Madama Butterfly at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

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Date of travel

June, 2018

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Madama Butterfly – live broadcast from Glyndebourne Festival 2018, in Italian with English subtitles on screen.

We have seen several versions of Madame Butterfly, my favourite opera by Puccini, but all seem to add something different. This one is particularly powerful as it is set in 1950s Japan which makes for an even more damning reflection on US nay personnel stationed there after World War II. This is also emphasized by regular news reel images (real footage) in the background of young Japanese brides being taken to America with their new husbands.

The point is made that Butterfly as a character had real expectations for her marriage so was not just a naïve 15-year-old girl. Pinkerton, however, makes a joke that his 999-year lease on the house, and his marriage, can legally be cancelled with just one month’s notice.

A live broadcast on screen means that you get to see much more than if you are in the audience for the live performance. We saw a fascinating interview with the young conductor, very charming and funny, noting that yes, the tome of music changes after the first act, but the audience have had lots to eat and drink in the interval so may not notice!

Excellent performance, particularly Olga Busuioc as Butterfly and Elizabeth DeShong as Suzuki, and we all loved the little boy who played her son – brilliant composure as he was clutched to his mother’s bosom during her final aria! Powerful voices of Pinkerton and Sharpless, but definitely a hint of “boo” as Pinkerton comes on stage with the full cast for final applause. There is little to encourage empathy with his character, and the whole piece is masterfully written and composed to bring the audience along with Butterfly on her tragic journey, a powerful message considering when it was written by Puccini and the unfavourable reception when it was first performed. But it still makes me cry no matter how many times I see it!


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