Thursday, October 23, 2008

Madame Butterfly

Last night Brent took me to the Utah Opera's production of Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. It's always fun to get dressed up, go out to dinner, and then to the opera. Brent really enjoys it too. Usually when I tell people we're going to the opera they make some comment about how I must have guilted, persuaded, or otherwise tricked my husband into going. Actually, it was Brent who suggested that we attend the opera together, that first time we went when we had just met.

Brent took some sort of opera appreciation class in his undergraduate years at the U. He learned four Mozart operas in depth, so he is very familiar with those four, and willing to learn about others. (He is VERY excited about Marriage of Figaro coming up this season.) That doesn't keep him from dozing off now and again during the show, but he enjoys it nonetheless.

I've been rather dissatisfied with the Utah Opera the last few productions I've seen. The worst was a couple years ago when they did The Magic Flute. The woman who sang the Queen of the Night aria was TERRIBLE. She was totally off key on the super high part. I don't know if she was just having an off night, but good grief! She's supposed to be a professional and I paid good money to hear that aria and NOT cringe during it. But I digress. Back to Madame Butterfly.

I won't bother putting in a synopsis here. If you like opera, you likely already know the plot lines of Madame Butterfly, and if you don't I'm sure you'll likely look it up. If you don't like opera, then you've probably stopped reading this post a long time ago, so it doesn't matter anyway.

The production of Madame Butterfly was lovely. The playbill (as pictured here) was stunning. The set perfect. The costumes beautiful. The performers were perfectly adequate. Their acting was good, their singing was good. Their performances left nothing wanting, technically. The soprano who played Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) was very good, but her voice didn't transport me during the famous aria "Un bel di" as I might wish.

However, the adequacy (and one might say mediocrity) of the performers couldn't mar the beauty and near perfection of Puccini's writing. Madame Butterfly is certainly one of the most tragic of all operas, and you feel such pity for the naive Butterfly, even from the very beginning. As she sings of that "one beautiful day" when her beloved husband, B.F. Pinkerton, will return to her after a three year absence, you feel so sad for her. You, as the audience, realize that Pinkerton does not love her and has no intention of returning to her, which makes her faith, love, and devotion all the more moving as you listen to the soaring melody.

Of course the end is tragic, and I usually am crying at the end of tragic operas. Last night, however, I was sobbing for a good part of the last 30 minutes. I won't go into details, because I could never do them justice. Let me just declare that only a woman who passionately loves her husband and desperately loves her child could feel so affected by this opera. After the final heart-wrenching moment I was almost shocked at the amount of grief I felt. The curtain dropped, and suddenly rose again for the applause. It was such a jarring shift of emotion. It took me a couple of minutes to calm down and stem the tide before I could join in the applause. I think the curtain should have stayed down for a full minute or so, just to let the ending sink into the audience a bit.

I'd recommend going, but it has sold out. So sorry if you wanted to see it. "No soup for you."


Emily said...

I'm confused. You said you were dissatisfied, but then you said it was lovely. Were you dissatisfied with the Utah Opera UNTIL this one?

Maren said...

Sorry if I was unclear. Let me clarify. I am unsatisfied in general with the quality of performers the Utah Opera has been hiring.

Despite that, I am quite happy with the opera itself. Merely adequate performers could not mar the beauty of the music or the drama of the libretto. That remains unchanged and as powerful as ever.

Jennifer and Nathan said...

I especially liked the Seinfeld reference after that poetic and heartfelt critique!

Jaclyn said...

Can't tell you how jealous I am. It would be next to impossible to getting Jake to the opera. It would take a really big use either as a present or as a threat....! And Madame Butterfly! You lucky duck!