Puccini’s Tragedia giapponese in two acts, Madama Butterfly presented by Opera Australia, goes on the boards from June 28 to August 10. Set to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica after David Belasco’s play Madame Butterfly, based again on a story by John Luther Long, the opera premiered at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, in February 1904.
This new digital production by Graeme Murphy is a contemporary look at Puccini’s tragic heroine with massive LED screens creating a dynamic backdrop. Murphy’s roots in choreography capture the grace and gravity of a tale that begins in rapturous love and ends in heartbreak.
Inspired after seeing Belasco’s play in London in June 1900, Puccini purchased the rights from Belasco. After a complex and lengthy evolution, the libretto was completed in November 1902. The compositional process was interrupted in February 1903 when Puccini was involved in a motor accident involving an arduous recovery. The score was finally ready in December and the première fixed for February the following year with an outstanding cast in spite of which the premiere was a disaster. Puccini was accused of plagiarising his own work and that of other composers.
Puccini withdrew the opera, and made major modifications before the second triumphant performance in May that year at the Teatro Grande, Brescia, More changes followed before the Paris première by the Opéra-Comique in December 1906, which became the definitive edition. The role has been made famous by numerous sopranos, including included Toti dal Monte (Toscanini’s favourite interpreter), Victoria de los Angeles, Renata Scotto, Mirella Freni and Angela Gheorghiu, Cherly Barker and Hiromi Omura.
Two exceptional casts perform during the Sydney season, conducted by Massimo Zanetti, Nicholas Milton, Brian Castles-Onion and Tahu Matheson. Karah Son returns to Sydney, sharing the role of Cio-Cio-San with Mariana Hong.
Cast and creatives: Conductors: Massimo Zanetti (until 6 Jul)/ Nicholas Milton (11–25, 29, 31 Jul; 1 Aug)/ Brian Castles-Onion (27 Jul)
Tahu Matheson (2–10 Aug)/ Director Graeme Murphy/ Creative Associate Janet Vernon/ Production Designer Michael Scott-Mitchell/
Costumes Jennifer Irwin/ Lighting Damien Cooper/ Digital Content Sean Nieuwenhuis/ Assistant Director Shane Placentino
CIO-CIO-SAN Karah Son (28 Jun; 3, 5, 11, 13, 27, 29, 31; 2, 6 Aug)/ Mariana Hong (29 Jun; 1, 4, 6, 12, 16, 19, 22, 25 Jul; 1, 3, 7, 10 Aug)
PINKERTON Andeka Gorrotxategi (28 Jun; 3, 5, 11, 13, 25, 27, 29, 31 Jul; 2, 6 Aug)/ Diego Torre (29 Jun; 1, 4, 6, 12, 16, 19, 22, Jul; 1, 3, 7, 10 Aug)/ SUZUKI Sian Sharp (28 Jun; 3, 5, 11, 13, 22, 25, 27, 29, 31 Jul; 2, 6 Aug)/ Agnes Sarkis (29 Jun; 1, 4, 6, 12, 16, 19; 1, 3, 7, 10 Aug)/ SHARPLESS Michael Honeyman (until 13 Jul; from 29 Jul)/ José Carbó (16–27 Jul)/ GORO Virgilio Marino/THE BONZE Gennadi Dubinsky/ YAMADORI Christopher Hillier/ KATE PINKERTON Jane Ede/ COMMISSIONER Alexander Hargreaves/ REGISTRAR Gregory Brown/ Opera Australia Orchestra/ Opera Australia Chorus
This production contains adult themes and may not be suitable for children. If you’d like to talk more about what’s on stage, please call the Opera Australia box office on 02 9318 8200.
Running time: approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one interval. Sung in Italian with English and Simplified Chinese surtitles.