Wednesday, November 29, 2006


The Met ended its run of Madama Butterfly earlier this month, and that I haven't written about it reflects more on the author than the performances. Butterfly usually leaves me indifferent, and did so again this time.

So when I say that Anthony Minghella's production was, if a bit overreceived in its initial press, a big success, you might add salt to taste. His strength was the image: the clean framing and relative boldness of the stage pictures spoke well for his film director's eye. For this alone he'd belong at the Met. The content I found more mixed. Each Act (and he divides Act 2 into Acts 2 and 3, stopping at the Humming Chorus) begins with a short pantomime: some sort of Japanese dancer (Butterfly? who knows), a remembered domestic scene before Pinkerton's departure, and, in the most interesting directorial addition of the night, a dream dance between a puppet Butterfly and (I think -- it's been weeks, I'm afraid) a Japanese-ized Pinkerton. This latter was odd, but affecting; the other additions just seemed extraneous. The puppet Trouble? Eh. Gimmicky, but not bad. At any rate, Minghella definitely deserves a return.

As for the cast... Much has been written about Gallardo-Domas' singing. She doesn't have the vocal heft to win the day on sonic impact, but besides that I found her more than adequate on the occasion. As an actress, she has never been more than generalized, but here she was throwing herself into the rehearsed Japanese-ish gestures with real ferocity. And yet -- they seemed just that, rehearsed gesture, rarely connected to the human and very Italian currents onstage. It seems unfair but I reacted to her much as I did the puppet -- much more grateful, of course, for the intense and sophisticated effort, but still more "huh, that's interesting" than emotional catharsis.

The performance I saw had Dwayne Croft, thankfully, in good voice and better character as Sharpless. Ascher Fisch conducted well, as usual, while it was great misfortune that one of tenor Marcello Giordani's really good nights was wasted on the ungrateful Pinkerton. (The super-variable Giordani seems to be in a good season, though one never can tell with him.)

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I think if we sit around waiting for catharsis, we'll be here 'til the cows come home. Great musical performances are not so infrequent, despite what certain irritating people have to say. But performances that really let you have it? Once a season maybe? This is probably not a bad thing--means they matter more. Meanwhile, while we're waiting, the great singing is a pleasure.


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.