an opera review by Victor Grynberg » J-Wire
July 3, 2022 by Victor Grynberg
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Congratulations to Opera Australia, which once again gave us an unforgettable evening.
Giacomo Puccini, the much loved late 19e and early 20e The Italian composer of the century wrote 12 operas, many of which are among the most popular works. The gentle rising melodies of La Boheme, Tosca and Turandot and others share the fame attributed to Madama Butterfly. The latest incarnation of this opera has just premiered at the Sydney Opera House.
Originally set in 1904, it tells the story of a US Navy lieutenant (Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton) on leave in the Japanese port city of Nagasaki renting a house and enlisting a marriage broker (Goro) to find a bride. She is the former geisha Cio-Cio-San (nicknamed Madama Butterfly).
This new production, helmed by legendary Australian dancer/director Graeme Murphy, brings production back to contemporary times, filled with cellphones and taking selfies and the like.
It certainly doesn’t diminish the drama and tragedy of the story.
Puccini’s music is of course simply stunning throughout, with Korean soprano Sae Kyung Rim as Cio-Cio-San making her OA debut. She captivated the audience with her superb singing, not only with the big hit “Un bel di, vedremo” (One fine day) but with all the stimulating arias and duets of her role. In both acts, she completely won over the packed house, truly making everyone feel her joy and love in act 1 and her pain and suffering, and ultimate tragedy in act 11. An outstanding performance .
Completing her, particularly in the vocal department, beloved Mexican-Australian tenor Diego Torre takes on the role of Pinkerton once again.
Torre’s singing is the most beautiful tenor voice that can be heard in this country. Unfortunately, after the extremely heavy workload of Act I, Torre fell ill and for the first time I remember a track had to be replaced at regular intervals.
Pinkerton’s role in Act II is actually very small, but his understudy Thomas Strong more than adequately fulfilled that role and, predictably, was met with rapturous applause from the audience at the end. audience. A recent graduate of Opera Australia’s training programs, I think it won’t be long before Strong has a lead role rather than an understudy.
A critical role in this opera is that of Suzuki, Butterfly’s devoted servant. Australian mezzo Sian Sharp is absolute perfection in this role. With convincing acting now a requirement for dramatic opera, Miss Sharp combines this with purity of voice.
The lead roles also go to Michael Honeyman as Sharpless, the straight-featured American consul. Accustomed to OA, Honeyman gives credibility to his role and his voice is very complementary.
The villain of the play is the matchmaker Goro, famously whistled at the end of many productions. The Australian-Italian Virgilio Marino, whose tenor voice is effective and whose devilish plots are well played.
The rest of the supporting cast are all enjoyable, as is the always excellent chorus. Loaded with important material in both acts, kudos to this band.
In my opinion, perhaps the biggest star of the evening was an artist whose name I could not determine. The child actor who plays Butterfly’s son “Sorrow”, born of marital bliss with Pinkerton. “Mama, Mama” are the only words uttered by Sorrow, whose stage presence was so moving it so powerfully reinforced the torture and pain that Butterfly is going through. The torture and pain that lead to the final tragedy.
This production features Opera Australia’s digital screens, so effectively produced by Canadian Sean Nieuwenhuis. Often with very dark images, the tension of the drama is definitely heightened by these screens. This is a production that could be a big hit at any of the world’s major opera houses and certainly brings new life to an opera that most patrons have known for years.
Drama is one thing, but of course underlying it all is Puccini’s great score. Italian Carlo Montanaro returns to conduct the orchestra, which brings out the high quality of local musicians, and as we expect from the expanded opera pit, the beautiful music is heard to perfection.