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Performances

Madama Butterfly and Pinkerton [Photo by Monika Rittershaus]
03 Jan 2017

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Madama Butterfly and Pinkerton

Photos by Monika Rittershaus

 

No strange German regietheater here, but a decent and traditional take on Puccini’s classic. Eun Sun Kim brought out all the colours and exotic spices in Puccini’s score. The Berliner Staatskapelle was in top shape. Clearly, Puccini is part of its DNA.

Act I opens with the hustle and bustle of Japanese locale, where a giant American flag, lacking a few stars, hung imperialistically over the town. Peter Sykora’s traditional geisha costumes enriched the Japanese setting. Martin Wright’s choir of geishas sounded exceptional, but sinisterly innocent.

At the end of Act II, “Un bel dì vedremo” by Alexei Voulgaridou’s vulnerable Cio-Cio-San did not have the maximal impact of this aria’s potential. However in her duet with Katherina Kammerloher’s Suzuki, “Or vienmi ad adorner”, they churned out one of the evening’s touching highlights; quite moving and greated with the loudest bravi.

MB_Berlin_02.pngScene from Madama Butterly

Act III overflowed with melodrama. Pinkerton returns with his wife, about to take his son away from his mother. Here the pace sagged a bit, and the audience became audibly restless. But Dmytro Popov as Pinkerton impressed conveying an American naivete, convinced of his own good intentions in his sweetly sung “Addio, fiorito asil”. He produced great vocal chemistry with Voulgaridou, especially in “Bimba, Bimba, non piangere”, the famous love duet that closes Act I. Though she did not have the emotional intensity in her acting, instead her vocal skills prevailed with feeling.

I was also impressed by the strong supporting cast. Kammerloher charged Suzuki with highly neurotic presentiments. Her fearful vibrato added a foreshadowing spell, her voice rich and commanding, alarmed by wisdom and concern.

Alfredo Daza as Sharpless stole the spotlight with the glowing humanity in his comforting voice. Through his skilled acting chops, he exude the sad realisation of the bigger picture and eventual tragic ending. He gave much heart to his scenes. Daza’s vocal humanity worked equally effective in his comedic timing. Comical moments also came from cultural caricature Yamadori. Sung intentionally off-putting and sycophantic by Vincenzo Neri. His foolishness coaxed some downplayed snickering from the audience.

Eun Sun Kim, for whom I have had sympathy ever since I saw her try so hard, but to no avail, conduct in the impossible lateral orchestral set-up next to the stage in the production of Cologne’s recent Nazi-oriented Lucia di Lammermoor. Tonight, she did not have to deal with any odd displacement of the orchestra. She kept the brilliance and momentum in Puccini’s score thrilling, while she made the soloists create several great emotional nuances. She cultivated the mood of American patriotism effectively, but also reflected the romantic anguish and despair at Cio-Cio-San’s death.

Swooning in its romance under a the staged starry night, the opera’s romantic mood continued as you left the Schiller Theater. The many young couples that I observed leaving, seemed particularly inspired by the performance, as their giddy displays of affection had no bounds. This production returns in March, and I highly recommend it to any opera newbie or just plain old traditionalists.

David Pinedo

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