Opera Review: Puccini's 'Madama Butterfly'

The production tastefully steered clear of conservative realism and also of sophisticated modernism.

Madama Butterfly 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Madama Butterfly 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israel Opera Puccini: Madama Butterfly The Opera House April 13 Puccini's Madama Butterfly, at the Israel Opera, was a production of the Warsaw's Theater Wilelki National Opera, directed by Mariusz Trelinski with sets designed by Boris Kudlicka. The production tastefully steered clear of conservative realism and also of sophisticated modernism. A generally neutral yet inventive approach also avoided commonplace exoticism. The ominous Japanese letter "death," screened on the background in the scene preceding Butterfly's suicide, admittedly a brilliant idea, was no doubt wasted on an audience that presumably did not know the meaning of that sign. Above all, this performance avoided opera's tendency toward melodramatic sentimentality. In the title role, Hiromi Omura perfectly captured Cio-Cio-San's fragile, delicate character. In her aria "One fine day," one of the opera's highlights, her clear, young-sounding soprano remained soft and ingratiating. Though intense, she resisted the temptation to shout out her strong emotions. In the suicide scene, she mercifully made her intentions unmistakably clear while leaving the act itself to the audience's imagination. Zoran Todorovich's impassioned tenor credibly conveyed Pinkerton's infatuation with her as well as, in the final welfare aria, his profound remorse for his infidelity. Joseph Hu's antics as Goro were amusing, but unsurprisingly reminiscent of the Peking Opera acting style more than of any Japanese mode of movement. Svetlana Sandler, Vladimir Braun and Noah Briger, as Suzuki, Sharpless and Yamadori respectively, successfully competed with their own performances in the same roles in an earlier Israel Opera Madama Butterfly production. The Israel Opera Chorus and the Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion, conducted by Daniel Inbal, convincingly created the emotionally charged mood.