Pity poor Butterfly: a 15-year-old geisha who marries an American naval officer on duty in Nagasaki Japan at the end of the 19th century. Naïvely devoted to an ugly American, she renounces her ancestral religion and is in turn renounced by her family. Butterfly’s husband, Benjamin F Pinkerton leaves Japan vowing to return in the spring. The cherry blossoms bloom and fall three times. Butterfly’s half-American baby boy turns three. And then one day— after three long years — a two-timing Pinkerton returns to port with a new American bride. Devastated and betrayed, Butterfly commits hara kiri, kabuki style.
Puccini’s popular opera has become a regular part of the repertoire at Opera Australia, so much so that the current production is starting to fray a bit at the edges. The wooden set with Japanese screens and a pond appears stark and the lighting is harsh at times. Japanese born soprano Hiromi Omura is stunning as Madama Butterfly, though there is little real chemistry between her and the Australian born tenor James Egglestone, who is dashing before he dashes off to find an American bride. The orchestra soars under the baton of the Japanese born conductor Ryuskuke Numajiri . Through it all, Puccini’s score is stupendous.
Until Nov 1, Sydney Opera House, $58-297, 9318 8200, opera-australia.org.au