Academic journal article Notes

Madama Butterfly

Academic journal article Notes

Madama Butterfly

Article excerpt

Giacomo Puccini. Madama Butterfly. DVD. Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus / Edo de Waart. Directed by Robert Wilson. With Cheryl Barker, Martin Thompson, Catherine Keen, Richard Stilwell, Anneleen Bijnen, Peter Blanchet. Waldron, Heathfield, East Sussex: Opus Arte, 2005. OA 0937. $41.99.

Imagine Mona Lisa extracted from her faded gold lamé frame and ensconced instead in polished aluminum. While Robert Wilson (of Einstein on the Beach fame) has not gone quite that far with Puccini's "Grand Dame Butterfly," he has certainly reframed the masterpiece in a manner cool, crisp, and far from traditional.

In both visuals and manner, Wilson's setting is particularly evaporated, eschewing the excessive stereotypical Japanese trappings in which Butterfly often adorns herself. The set is briskly minimal-largely barren and with brilliant backlighting. The costumes are highly stylized, the Americans extremely so: Pinkerton and Sharpless are tucked in broadly wrapped double breasteds, more twisted gowns than male suits. The minimal choreography of the principals was devised presumably by Wilson (and set by an anonymous choreographer left unnoted in what itself is a rather minimal booklet). The movement is at times stilted, presumably owing to Japanese traditional theater, with hands held sometimes in gestures quite irrelevant to the narrative. If this all sounds like a misfortune foisted on Puccini in homage to the aesthetic of Einstein on the Beach, nothing could be further from the truth.

Wilson has produced a reading heightened in dramatic force, one that seeks to redeem Butterfly, too often passed off as dramatically trivial (particularly in its staging). …

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