Tuesday 14 February 2012

Madama Butterfly at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Tuesday 7th February 2012 I attended the Ukrainian National Opera of Kharkiv's performance of Madama Butterfly. This is one of the world's most popular operas with music by Giacomo Puccini and was performed by one of the great East European national companies. 

With Elena Dee as Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly) and Andriy Perfilov as Lieutenant F B Pinkerton along with the Orchestra being conducted by Gheorghe Stanciu this was always going to be a special night at Norwich Theatre Royal.

A young Japanese girl, Cio-Cio-San of Nagasaki decides to  marry Lieutenant Pinkerton of the American Navy the man she loves. Pinkerton sees this marriage as a short-lived adventure while Cio-Cio-San's love knows no boundaries.

The marriage broker Goro shows Pinkerton around the home he will share with Butterfly and warns him about the tragic consequences his game could have. Pinkerton ignores the warning and the marriage ceremony begins. The unexpected appearance of her Uncle Bonze unnerves the guests. He utters blasphemies against the girl who has denied the ancient customs. Uncle Bonze leaves taking all the guests with him leaving the two lovers alone at last. They sing of their love binding them together into a serene and endless happiness.

Cio-Cio-San lives with her devoted friend and servant Suzuki. Pinkerton left the country promising to return in one year but three years later he has still not returned. Consul Sharpless brings Cio-Cio-San a letter announcing the expected arrival of an American ship but he does not have the heart to tell her Pinkerton has remarried, especially when she introduces him to her and Pinkerton's son.

A cannon announces the ship's arrival and Cio-Cio-San embellishes her house with flowers. Suzuki and the child sleep and only Cio-Cio-San is awake listening to the Marines' chorus. She retires to her bedroom exhausted. Meanwhile Sharpless and Pinkerton enter the house while Pinkerton's new wife Kate waits in the garden.

Suzuki is asked to explain to Cio-Cio-San that Pinkerton wishes to take her child away with him and his wife. Cio-Cio-San appears filled with happiness at the sight of her husband but seeing Suzuki's solemn face she realises his true intentions are to take away her child. The child is separated from his loving mother, who, distraught, kills herself.

This was a wonderful evening to be at Norwich Theatre Royal as we were brought a splendid performance from the Ukrainian National Opera of Kharkiv of Puccini's masterpiece. This is a heart-breaking story that made an emotional mark on this truly magical night.

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