Wednesday, 23 April 2014 17:16

Madama Butterfly Soars

Written by  Allison Parker
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Madama Butterfly Madama Butterfly

Opera Grand Rapids presents Madama Butterfly
DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids
May 9 & 10, 7:30 p.m.
$21-$98, students 50 percent off
operagr.org, (616) 451-2741

Puccini's Madama Butterfly couldn't be more aptly named. Besides the fact that its main character's name means “butterfly” in Japanese, Madama Butterfly also has a fitting title in light of the opera’s history. Much like its namesake, Butterfly underwent a dramatic metamorphosis from a seemingly insignificant form to a vibrant mature version commanding awe and admiration.

Butterfly’s 1904 opera debut was a miserable flop underscored by scathing critical reviews and open jeers and boos from its audience. Puccini’s revised version was far more successful, but it was not until three further revisions that the opera morphed into the final version most often performed today.

Now Butterfly is a beloved repertoire staple and the seventh most performed opera in the world. Since bursting out of its originally inauspicious cocoon, Butterfly has also spread its wings beyond opera and affected other genres, inspiring such notable retellings as Miss Saigon and Memoirs of a Geisha.

In contrast to some modern adaptations, however, Opera Grand Rapids' Butterfly is traditional telling that remains faithful to Puccini’s masterful original. The story is set in Nagasaki, Japan, where teenaged geisha Cio-Cio San blissfully marries an American naval officer, Pinkerton. When Pinkerton deserts his new bride and their unborn child to go find a proper American wife, Cio-Cio San remains steadfast in her lovestruck conviction that Pinkerton will return. When Pinkerton does finally appear again, it is not to resume his life with Cio-Cio San as she assumes, but rather to take their child away with him. This devastating shock builds to a tragic climax in which Cio-Cio San’s grief drives her to a course of desperate action.

The storyline’s intense passion and ability to resonate with audiences are a large part of what has made the opera such an extraordinary standout.

It’s an universal story — the culture, if you will, of men being stationed at different ports and striking up relationships there," Conductor and Artistic Director Robert Lyall said. “It's true of every nation and every country. There isn't anyone who can't relate to this story in human terms and at large. It speaks to all ages and all cultures — it’s terrifically poignant.”

While the heavy subject matter and Italian libretto may seem overwhelming to some opera newcomers, English titles and remarkably expressive music prevent confusion and keep audiences immersed in the story.

[Madama Butterfly is] not difficult to go and sit through," Lyall said. "It's a very lush score — a fantastic opera for people who are new. The music is so vivid that it fully captures the subject and expresses it completely. The musical language is so rich and lovely that it's just going to speak to any audience ...

If you like large, colorful pieces with great emotional sweep, Madama Butterfly is wonderful. It's a work you'll enjoy the first time and the tenth time."

 

Other Performing Arts Events

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Grand Rapids Ballet
May 9-11 & 16-18, show times at 2 & 7:30 p.m.
$30-$40, college rush $12
grballet.com, (616) 454-4771

Grand Rapids Ballet concludes its season with the world premiere of Olivier Wevers' spin on a Shakespeare classic. The story centers around four young people, each smitten with the wrong person. When the lovers' romantic pursuits lead them to an enchanted forest, they become entangled in a quarrel between fairy rulers. Add a love potion and a fairy prankster to the mix, and you get a relationship diagram so complex that it can only be described as a love polygon.

 

Jesus Christ Superstar
Circle Theatre, Grand Rapids
May 8-10, 14-18, 21-24; show times at 5 & 7:30 p.m.
$13.50-$27
circletheatre.org, (616) 456-6656
 


The first Broadway musical to bill itself as a rock opera,
Jesus Christ Superstar explores themes of rebellion and social upheaval through socio-political game-changer, Jesus Christ. Anachronisms and modern slang strategically steer audiences away from complete immersion in the biblical age and draw parallels to many of today's phenomena. Infectious music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice accompany this extraordinary theatrical satire.

 

The Moth Mainstage
Wharton Center, East Lansing
May 28, 7:30 p.m.
$32 General, $60 VIP
whartoncenter.com, (517) 353-1982

The Moth celebrates the timeless art of storytelling in a profoundly stripped-down setting. Expert raconteurs testify to the mesmerizing pull of a tale-well-told through no-fuss-no-frills recitations that represent both national and local voices. Stories range from hilarious comedies to suspenseful dramas, and uniquely blur the line between theater and documentary.

Login to post comments

© 2018 Revue and Revue Holding Company

Join Our Newsletter!

Event Calendar

Breaking News

readthisissue 11.18