The cheers were for the wonderful performance of Hiromi Omura as Madama Butterfly, the tears came as this sad opera drew to a close and the boos, albeit good naturedly, were for James Egglestone as he appeared on stage for his curtain call. He would have been pleased – the more the boos, he has said, the more the opera has engaged the audience.
Egglestone plays the cad American naval captain Pinkerton in this most loved Puccini opera. While in Japan he finds himself enchanted with a local girl, Cio-Cio-San, whom he nicknames Butterfly. The two marry but Pinkerton must return to the States, leaving a hopeful Butterfly awaiting a reunion. When Pinkerton does return, he does not come alone and finds Butterfly also has news to share.
This production of Madama Butterfly, from Moffatt Oxenbould, is Opera Australia’s most successful show ever and has toured internationally. It’s easy to see why – the staging is innovative and the costumes extremely colourful. Then of course, there is the music and the great performances.
While I am no opera critic I thought the performances of all cast members were excellent with Omura, Egglestone, Sian Pendry as Suzuki (Butterfly’s servant) and Michael Honeyman as the United States Consul displaying their talents memorably.
Omura is much older than the character she plays yet her movements were that of a young girl. It’s easy to understand why she has performed in productions of Madama Butterfly all over the world.
While the story of Madama Butterfly is extremely sad (explaining the few tears amongst audience members including mine) the production is so good that I found myself leaving the theatre on a high.
Madama Butterfly is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne’s State Theatre on May 22 and 30. Hiromi Omura is playing Cio-Cio-San until 16 May when Hyesoung Kwon takes over, while James Eggleston is Pinkerton until 16 May when Martin Buckingham assumes the role. According to Opera Australia this is the last time this production is likely to be shown in Melbourne.
Tickets are available via the Opera Australia website. The production is one of three playing in Melbourne during May, the other two operas being Don Giovanni and Don Carlos.
Jenny Burns attended the opening night of Madama Butterfly on May 4 as a guest of Opera Australia.