Madama Butterfly Opera North/Theatre Royal Newcastle 08 March

**

Picture from musicalcriticism.com

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.  This must be about the worst playing I’ve ever heard from an orchestra at the opera .  It was far too loud and too crude and any exposed woodwind passages were a source of deep anxiety.  In the first half at least, the orchestra was also often out of synchronisation with the singers.  Caught up in the general spirit of things , Anne-Sophie Duprels (Cio-Cio-San) spent her whited-up first half mugging at an audience apparently located somewhere around Scotswood.  She also seemed to be finding this part far too spinto for  her, and was having difficulties with uncontrolled vibrato in a second half when a nice page-boy cut had restored her to the essence of Frenchness.  All this is a pity, since in my opinion she’s usually marvellous.

I think that the production would have been condemned as outright racist if it had applied to any people other than the Japanese.  But we nuked them and they employ half of Sunderland as well, so that’s all right.  (Anyway this is largely the fault of Puccini and his librettists I suppose.)  I also found a lot of the direction in naively doubling music with movement simply simple-minded.

As to the good points of the evening, I quite enjoyed the portrayal of Pinkerton as a fat oaf with no redeeming qualities at all, and rather well sung by Rafael Rojas.  Ann Taylor’s Suzuki was certainly the best performance on view, though Wyn Davies also did himself a big favour by not being the conductor this time round.

As we were left the theatre, the person behind me was complaining about the seats being far too hard.  While true, this was about the least of our problems…

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