“Madama Butterfly”: Japan at Place des Arts

&laquo ;Madama Butterfly”: Japan at Place des Arts

The stage in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier is transformed into a Japanese house from the end of the 19th century.

One of the most famous and performed operas in the world, Madama Butterflyby the equally famous Puccini, is presented by the Opéra de Montréal until May 16 at Salle Wilfrid- Pelletier from Place des Arts, which for the occasion takes on Japanese tunes.

For neophytes, Madama Butterflytells the tragic story of young Cio-Cio-San, nicknamed Butterfly, who becomes the wife of Pinkerton, an American lieutenant deployed in Nagasaki. The latter does not take marriage very seriously, intending to wed with another woman when he returns to the United States. But poor Butterfly, completely in love and blinded by love, waits for him to return for years with the son she had from this union. The return of her husband to Japan will cause her downfall.

This opera in three acts (or two, in the initial version) is here preceded by a prologue, a creative freedom of the director Stéphanie Havey. We see Kate, the American wife of Pinkerton, with the son of Butterfly. The two characters, silent, consult a parchment that tells the story of Cio-Cio-San, which they then see unfold before their eyes. This addition, although poetic, is not necessary, especially since other initiatives could have been taken to modernize the work a little without distorting the story.

That said, the scenography is pretty and ridiculously effective. The entire opera, which lasts almost three hours, including an intermission, takes place in the house of Cio-Cio-San, which changes slightly as the shoji, the panels that divide the rooms of the houses, move. traditional Japanese. Projections and light effects are added, transporting us between day and night, between winter and spring. It’s very successful.

«Madama Butterfly&raquo ;: Japan at Place des Arts

Joyce El-Khoury embodies Cio-Cio-San. Photo: Vivien Gaumand

However, it’s of course the interpreter of Butterfly who carries the show. Soprano Joyce El-Khoury not only has a powerful and magnificent voice, particularly highlighted during the famous passage Un bel dì, vedremo, but also a certain talent for the game, which gives depth to his sometimes ridiculously happy, sometimes tragically depressed character.

Matthew White, the tenor who plays Pinkerton, Hugo Laporte, the baritone who plays the American consul, Éric Thériault, the tenor in the skin of the matchmaker called Goro, as well as Lauren Segal, the mezzo- soprano who interprets Suzuki, Cio-Cio-San's maid, also shine in this opera conducted by conductor Pedro Halffter.

You’ll notice that there are no Japanese names in the cast. This is the magic of the theater: Montrealers sing in Italian an idyll that takes place in Japan with an American! You have to overcome these inconsistencies to enjoy Madama Butterfly, like many other operas, and let yourself be carried away by the magic.

Madama Butterflyis on view until May 16th.

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