Puccini’s Madama Butterfly was performed at the Israeli Opera in a co-production
with the Warsaw Wielki Opera just as it was four years ago, with only slight
This tearjerker seems to have retained its audience
appeal, even though exoticism’s novelty charm wore off decades ago. Japan is
more associated nowadays with Toyota cars and Sony transistors than with geishas
and Buddhist priests, and male infidelity today is no more exceptional than it
was in Puccini’s day.
Mariusz Trelinski’s direction and Boris Kudlicka’s
sets have stood the test of time. Now as then, they reflect refined taste,
careful avoidance of conventional realism or exoticism, and intelligent
abstention from sophisticated modernism.
The final suicide scene, though,
suffered from overdone theatricality, rendering the proceedings indigestible,
where the sorrowful facts might profitably have been left to
The Japanese symbols for “life” and “death,” at the
beginning and end respectively, were an original idea, no doubt, but wasted on
an audience that presumably did not understand their meaning.
title role, Ira Bertman was a disappointment, especially as expectations had
been high. Impressive though her bright soprano sounded, she functioned upon the
erroneous assumption that strong emotions have to be expressed by shouting,
making one wish to turn the volume down.
She just did not capture the
innocent, mild, devoted nature of this young, naive girl whose voice gets softer
the more intense her feelings become. Consequently, the singer acted the role,
wearing her emotions on the surface, rather than identifying with them
internally. Her voice also sounded more mature and determined than was suitable
for this lovely, teenage character.
As Pinkerton, Zoran Todorovich’s
radiant lyric tenor impersonated a credibly impassioned lover in Act One, and
genuine, moving remorse in his final scene.
Vladimir Braun’s warm,
sonorous bassbaritone represented a dignified, authoritative Sharpless. Ayala
Zimbler’s appealing, expressive mezzo-soprano was a sympathy-evoking
The Israel Opera Chorus displayed a full, rich sound and
perfectly balanced homogeneity. Its Humming Choir was one of the performance’s
Conducted by Luciano di Martino, the Symphony Orchestra
Rishon Lezion was a full-fledged partner of this production.
were conveyed sensitively and impressively, and dramatic events were emphasized
forcefully and persuasively.