1st July 2019: Madama Butterfly (2019)

by Archy Will He

A 2019 reproduction of 1904’s opera Madama Butterfly (by Giacomo Puccini), Madama Butterfly (choreographed by Graeme Murphy) presented by Opera Australia retells the century-old story in a somewhat contemporary manner while retaining the traditional art form of Italian opera.

Intermingled with English and Japanese words (as originally intended by Puccini), the emotional Italian-styled composition is met with avant-garde props, costumes and scenic designs (which in my opinion is the best part of the whole experience because the mechanical suspended stage in a unfathomable shape, moving, rotating, and tilting in unfathomable ways above the main stage gives a very beautiful contemporary twist to the whole composition) to fit the 21st century’s post-modernistic needs of combinatorial amusement, which in turn creates a somewhat surreal experience, if sad Japanese characters speaking Italiano feverishly in operatic voices is not surreal enough.

It was an overall delightful and satisfying experience, though many elements of the composition may sometimes feel cliché but often in a somewhat cute way (which is perhaps one of the many beauties of Italian opera). As much as I was moved a little bit to tears by the liveliness in the performance by the lovely members of Opera Australia in terms of feeling the raw emotions expressed within the libretto, the liveliness in the performance made me a little bit sad too in regard to how little Italiano I had picked up while I was in Alassio and Milano with my beautiful Italiano friends. It would have been a life-transforming experience if I were able to make out more Italiano words buried in these passionate operatic voices coated with orchestral dramatism, other than just words like complemento.

On the other hand, it was a very touristic experience as well due to how famous and easily-accessible the venue is, which in many ways dilutes the artistic value, especially considering the number of people (presumedly tourists) that coughed without covering their mouths during the entire performance. Or perhaps this is the rationale behind paying $600 for the best seat in the theater where you are far away from people.

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