BWW Review: MADAMA BUTTERFLY at Times Union Theater
Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini is a beautiful show full of so much emotion and talent. The beautiful story, in which Miss Saigon is based on, is intriguing and heartbreaking leaving audience members to reflect on what they hold dear. A story of a young girl who believes in love so much she will do whatever it takes to keep a dying and one-sided marriage alive.
Act I opens with the marriage of B.F. Pinkerton, an American solider deployed in Japan, and Cio-Cio-San, referred to as Madama Butterfly. A union between two very different cultures. A materialistic American culture, focused on money, power, and success. A culture never satisfied until they are and have the best. Sharpless, the American consul, is astonished that Pinkerton is marrying a 15-year-old. The culture in which the two Americans are immersed shocks them. A culture that relies on the importance of tradition and family. Butterfly enters the wedding full of happiness and optimism. She believes in this marriage so much that she gives up her family, religion, and culture to adapt to Pinkerton's culture. In return, disowned from her own family.
Act II begins with warnings that Butterfly's marriage to Pinkerton is in trouble. However, she is still as optimistic as she was the day she married him. She refuses to believe he abandoned her. Goro, the marriage broker who arranged the marriage between Pinkerton and Butterfly, returns to arrange another marriage for Butterfly. She rejects the idea of marrying another man. Butterfly remains faithful in her marriage because she believes in her love for Pinkerton and that he will return to her soon. Sharpless returns to Japan to inform Butterfly that Pinkerton is returning to Japan, but he will not see her. He cannot find the way to explain it to her. Butterfly, blinded by love, does not make a connection that Sharpless is not there under good circumstances and begins to prepare for her husband's return. When he finally explains that Pinkerton is not coming back, Butterfly surprises him with their child. Sharpless is taken back that there is now a child involved in the mix. Butterfly tells Sharpless if Pinkerton does not intend to stay, he can come explain it to their son himself. Butterfly, still hopeful after seeing the ship Pinkerton returns on, begins to restore their home to its former appearance for him.
At the end of Act II, a prolonged entr'acte leads to Act III. This represents the waiting period in which Butterfly endured for the return of her husband. Suzuki, Butterfly's maid, orders her and the child to go rest until Pinkerton arrives. Suzuki goes outside the house to attend to her chores and sees Sharpless and Pinkerton. She is astonished and runs for Butterfly but is stopped by Pinkerton. He does not intend to see her but explains to Suzuki everything he wants Butterfly to know. Suzuki is taken back when she sees a woman in the garden. The woman is B.F. Pinketon's wife, Kate. The American wife he was always determined to have. Butterfly rushes to see her husband, but when she enters he is gone. Sharpless and Kate are still with Suzuki as Butterfly enters. Butterfly inquires who the woman is and Sharpless explains it is Pinkerton's wife and they are there to take the child back to America. Butterfly, heartbroken, agrees to this. She orders Suzuki to go play with her child outside, meanwhile she is planning her suicide. Butterfly's child enters, and she gives her final goodbye and explains how life will be better for him and to remember she never abandoned him. As the child leaves, Butterfly prepares to kill herself and follows through. As she is dying, Pinkerton enters to see his former wife has stabbed herself because of his doing.
All parts were beautifully and poignantly portrayed in the opera. The cast was amazingly talented and dedicated to their characters. As someone who has listened to the Miss Saigon soundtrack, I could not help making the connections of each character to its inspired character, and the story in which it was based.