This isn’t a sponsored post.
BrumHour saw Madam Butterfly at the invite of Welsh National Opera and Birmingham Hippodrome.
By Dave Massey twitter.com/BrumHour
Review: Madam Butterfly: Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome
Directed by Caroline Chaney, originally directed by Lindy Hume, composed by Giacomo Puccini
Though considered underage in this century, fifteen-year-old Cio-Cio-San known as Butterfly (Alexia Voulgaridou) is matched for marriage with Pinkerton (Leonardo Caimi) by Goro (Tom Randle), a matchmaker. Pinkerton is an American in the US Navy and the first half sees them meet in person and marry. The second half is set several years later, and rather than spoil what happens, if you don’t know I’ll keep it out of this review.
The music and the vocals are key for anyone with Madam Butterfly and essentially everything else is secondary. There are two ways of watching this, looking up at the English translation above the stage, or just listening and watching the company perform in Italian. I chose the former and from my fantastic press ticket vantage point I looked up at the words a lot! Like you would with any drama in another language on tv.
This is an updated production and it is utterly charming. There’s an impressive scale to what is essentially a single rotating set. It is also a dramatic looking two-floor (duplex) home, complete with its own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and laundry room. It has a retro 1960s quality to it, but there is also a microwave and stacked washing machine/drier making it more contemporary. The plain material covering the other three sides of the stage allowed other performers to push their hands and bodies into the surface to make different shadows. It also allowed colour to pour into the space throughout.
I don’t normally research the plot of a production I don’t know much about beforehand. I like to see if the story is all there on the stage. Madam Butterfly’s influence is so far-reaching that another recent production I saw earlier in 2022 meant I’d read the synopsis a few months ago. So the story was pretty fresh in my mind.
Whilst this wasn’t my own first opera, it is a great starting point for many people who are looking for a first experience. There are lots of well-known elements in the music, and the stunning vocals are sure to make newbies feel like they are being welcomed into to what is a secret space.
I really enjoyed the performances of Alexia Voulgaridou as Butterfly and Kezia Bienek as her companion/house manager. I also thought Gareth Brynmor John was excellent as the local consul Sharpless. And the young performer playing the child was adorable.
Welsh National Opera returns to Birmingham Hippodrome in November 2022:
The Makropulos Affair (Tuesday 8th November): birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/wno-the-makropulos-affair
La bohème (Wednesday 9th to Friday 11th November): birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/wno-la-boheme
And Migrations (Saturday 12th November): birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/wno-migrations-2
Discover more about Welsh National Opera here: wno.org.uk