Madama Butterfly Review: Bachtrack *****

Tuesday, 26 March, 2019
Butterfly Blue

Superlative Celine Byrne makes INO's Butterfly a memorable experience

*****

It must be terrifically daunting presenting one of the most beloved operas of all times. The recently formed Irish National Opera’s production of Puccini's much-loved classic Madama Butterfly was an undoubted success on all levels: a fine cast, classic sets, vivid acting and rich orchestral tones. However, it was the glorious voice of soprano Celine Byrne and her thoroughly convincing portrayal of the doomed Cio-Cio-San that made last night’s staging such a spectacular triumph.

Celine Byrne (Cio-Cio-San) © Patrick Redmond

Celine Byrne (Cio-Cio-San) © Patrick Redmond

Why do so many directors feel it incumbent upon themselves to update an opera and make it more relevant for a modern day audience? As if the theme of shameless exploitation of the innocence of a 15-year old girl and her abandonment by a much older, feckless husband wouldn’t resonate with the audience, director Ben Barnes felt compelled to envisage Madama Butterfly as a “metaphor of shameless colonial adventurism”. Fortunately, this vision did not intrude much upon the production apart from three minutes of video footage of American incursions in Vietnam during the 1950s distracting us from the dark surges of the orchestral prelude to Act 3.

The sets by Todd Rosenthal were simple and effective with the Japanese house with its tree in bloom or full moon in the background of the first act being transformed in Act 2 into a 1940s American-styled home, with its harsh fluorescent lighting, metallic chairs and tables and conspicuous fridge with a crucifix on top, hollow symbols of wealth and religion. The costumes too were a delight, with red kimonos and coolie hats lending an instant air of authenticity while there was a subtle moral message in the different shades of whites as sported by the morally degraded Pinkerton in his glistening naval uniform (seemingly good on the outside), the hesitant and inept Sharpless in his cream linen suit and the ethereal pure Cio-Cio-San in her satin nightgown on her marriage night.

Brett Polegato (Sharpless) and Julian Hubbard (Pinkerton) © Patrick Redmond

Brett Polegato (Sharpless) and Julian Hubbard (Pinkerton) © Patrick Redmond

Read the full Bachtrack review written by Andrew Larkin, Bachtrack, 25th March, 2019, here https://bachtrack.com/review-m...