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Madama Butterfly

Madame Butterfly - an excellent cinematic version...


I don't believe in comparing stage performances of operas with filmed versions and this Butterfly is a very good example why.

Film allows so much more latitude for obvious reasons yet the amazing thing is, directors don't often take advantage of it. In this version, director, Frederic Mitterrand, does.

He has used a "verismo" style that brings much credibility and power to the story. Wonderful realistic sets and settings with a truly Asian cast including a beautiful Chinese girl, Ying Huang, to play the tragic Japanese "Cio Cio San" (Butterfly) starts the whole piece on a level way beyond any staged performance, yet it also takes nothing away from them either.

American tenor Richard Troxell cuts a fine figure as Pinkerton and it is nice for once to see a visually believable Pinkerton who might really be capable of sweeping an innocent young girl off her sandals.

Vocally, it is powerful enough yet it is obvious that without the benefit of "filmed recorded sound track" the heroine would hardly have the vocal power necessary to carry the role in a stage presentation- yet in this, it works well- almost brilliantly. One could quibble about some small breaks in continuity here and there and some might find the "flying rellies" a bit of film latitude gone a step too far- but that is a minor point.

Of far more significance to purists, might be the archival film footage of Tokyo that is shown during the Humming Chorus. Some may think this is sacriligious and a wrench away from what is traditionally the most movingly reflective moments in the opera...but it is interesting and seems to suit the piece regardless.

That aside, this is definitely a Butterfly that deserves a place in any opera lover's collection- to sit right alongside one of the excellent staged presentations. It stands clearly on its own and is easy to appreciate over and over again.

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