By Adelina Fabiano
“Butterfly” soars high on Toronto stage
As this is my second time seeing Madama Butterfly, I have to admit I had great expectations. The last production I saw had been a remarkable one, back in Calgary at the Jubilee Auditorium produced by the Calgary Opera Company. However, similar to a community theatre company, charitable and non-profit, the Toronto Opera Repertoire’s spirited production of Madama Butterfly soared higher than expected.
Directed by the accomplished Giuseppe Macina, accompanied by the talented musical director Adolfo De Santis conducting Puccini’s heartbreaking and dramatic score, intensely powerful performances, against the backdrop of Japan’s exquisite and delicate landscape, Madama Butterfly takes flight.
Set in Nagasaki, Japan in the early 1900s, Madama Butterfly, written by the brilliant Giacomo Puccini tells the story of a Japanese geisha, Cio-Cio-San, an innocent, trusting, 15-year-old girl who falls hopelessly in love with B.F. Pinkerton, an American naval officer. Although captivated by the young woman nicknamed “Butterfly,” Pinkerton intends to keep his marriage to the girl temporary until he returns to America, unbeknownst to “Butterfly” of course.
The soul of the show is undoubtedly Cio-Cio-San, “Madama Butterfly,” played beautifully by Jennifer Rasor. She embodied Cio Cio San’s delicate and vulnerable nature in such a way that every spectator could not help but feel the pain she endured right up to her inevitable end.
I admire Opera singers tremendously for not only must they deliver challenging musical scores and lyrics in an extraordinary way, but simultaneously create a character with emotional depth and dimension. Gerald Hannon in the role of Sharpless, the U.S. Consul, who warned Pinkerton and took pity on “Butterfly,” evoked a sincere sympathy towards Butterfly and I felt some of their moments to be most powerful.
Macina not only directed the production with such detail and precision to the script, but was also responsible for the staging and set design. Set in a beautiful Japanese garden with large archways in the back, the audience was easily transported to the serene home Pinkerton had leased, along with his Japanese wife, only to be juxtaposed against Butterfly’s internal chaos and hopeless anticipation for her Pinkerton to return.
Traditional Japanese costumes worn by the entire ensemble complemented the make-up and hair design by Beatrice Carpino, also one of the company’s directors. The brightly coloured kimonos and the geisha make-up added color and light to the overall staging.
The Toronto Opera Repertoire company offers one of the lowest-priced live opera tickets in the city, making opera accessible to everyone.
The cast and crew had clearly put their hearts into this show. My mother absolutely loved the production and couldn’t believe two and half hours had gone by so quickly. Although we have had the privilege of seeing some wonderful shows at the ancient outdoor arena in Verona, Italy (still hoping to afford “Scala” tickets in Milano one day) this remounting of “Madama Butterfly” by a humble and talented community opera company was simply impressive and moving!
–The Toronto Opera Repertoire’s production of Madama Butterfly will be playing at the Bickford Center (777 Bloor Street West at Christie Subway Station) on February 16th, 19th and 25th at 7:30pm as well as February 27th at 2:00pm and March 2nd and 5th at 7:30pm.