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Subject: butterfly
From: gordon young <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:gordon young <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 4 Mar 2018 16:46:42 -0600
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In a continuing exploration of the various modes of translating operas in
Europe, last night I decided to watch a production of Butterfly from
Brussels. This production is influenced by the Japanese theater.



To get started let me begin with probably the most significant directorial
concept.  Some have objected to the Met’s puppet child … well this
production goes that one better – Cio Cio San is a puppet, a very pretty
puppet but one with no ability to express emotion. Thinking about the love
duet made me a bit anxious, how would they represent the physical love
between the puppet and a real person? When the child appears in act two one
sees the disastrous result of the union of the two. Trouble looks like a
combination of the Big Boy Burgers Guy and a Weeble – a look not even a
mother could love.



The singer of Butterfly is an older woman with long stringy gray hair
dressed in the same costume as Cio Cio San. She is standing at the side of
the stage. Sometimes her singing is ok but at other times like at the end
of “Un bel di” her voice disappears. I wondered if this was a directorial
idea or if she just ran out of steam. Who is the lady? Since I can create
my idea of her, as the director doesn’t, I thought maybe she is a guilt
ridden Kate who in her madness becomes Butterfly repeating the story over
and over again.

Sharpless is missing an arm. I don’t know if the singer is really missing
the arm or it is just part of Sharpless’s character.

Pinkerton is an interesting singer that, I think, I should dislike as he
has a heavy shimmering vibrato but, for me, it is a pleasant sound (think
of some of the Cetra tenors.) And he looks the part but because of the
directorial concept he never is able to create a personality for Pinkerton,
he just stands there and sings.



The staging is quite simple as are most of these European productions and
there are no props or few props. To begin the third act the crazy lady (the
other Butterfly) does a pantomime violently cutting a white screen with a
BIG knife. The knife has, however, disappeared before Butterfly’s suicide.



In this production the small chorus attending the wedding are dressed in
the most unusual costumes looking more like the costumes at a dada or
surreal costume party in the early 20th century. I’m not sure what the
designer was thinking this would add to the story or the telling of the
story. They return in the last act … for some reason.



I may question the directorial decisions in these regie productions but I
find the results intriguing and frustrating. If we are to criticize this
tendency we need to know it and there are many examples on Youtube.

Gordon

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