I can only glow about Madame Butterfly, a mesmerizing performance by the Metropolitan Opera. When the fan dancer makes her entrance, she walks over the crest of the reflective black wave of the stage, silhouetted against the glowing orange rectangle of sky. A graceful storm of flowing silks, her colors emerge as she enters the light. Four shadow clad dancers hold the edges of her belts, bleeding silks, she becomes their maypole, the sun around which they orbit and dance. She foretells the tragic dance of Cio-Cio San, the Geisha girl who believes in love and has heart trounced by an American Soldier named Pinkerton.
It was an evening of absolute vision and luxury. From the grand architecture, to the glorious chandeliers, to the sculpted golden ceiling, to the plush red velvet seats complete with subtitles in the seat back in front of you. Yes I did have a velvet seat. I was lucky enough to take the advice of a poet and after staring into the orchestra pit until the lights dimmed, I simply found my way to an expensive and empty seat, row S seat 101. Among all these glittering wonders and champagne, people are perhaps the greatest luxury of the Metropolitan Opera. Countless beings with countless combined years of experience and education of all types working together for the multifaceted vision of beauty and tragedy that is Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.
The Puccini opera is based on the play Madame Butterfly by David Belasco and was first performed at the Metropolitan Opera house in 1907. The story is set in the Japanese city of Nagasaki where temporary marriages to foreign sailors were common. Although the opera is replete with themes of cultural and sexual imperialism, the focus is on the individual characters especially our heroine, Cio Cio San. Kristine Opolais in her role debut as Cio-Cio San, is captivating, deeply emotive and moving.
The whole operation is moving. Shadow people moving screens in the magic house, seamlessly changing sets. The multicolored chorus of women moving as an extension of Cio Cio San’s spirit. The chorus of shadow people who dance with twenty paper lanterns to represent the enchanting moonlight in the garden where she gives herself completely to that dastardly Pinkerton. I was so moved by the story-line of our heroine that I did enjoy hating all the male roles. Of course they did a fantastic job, what else would one expect at the Metropolitan Opera? But she, her trusted maiden Suzuki and her puppet son were the only ones I cared about. It takes three shadow people to hold the puppet of the three year old son of Cio Cio San. Their movements and physical interactions are odd at first and then become so natural. As was Cio Cio San’s devotion to Pinkerton, odd and first and then her devotion to her honor and son so natural.
The rectangle of sky changes colors with moods of day into night and hope into tragedy. The reflective black wave of the stage holds all the emotions and bounces them out into the crowd. A window into a world of tragic beauty, Madame Butterfly was everything I hoped it would be.
By Greta Jane Pedersen