Burnaby Lyric Opera in association with Shadbolt Centre for the Arts
Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini

Dates and Venue February 21, 26 & 28 at 8pm & February 23 & 25 at 2pm | James Cowan Theatre, Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, Burnaby

Cio-Cio-San Gina McLellan Morel B. F. Pinkerton Nicolas Rhind Sharpless Geoffrey Schellenberg Suzuki Francesca Corrado

Director Adam Da Ros Set Designer Richard Berg Costume Designer Rose-Ellen Nichols Lighting Designer Conor Moore Musical accompaniment David Boothroyd Stage manager Collette Brown

Sung in Italian with English SURTITLES™

Reviewer John Jane

Giacomo Puccini’s exquisitely tragic Madama Butterfly is an incredibly affecting story of ill-fated romance. Although first performed over a hundred years ago, its central themes of witless betrayal and unrealistic expectations of marriage are just as relevant today.

Madama Butterfly’s simple, yet touching storyline is set in Nagasaki, Japan where a fifteen year-old local geisha falls in love with an arrogant, selfish American naval officer. They embark on a brokered marriage that the officer, Lieutenant Pinkerton believes, even encouraged by Goro the marriage broker, to consider as revocable with one month's notice. Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) however, understands it very differently. She unconditionally accepts her American suitor’s love for real, even forsaking her family and Buddist faith to become a devoted wife. Predictably, the one-sided love affair ends in disaster. Pinkerton leaves for the United States with a promise to return to Cio-Cio-San. However, three years pass before his promise is fulfilled and then he is accompanied by his American wife.

Soprano Gina McLellan Morel doesn’t possess the physicality of a fifteen year-old Japanese girl, but she has a fine voice and gives an impassioned performance as Cio-Cio-San occupying the stage for almost the entire performance. Her singing is athletic and passionate and her movement reveals the nuances of a naïve girl. She delivers her showpiece aria, Un bel dì, vedremo flawlessly and Tu? Tu? Picolo Iddio as she bids a tearful farewell to her son with pathos.

Nicolas Rhind plays the role of Pinkerton with nonchalant bravado. With a handsome stage presence, a natural swagger and fine tenor voice make him believable as the irresponsible lover. His tone and demeanour might suggest that he is seduced by Japan’s exoticism. This is evident in his agile interpretation of Amore o grillo at the beginning of act one, where, despite Consul Sharpless’ forewarning over his "convenient creed", he appears unaware of moral obligations.

Other notable performances are given by baritone Geoffrey Schellenberg as the compassionate Consul Sharpless and mezzo-soprano Francesca Corrado as Cio-Cio-San’s servant and faithful companion. Schellenberg’s singing was focused and his acting effective, while Corrado delivers heartrending angst in her measured and mellifluous voice.

Music director David Boothroyd carries out the musical accompaniment single-handedly on a Yamaha baby grand piano. Richard Berg’s set of hanging silk screens is simple yet efficient. The surtitles were easy to read without being obtrusive, but why did the translations go missing halfway through the second act?

Whether you’re an opera neophyte or a seasoned patron you will find something to enjoy in this production of Butterfly.

© 2015 John Jane