is pretty good throughout though can be tricky on the Balcony (those with vertigo should give these seats a miss in any case). For full-stage performances I would recommend the dress circle to be able to see the entire stage and enjoy the best of the sound.