While the Sydney Opera House undergoes a costly and controversial makeover, Opera Australia has returned to Haymarket to perform its popular production of Madama Butterfly.
Before the Sydney Opera House opened at Bennelong Point 44 years ago, operas were staged at a long since demolished theatre in Quay Street just a few blocks from the Capitol Theatre. Whether or not the state government is able to fix the acoustic issues at the Sydney Opera House by spending $200 million further corrupting Utzon’s original design is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, Sydneysiders have the opportunity to experience Opera Australia in a completely different setting. The seating capacity of the Capitol Theatre is actually one third larger than the company’s home at the Joan Sutherland Theatre in the Sydney Opera House. And yet somehow the production feels more intimate. In order to fit into Utzon’s shell, the Opera House theatre is narrower and steeper while the Capitol Theatre is wider, meaning that the stage is bigger and the seats feel closer to the set. Quite possibly the improved acoustics at the Capitol also bring the audience closer to the soaring sound.
Haymarket may be a new setting but the current production has been trotted out by Opera Australia 150 times over the last 20 years. This season will be its last. If you’ve never seen Moffat Oxenbould’s much loved production of the Puccini classic, you should make the effort. The traditional Japanese room with sliding wooden shoji doors surrounded by a pond; the gorgeous period costumes with kimonos and Shinto robes are stunning. South Korean soprano Karah Son is mesmerising as Butterfly. The Mexican born tenor Diego Torre owns the role of the dastardly B.F. Pinkerton. Together they perform the Love Duet at the end of Act One superbly. Karah Son’s rendition of Butterfly’s tragic final aria Un Bel Di is devastatingly beautiful.
Set on a different stage this classic production of an old gem sparkles anew. (LG)
Until Nov 4. Capitol Theatre, 13 Campbell St, Haymarket. $65-$189+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.opera.org.au