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From: Keith O Chapman <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Keith O Chapman <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 20 Jan 1998 16:35:00 -0600

TEXT/PLAIN (77 lines)

Since it's been changed to the American consulate's office for Acts 1 & 2
I might as well change her from MADAMA too.

Well, Ms. Zambello leaves me looking forward to her vision of BILLY BUDD
which I heard nothing but wonderful things about.  I'll need it after
viewing her misguided attempt to re-interpret one of the mainstays of
operatic literature.  Ms. Zambello decided that she would reset part of
BUTTERFLY in the consulate's office - in accordance with the Belasco play.
Nevermind the fact that Puccini threw out all the scenes from the Belasco
play (and the short story) which occur in places other than Cio-Cio-San's
house.  But I guess she knows better what serves Puccini than he does.  Of
course it is a little complicated since there is no scene change music to
be able to move the action from the office to the house.  So she made up
for that by completely changing styles of staging.  We get completely
realistic sets for the office of the consulate - desk, a window with a
view of the port, a lovely wooden filing cabinet, metal overhead fans
(obviously army surplus from WWII), lots of chairs for the Japanese
emmigrants applying for passage to America (I guess) and then we switch to
the house by removing all the furniture and wall from the stage and flying
in a couple bamboo screens (okay - five).  Realism to minimalism.  Makes
sense, n'est-ce-pas?  Oh yeah.  Goro is showing a *model* of the house
Pinkerton is leasing to everyone.  Like when you buy one in a new housing
development.  Boy doesn't *that* get around all the opening dialogue.
Sharpless appears huffing and puffing about the climb up.  From where I
wonder?  The front steps of the office?  Remember the window?  Suddenly a
bunch of American women run in like they had just been frightened out of
their wits by a strange 'devil' creature and we get Butterfly's entrance.
Doesn't Puccini call for her 'friends' in the score.  Why are all these
American's at a wedding they all know is bogus anyway.  For the liquor
most likely.  Butterfly is followed by six family members.  They have to
transport all her belongings from the house to the wedding.  Bonze appears
(upsatge behind a scrim) and curses and since they *have* to sing it
(since they are the chorus) the Americans curse Butterfly too.  (like they
would give a f***!)  After Pinkerton throws them out of his house - oops
they translated *that* line to "in this place" we get the magical
transformation to the house for the love duet.

Act II is more of the same.  Mostly set in the consuls office which
nagically disappears when the harbor guns sound.  but there are *no*
screens this time.  Just a wooden floor.  Oh yeah - so Suzuki brings her
portable altar to the office so she can pray, Yamadori shows up at the
office to entreat Buttefly to marry him, Butterfly gives Sharpless
permission to smoke in his own office, she brings her portable tea service
to serve him tea, he pulls the letter out of the filing cabinet *as an
afterthought*, Butterfly physically abuses both Suzuki and Goro in the
office in front of all those people.  You get the idea.  And they keep
changing the translation but not the sung text.  The flowers in the flower
duet appear from overhead (finally a couple baskets are brought on by
Suzuki and Sorrow).  My favorite was when Butterfly read the name of the
ship which was in the port in back of her while she was facin the
audience.  Wish I could have been on orchestra to see the mirror she read
it from.

Act III (they do the 3 act version with no intermission between 2 & 3
to make it a two act version though I think that's becoming more common)
is set all in the house (no way to clean up all those petals - though we
do get a glimpse of the bustling activity on the dock during the Act III
prelude).  It's fairly standard (and we get a few screens again) but for
some reason Goro stands upstage and observes all the interaction between
Kate/Sharpless/Suzuki/Pinkerton.  Whatever for?  He's that much of a
gossip?  No big surprise at the end either.  She cuts her throat,
Pinkerton rushes on, she dies in his arms and the kid is there.  What did
she (Zambello) think was going to be a surprise?

The costumes are nice with the exception of Yamadori - or better Yamadorky
in that getup.  I do not know the name of the of the costume worn by
Japanese men but it is the long flowing pant/skirt thingie (please
forgive me Akira and other Japanese listers).  Yamadori's was in gold
lame, and he wore a tux jacket with tux shirt (they weren't around at the
turn of the century, right?) and tie, a black bowler cocked rakishly to
one side and the wooden sandals (again name?) which were about six inches
high.  He looked like a travesty or better - en travestie.

New computer is here.  Will write more later


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