The challenge of any production of Madama Butterfly is how to keep the tension of the audience during the considerable time of Scene I of Act II, in which nothing really happens – besides poor Butterfly waiting and waiting forever for her husband to come back home. The challenge can be met by a combination of clever staging and high dramatic skills of Butterfly and her maid Suzuki. Very fortunately, all of the above happened in a big way in this production, thereby creating a succession of dramatic events throughout the opera. It is mainly the achievement of Italian soprano Francesca Franci who very rightfully won a long standing ovation at the end of the performance.
The all-Japanese creative cast of this production, originally designed for La Scala, have done very well in creating a subdued atmosphere that corresponds perfectly with the plot and cleverly avoid an over-loaded stage. Najmiddin Mavlyanov as Pinkerton and Ionut Pascu as US Consul Sahrples were precise and pleasant in their singing but not much beyond that.
Daniel Oren’s interpretation of Puccini’s divine score was far from being sentimental, a trap easy to fall into with such a melodramatic plot. It did amplify the tragedy. One of the (rather expected) highlights of the orchestra was The Humming Chorus, which has become one of the most famous of opera excerpts. It is enchanting, full of musical beauty. Three pizzicato notes on the cellos open the Chorus and theatrical Oren definitely got the most out of it.