I had the pleasure of attending the Teatro Lirico D'Europa MADAMA BUTTERFLY last evening at The McCallum Theatre and was once again swept away in Puccini's exquisite score and timeless love story. The vocalists were stellar; every one - everything else in the production was a little sub-par. Even though the singers were truly thrilling, their characters were cold and distant and it was difficult to find any empathy for them - except what was inherent in the score itself. But, even with its deficits, it was a wonderful way to spend an evening in the theatre.
Meliangee Perez's Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) was vocally exquisite. She was definitively too old to play the young, fifteen-year-old geisha in both the maturity of her voice and her physique. Never once did she come off as the fragile Butterfly described repeatedly in the score and was never fully able to elicit true empathy for the tragedy of her circumstances. Antonio Pita's Pinkerton was also a pleasure to listen to, but his emotional range was limited and wooden. Their was no real connection between the lovers and thus no real emotional connection between characters and audience. The characters also came off as "middle-aged" and more cerebral than feeling.
Giorgio Lalov's direction was pedestrian and rather clumsy. This is one of the most passionate and heart-wrenching librettos in Opera and yet it was neither passionate nor heart-wrenching. It was all overplayed in a melodramatic style that, at times, was comic when it was meant to be dramatic. The blocking often seemed unnatural and stilted. And there were a couple of really "off the mark" choices made by Lalov. Pinkerton and Butterfly are only to have been apart for three years when she produces her son. The son was played by an obviously ten or eleven year old boy, almost as tall as Butterfly herself. When Pinkerton's American wife arrives with him in Act Three, they are there to take away Butterfly and Pinkerton's son - the stakes are dire. And yet Lalov has Kate blissfully waiting in the garden smelling the cherry blossoms with apparent joy - a contradiction to what she would be feeling under the circumstances. His direction not only did not support the piece, it may have been its emotional downfall.
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