Butterfly flutters by again

A contemporary production stars Polish season at the Israel Opera.

m butterfly 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
m butterfly 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There's opera, grand opera and four-handkerchief opera. Puccini's Madame Butterfly is definitely the latter telling the story of a naïve young Japanese geisha and an American naval officer. They fall in love, get married and, when the US Navy leaves, the officer swears he'll come back "when the robins nest". So he does, three years later, with an American wife. At last the painful truth is revealed to the loyal lass. And, as opera lovers everywhere sob happily into their hankies while keeping their eyes firmly on the stage, pretty, though wronged Cio Cio San puts an American flag into her little son's hand and sends him off to his Daddy, the unfaithful Lieutenant Pinkerton. She then commits ritual suicide, singing gloriously all the while. This is the problem with so many productions of Butterfly, thinks cutting-edge Polish director Mariusz Trelinski. They're loaded with the "cultural clichés through which the West traditionally perceives Japan," which makes some of them pretty boring, he states. Instead, his Butterfly "seeks to invoke the atmosphere and feel of present day Japan." His acclaimed production, first given at the Polish National Opera in Warsaw in 1999, opens at the Israel Opera on Wednesday, ushering in the Polish Season and kicking off a series of cultural exchange events between the two countries. Designed by long-term associate Boris Kudlicka, Trelinski's Warsaw Butterfly was a huge success. Placido Domingo saw it and consequently invited him to direct it for the Washington Opera in 2001. That production opened the door to his international career. Trelinski has also done a Queen of Spades at the Staatsoper in Berlin, a Don Giovanni at Los Angeles and Butterfly again at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. Trelinski, who was born in 1961, makes his local debut with this production. He graduated from the State School of Film TV and Theater in Lodz, and began his career as a film director having made award-winning films such as Farewell to Autumn (1990) and The Gentle One (1995). Opera did not supplant his original passion and he continues to make movies even as recently as 2001's The Egoists. Additionally, he also does work for TV, including commercials. In a 2002 interview he said that he came to opera from the outside with the over all aim "to open this creative form to contemporary times, to give it the dynamic and temperature of our times. The beauty of traditional operatic music combined with contemporary aesthetics is a truly electrifying mix." This production features Japanese soprano Hiromi Omura making her local debut as Cio Cio San together with Croatian tenor Zoran Todorovich as Pinkerton. Israeli singers Larissa Tetuev and Yotam Cohen are doubling the roles and Svetlana Sandler sings Suzuki, Cio Cio San's faithful maid. Conducting the production, which runs through April 22, are Omer Welber and Daniel Inbal, who is making his local debut. By the way, Butterfly premiered at La Scala, Milan in 1904 to boos and catcalls from a rowdy audience. Tickets for Madame Butterfly are priced between NIS 160-399 and may be purchased by calling (03) 692-7777. The Israel Opera is located at 19 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard, Tel Aviv and online at israel-opera.co.il.