Madama Butterfly at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

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5/5

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Madama Butterfly at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Date of travel

November, 2019

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Madama Butterfly NY Met live broadcast in HD, we saw this in Aberystwyth Arts Centre as an afternoon showing the week after the original live broadcast. £16 with a free tea/coffee in the café.

One of my all-time favourites, with a box of tissues of course, is Puccini’s Madam Butterfly. I have seen lots of different versions, the best one before this from Welsh National Opera set in the 1950s just after WWII, but this was certainly the most visually stunning yet.

The most striking features are the stage entrances as characters emerge from behind centre stage, elaborate costumes silhouetted against a coloured lit panel. Sliding panels move to change parts of the scene, moved by shadowy figures all in black, their faces also covered. A most unusual feature is the little boy, Butterfly’s son, in this production a life-size puppet. Definitely creepy at first, especially as this is the filmed version so we are very close to each character, but by the end we all loved him! He was manipulated by 3 figures so cleverly, subtle movements of his head and hands giving such a realistic impression of him gazing at his mother, playing with toys, sleeping with his head in her lap.

The humming chorus gets me every time – tissues at the ready – and by the time Butterfly’s final aria arrived we were all in bits! The other characters were also brilliant – Suzuki the maid, Sharpless who is clearly alarmed at the attitude of Pinkerton, and Pinkerton himself. The audience already hates him by the end of the first act, so smug and self-centered, but a wonderful performer.

It is a tragedy with no let-up and no happy ending, but Puccini’s score covers the whole range of emotions. I know I will see other productions of Madama Butterfly in the future, but for now this is my favourite.

Jacqueline Jeynes

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