Madama Butterfly

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Theatre Royal, Norwich


Wholeheartedly and in its usual thoroughly traditional style the Chisinau National Opera presents Madama Butterfly with passion and colour. It is exactly what Puccini's opera calls for. It does not need any clever updating or revisionist production when the emotions remain so fresh, while, for those who wish to see them, the implications are so clear.

It is all a matter of cultures that clash. The brash young American Naval officer is out for a fling. It may not last, but it will be fun while it does. The trouble is that his Japanese bride takes it all to heart, literally. The result can only be disaster, for the customs of the East just won't fit in with more modern attitudes. Butterfly may be young, but she embodies the older values. This could all add up to something rather grim and unpleasant, and the end is drastic. But there is a tone of romanticism as well, of fond hopes that are kept up and always revived as well as bitter disappointments.

The contrasts of the opera are brought out in music as well as action. Sometimes with an Eastern accent, it can also burst out ironically with a tune obviously imported from another land. That is not all. The orchestration is cunningly arranged either to build up tension or else to create an idyll all the more touching because we realise it must be short lived. Music becomes the main expression of all the emotions, and sometimes we listen for some minutes to the orchestra without there being any singing at all.

Alexandru Samoila is the conductor, working with a responsive band and a cast of committed singers. Rusaln Zinevych is an ardent Pinkerton and Galina Bernaz is a soaring Butterfly. Vladimir Dragos is the American Consul with a difficult role and a magnificent resonant baritone voice.

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