Madame Butterfly of Puccini is a well -known, very dear and popular opera. The genre is full of fatal femmes, Butterfly, Tosca, Manon, Carmen, Lucía, Violetta and Katya, for example, who obtain it at the end, so one might think that there is not much to do in terms of new perspectives when such Such organizes a family work with such a well -worked topic. Opera lovers, however, will confirm that there is definitely!
The audiences tend to fall into two different groups, those for whom any detour from their own preconceived ideas means the end of civilization, and those for whom the radical interpretation is a welcome challenge for the establishment. However, there is another perspective, in which the directors, through minor changes in the staging, can completely transform the way we understand these stories often rigidly interpreted. Such was the success of Emilio López, the director of the recent production in Valencia. Its 2021 Butterfly staging will be broadcast in Opera Vision on Sunday, December 19 and will be available through that website for a few weeks. It is successful at several levels, one of which is revealing.
Let’s start with the term verismo. That was certainly applied to the way Puccini addressed his work and implies that the environment should not be palatial and that the characters could be represented as everyday people. We can assume that the composer never experienced Japan from the mid -19th century around the opera, so if verismo applies to the butterfly, then it is mainly applied at the ideological level. That said, the potential of the opera for the costume drama generally exceeds the designers and directors that even the recognition of verismo in the result is obscured. In other words, everything becomes pretty before it can be credible. And it is verismo that suffers.
In act one, Cio-Ci-san describes how it is of a poor home and became a geisha due to the lack of opportunities. The ceremonial dagger that he finally uses to take his own life was presented to his father by the mikado with request that he uses it in himself. We must assume that Butterfly’s family was already in disgrace. Then aggravates this misfortune rejecting its cultural and religious traditions, an act that Uncle Bonze condemns, which leads to his friends and the community to reject her, all except Suzuki, of course. The fact that Puccini takes us to the love scene of the wedding night often obscures this rejection. In the production of Valencia, a backdrop that Cherry Blossom had presented becomes the starry night of the couple’s ecstasy, but does so melting as a celluloid in an overheated projector, which implies that the comforting flowers of the past have been destroyed . The starry night persists in events two and three, but therefore becomes a symbol of continuous isolation and the insistence of Butterfly, it is not imperative to live in the past.
Cio-ci-san often presents himself as a meek Asian woman and, therefore, stereotypical, who has never practiced the word “boo” with nearby geese. As a result, it often becomes the unique naive devotee, even simple of Pinkerton, despite the fact that, as a geisha, it must have had experience in the flywheel flyer. The supplicating image attracts it to the public, perhaps, but it strips it of the identity and individuality that it certainly has, otherwise it would never have pursued its own private desires with such mind.
The point is that she does not have much choice. She is poor. She is a geisha. She has done her job. Pinkerton offers her an exit, which she, perhaps ingenious accepts. But once he has committed, he can’t return. She wants to please him, but in doing so he suffers the rejection of her own community. But she has to pass with the risk.
In Valencia, Emilio López acknowledges that Cio-Ci-San lives in poverty. Ignorated by Pinkerton for three years and still rejected by her own community, she and Suzuki live in the midst of decomposition and dirt. The temptation to portray Butterfly still in full and opulent Geisha Regalia makes no sense and is convinced in a convincing way in this production. Suzuki confirms this poverty in the libretto. What too often appears as blind faith by Butterfly now becomes necessity, imposed by its community due to its rejection by and of them. She can’t come back. She has no choice. This is an element of verismo in the opera that directors often tend to overlook.
But in this production of Valencia, the true surprise reaches the end. Pinkerton has returned but has refused to see Butterfly.
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