BWW Review: MADAMA BUTTERFLY at The Israeli Opera
For such a highly renowned opera such as Madama Butterfly numerous productions have been presented in the past century all around the world, and rightfully so, but with the new exquisite Israeli-Italian production, under the innovative and fresh direction of Keita Asari, it's clear that there's always room for more productions such as this.
The famous plot, based on the short story by John Luther Long on which many other masterpieces such as the musical Miss Saigon and more are also based on, takes place in Japan's Nagasaki and tells about an American naval officer named B.F. Pinkerton who purchases a deal that includes a house and a young bride, Cio Cio San - Madama Butterfly. A short while after their marriage Pinkerton goes back to his home country but promises to return, a promise he doesn't plan to keep other than when three years later he finds out that Butterfly had given him a son and returns to Nagasaki, along with his new American wife Kate, in order to take him. Once the overwhelmed Madama Butterfly realizes she lost not only Pinkerton but also her son, she takes her own life after saying goodbye to her son.
The production that was originally created for the La Scala Opera House in Milan includes both Israeli and international soloists. In a role that requires quite a few layers, soprano Xiuwei Sun plays Madama Butterfly (a role she alternates with Ira Bertman and Susanna Branchini) with charm, durability and graceful humor, and although she sang in delay to the music a bit too many times her voice is delightful and silvery. The male soloists, such as tenor Matteo Lippi (Lt. Pinkerton) and baritone Vladimir Braun (consul Sharpless) acted and sang wonderfully even though their voices weren't always loud enough to be heard well. Joining them on stage is Israeli mezzo soprano Shay Bloch as Suzuki in a role that may be small but that didn't stop her from playing it marvelously with great acting and a strong and beautiful voice.
Operas presented at The Israeli Opera usually have gorgeous settings and in this case set designer Ichiro Takada not only lived up to this reputation but also exceeded it with an authentic-feeling set, from a wooden house with Shoji doors to a stone and gravel filled garden. Completing this spectacular presentation were the costumes designed by Hanae Mori and unique lighting design by Filibeck Marco, which were all cleverly used by revival director Michiko Taguchi, especially in act one when Madama Butterfly and the girls arrive on stage in an extraordinary combination of all these elements.
When it comes to great operas such as Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly every musical note written in it is magical, and when played by the superb Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, conducted by Daniel Oren, with its royal sounding horns and trumpets sections as well as its moving violins, the magic comes to life and with each heart-stirring harmony it's even more evident how truly phenomenal this production is.
Photo Credit: Yossi Zwecker.