Kenneth Wolman wrote:
> The first time I ever saw what looked like a real
> stage kiss in an opera, it was in the context of Norman Mittelmann
> (as Silvio) laying on top of Teresa Stratas (Nedda) while they sang
> "Tutto scordiam."
This scene still plays very hot today, or at least did a couple of
weeks ago with Soviero and Mark Oswald. But the sensuality of the
"Butterfly" production was not, in fact, what Mme. Albanese was booing.
I had the opportunity to chat with her briefly about this production
backstage at the Westchester Hudson Opera, where she was honored during
the intermission of "Tosca". Mme. Albanese can be testy and short-
tempered, but in this case she spoke quite calmly, backing up her
opinions with quotations from the libretto to "Butterfly" and
references to Japanese customs of the 1900 era. Albanese began by
saying that she was not "proud to boo", adding that she thought it was
wrong *ever* to boo a singer. She found the passionate embrace ending
Act 1 rather poor taste, but she allowed that others might find that
part of the staging valid. What she *really* objected to was the
depiction of Pinkerton as a drunken lout. As she put it, "If a woman
marries a man like that, then she is a fool. And Puccini did not write
an opera about a fool!" She complained about the overdone drunk scene
("the public is not stupid; they know he has had a drink without seeing
him stumble and fall") and pointed out especially the moment when
Pinkerton draws his service revolver and threatens the Bonze -- that
business makes him a coward as well as a jerk.
> I didn't see the Del Monaco production "live," but I own a tape of
> it, complete with Catherine Malfitano's (lovely) bare shoulders and
> her wading pool act, and Richard Leech doing about as convincing a
> horny drunk as I've ever seen in any theater....When, after all, did
> Pinkerton become anyone's idea of anything BUT a Humbert Humbert slob
> in dress whites?
I agree that Leech and Malfiaton were brilliant, but I would suggest
Mr. del Monaco had very little to do with that.
Pinkerton is not in any way *my* idea of a Humbert Humbert. Humbert
was a middle-aged man attracted to an 11-year old girl. Pinkerton is
in his mid-20s, engaged to a girl at most 10 years his junior, but of
legal marriage age. I think Pinkerton is no monster at all, just a
spoiled and callow young man who doesn't quite think things out.
I agree with Mme. Albanese that the worse Pinkerton looks, the worse
By the time the production was revived in the spring, most of the
business Mme. Albanese objected to was modified or eliminated. It's
still not much of a production, but at least it's not the hideous mess
it once was.
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"I don't want to be educated. I want to be drowned in beauty!"
-- Diana Vreeland