Madama Butterfly in Lucca

Recently, I’ve been staying with my family near Lucca, in Tuscany. Lucca is a gorgeous medieval city and its two greatest achievements are having maintained an intact city wall for 500 years and being the birthplace of Puccini. With this in mind, the Comune di Lucca in collaboration with the University of Western Ontario organised performances of operas on the city walls and while I was in Lucca I was able to go to one of these – Madama Butterfly (there was no performance of Tosca, which I thought was surely a missed opportunity if you have a wall to perform operas on).

The set was laid out on a small platform on one of the bastions found at each corner of the walls, next to the row of trees at the edge of the outer wall itself. It consisted of three white screens at the back of the platform and various large white egg-like things on the floor (these were used as essentially every prop that was needed, from the flowers they decorate the house with to Butterfly’s child). There wasn’t very much seating, so most people sat on the grass or on the stone ruins surrounding the seating. Dusk had begun by the time it started and by the end it was completely dark.

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Cecily Bednarek as Butterfly

This performance was an edited version of the opera and as I didn’t know Madama Butterfly very well to start off with, I couldn’t always tell exactly what was going on or which bits had been cut out. The idea was to show the events of the opera as either a series of flashbacks or events imagined or dreamt by Butterfly. I was mostly able to follow what was happening – the plot essentially went as you would expect, but occasionally cutting back to Butterfly and Suzuki waiting for Pinkerton to come back. They cut out some of the duet between Butterfly and Pinkerton and, as there were only four singers, any parts for anyone other than Butterfly, Pinkerton, Suzuki or Sharpless. The only part of this editing that I found really confusing was right at the end, when Butterfly didn’t kill herself and just carried on singing. I wasn’t able to follow what she was saying and so had no idea what was going on. It ended with her tearing open one of the screens at the back and walking off that way. While the extra bit was perfectly nice to listen to, I still have no idea where it came from or what it meant.

The singers all performed well – Cecily Bednarek as Butterfly sounded a little unsure of herself to begin with but once she had got past “Un bel di”, which she sang beautifully, her voice became more confident, as did her acting. Leanne Kaufman (Suzuki), Kyle Melton (Pinkerton) and Mattia Campetti (Sharpless) all sang confidently as well, but it was Butterfly’s show, as in this edited version she had by far the most singing and was on stage all the way through. The Humming Chorus was the only part of the singing that I really didn’t like: it doesn’t work with only four people singing it. To be honest, it would probably have been better if they’d just got the audience to sing along.

It was a really interesting and enjoyable version of an opera that I haven’t really listened to much and because of the setting and its history, it was a unique experience.

Weekly Video #23

Today, I would like to introduce you to Opera Imaginaire. It’s a series of animations based around bits of opera. There’s 11 in total – from: La Traviata

Pagliacci

Carmen

Le Nozze di Figaro

Madama Butterfly

Les Pêcheurs de Perles

Die Zauberflöte

La Cenerentola

Faust

Rigoletto

Lakmé

Tosca

Here’s the one from Traviata, in a playlist with the others (this one is my favourite though, it’s so cute and there are profiteroles dancing to Verdi. LOVE!)

*Ok, whatever, it’s decided to start with Pagliacci. There is probably some techy way to work out how to get it to start from the Traviata video, but I can’t be bothered right now*

New Purchases

So, earlier this morning I went down to my (amazing, wonderful, brilliant) well-stocked local record shop with £20. I am now back at home with £5.02 and two new CDs. The rest of my morning has been spent in the delightful anticipation of listening to these CDs, but first I will just tell you what they are.

First:

Very excited to have this recording, because Franco Corelli is one of my all-time FAV 🙂 URITE tenors. Apart from the arias listed on the cover, it also has arias from Ernani, I Lombardi, La Forza del Destino, Andrea Chenier, Cavalleria Rusticana, Adriana Lecouvreur and Madama Butterfly. Obviously the sound quality won’t be perfect because the recordings were made in the ’50s but who cares, it’s still Corelli.

And also:

Now, I know that a lot of people don’t like La G (aka Draculette) because of her cancellations and her temperament and the various stories about her diva-ishness. I don’t know how many of these are true but all rumours have at least 1% truth and the cancellations are certainly no lie. But whatever people may think, you can’t deny that this woman has THE VOICE. She can SING. Which, when you think about it, is quite a good quality for a singer to have (*cough cough* pop music industry). So, leaving aside the arguments about her attendance record, this CD has arias from Butterfly, Tosca, Boheme, La Fanciulla del West, Manon Lescaut, Edgar (that’s the one that is never performed), her trademark Rondine, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi, Le Villi (also rarely performed) and Turandot. Quite predictable stuff, but hopefully the singing will live up to the name.