Opera plots can often strain credulity; Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, on the other hand, cuts close to the bone. The story—of an American naval officer who woos, marries and deserts a young Japanese girl—matters: it is a tightly-constructed narrative and attempts to reframe it, reposition it in another time or place, can be fraught.
Madama Butterfly, like Giacomo Puccini’s previous blockbuster Tosca, was born out a visit to the theatre. In 1900, the composer was in London for six weeks to oversee the opening of Tosca at Covent Garden on 12 July, when he was persuaded to go to the Duke of York’s Theatre for a double-bill of one act plays, including one called “Madam Butterfly”.
To paraphrase Star Trek—perhaps appropriately, given Director Nic Muni’s pre-performance talk emphasizing the modern vibe he wished to give the work—this is Tosca, but not as we know it. More Than Musical’s most recent production is more than ridotto—reduced and abridged for a smaller cast and orchestra—but altered and rearranged.
Gioachino Rossini could hardly have asked for a better commemoration—this year marks the 150th anniversary of the composer’s death—than this celebratory performance of his lesser-known comic one-act opera Il Signor Bruschino brought to the Macao International Music Festival by the Opéra de Chambre de Genève.
Giacomo Puccini’s final opera is the tale of a Chinese ice princess melted by an implacable love. Turandot, channeling the spirit of a violated ancestress, sets suitors three unanswerable riddles to be answered on pain of death.
While hardly a rarity, Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love) doesn’t usually rank in popularity with the likes of Aida, La Bohème or Carmen. But after a performance such as that which acted as the curtain-raiser for the Macau International Music Festival, it can be hard to understand why not. Effortlessly enjoyable, the work also contains passages of aching beauty and contains more insights into human nature than its rom-com surface would let on.
That He Hui chose to open her concert, part of a 20th career anniversary tour of China, with Adriana Lecouvreur’s first act aria from Francesco Cilèa’s eponymous opera says everything one needs to know about this Chinese soprano’s attitude towards her art.