Puccini’s Madam Butterfly Reinvented at the London Coliseum:
I have often thought about going to the opera but factors like the eye-watering price of tickets and the fear that with the score sung in a foreign language I might struggle to keep up with the storyline, have put me off. When I saw that Madam Butterfly was being performed at the London Coliseum, sung in English and with tickets starting from £12, I thought this was my opportunity. I was not disappointed.
I feel the ENO at the Coliseum can be rather overshadowed by its neighbour, The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. However, I have often been to the ballet at the Coliseum and found it not only to be more reasonably priced but not at all lacking in style, class or talent. In fact, the theatre is one of the most ornate in London. On this occasion, they have revised Oscar-winning film director Anthony Minghella’s production of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly. The stunning music is brought to life with an equally stunning visual spectacle
The opening scene shows Butterfly alone and silhouetted against a blood red backdrop with streamers of red silk floating out of her body; a premonition of what her fate is to be. As the red silk falls away, she then begins a beautiful silhouetted fan-dance and as you sit back and take all of this in, with Puccini’s score ringing out across the theatre, you know you are in for a treat.
Truth be told, even though they are singing in English, you do need to refer to the subtitles being screened at the top of the stage. However, even without them you are easily swept along with the tragic story of a young girl, tricked and seduced into a sham of a marriage and then abandoned but never giving up hope that some day her love will return to her. The end of Act One shows Butterfly and her new “husband” retiring to the bedroom, their path lit by lanterns and with a confetti of cherry blossom falling upon their heads. It is truly beautiful.
Another clever aspect of the production was using a Japanese Bunraku puppet as Sorrow, Butterfly’s young son. Although the puppet is certainly not pretty (in fact he’s rather eerie), he is so skillfully manipulated that he conjures up the illusion of a tiny boy in such a way that you soon cease to notice the three black-veiled puppeteers working him.
As a novice of the opera, I was blown away by the whole production. I would urge anyone who isn’t sure if they would like opera to give this performance a chance. It’s a very good “entry level” production with some beautiful music and visual effects. With tickets starting from £12 (top price is £125) and an assurance from the box office that there are 500 tickets available at every performance for £20 or less, you are not going to find a better deal. Be quick, though, this production has a limited run with the closing night on 7th July.
For more information check the ENO website