Regardless of whether you are an opera fan or not, Madama Butterfly is one of those titles people just know. They may not know the story, or the music associated with it, but they know that name. Perhaps that makes it more difficult to really impress people. If something is so prevalent that the populace knows of it, even broadly, one would expect to be blown away by the production right? It should certainly live up to its notoriety. While Canadian Opera Company’s Madama Butterfly has fine moments, it failed to deliver that long-lasting memorable operatic experience.
The story follows three years in the life of former Japanese geisha Cio-Cio San, also known as Butterfly. At 15, she falls headlong in love with American naval officer B.F. Pinkerton. With no regard for his new wife’s culture or values, Pinkerton takes what he wants of Butterfly and then leaves her in Japan, under false pretenses, while he returns to the States to wed a “real American wife.”
Madama Butterfly is a story of the Other— the exotic Japanese woman, an object to be possessed and exploited, later to be thrown away once she outgrows her mysticism. Pinkerton talks early on of the need to possess this butterfly, even at the cost of crushing her wings, in fact, to go as far as to pinning her to the wall to lay claim to his prize.
Soprano Patricia Racette, in the titular role was vocally pleasing and many, myself included, wept through the entire final act, so she was convincing enough in her performance to elicit such strong emotions. Stefano Secco’s Pinkerton felt flat throughout, which did not help persuade people of why Butterfly would have devoted her youth and finally her life to him. The standout performance of the show undoubtably goes to baritone Dwayne Croft as Sharpless, the U.S. consul. Warning Pinkerton not to damage Cio-Cio San from the very beginning, he remained steady in his appearance of sincerely caring about Butterfly and the emotion he portrayed was the most believable and affecting of the evening. His baritone was also perfect throughout.
Madama Butterfly is on stage at the Four Seasons Centre until October 31. For more information or to book your tickets please visit: www.COC.ca