'Madame Butterfly' from Lust and Love to Love and Lose

If you’ve never been to an opera, I truly encourage you to experience it.  The roller coaster ride that brings you from highs to lows and back again with simple staging, wonderful voices and beautiful melodies from the orchestra is what makes this show from the MN Opera, performed at the Ordway, one for the ages.

The wedding of Pinkerton and Butterfly in the Minnesota Opera production of Madame Butterfly. Photo courtesy MN Opera

‘Madame Butterfly’ is a tragedy with a simple story line, but it’s the music, the songs and the voices that convey the love, lust and lose pulling you along and carrying you to the end, it takes you on an emotional ride.
This opera was written in three parts, but is performed in two acts, with the first being the shortest, only one part and the second act being two parts. This does make the second act significantly longer, but hang in there, the ending is to ‘die for’ in more ways than one.
The story starts with a wedding, Pinkerton, an American naval officer, to the beautiful Butterfly.  But we learn that according to the local laws, this is not a binding marriage and Pinkerton revels in the benefits without total commitment.
As Butterfly shares information about herself (she’s only 15) and her family, she show’s Pinkerton the few possessions she has brought with her.  As the celebration continues we draw to the close of the first act, Butterfly’s uncle, the Bonze, a Japanese priest, arrives. He curses Butterfly and the family turns on the young couple.  Pinkerton, in an act of loving kindness, protects Butterfly and wins her love for all eternity.

Arturo Chacon-Cruz as Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton, Kelly Kaduce as Cio-Cio San in the Minnesota Opera production of Madame Butterfly

It’s been three years since we (and Butterfly) last saw Pinkerton.  Even though she has been approached by other suitors, she continues to stress her undying love and belief that he will come back for her.
Sharpless pays a visit to Butterfly, trying to prepare her for the news that Pinkerton will be returning.  Butterfly continues to insist that he will come back for her and reveals he has a three year old son.  Sharpless tries to convince her to accept the suitor, but she continues to believe love will triumph and he will come back to her.  Sharpless leaves, having not told her that Pinkerton has taken a new wife, but promises to tell Pinkerton the news of his son.
The tragedy of love, of young love, of believing in someone so deeply, of being blinded by love, that is what this story is all about.  That a young and trusting heart, must be handled gently so it is not broken and that commitment without commitment will only cause heartbreak for both parties.

Butterfly realizing he is close, prepares for his return only to wait all night.  Upon awaking she finally sees Kate, Pinkerton’s new wife, and realizes what has happened.  Truly heartbroken, she tells Kate that he can have his son, but he must come and fetch him.  Kate leaves, Butterfly says goodbye to her son, steps away and takes her own life.

Butterfly with her son, Sorrow, in the Minnesota Opera production of Madame Butterfly. Photo courtesy MN Opera

As tragic as ‘Madame Butterfly’ is, it can still teach us about expressing love for another and making that expression moving and meaningful.   To not hold back your feelings, just because tomorrow you might get hurt.  But, taking your life because of a broken heart isn’t the way out.  Pinkerton mourns Butterfly and wishes she hadn’t taken her life, he only wishes he hadn’t been too late.
The staging was magnificent, simple and elegant, keeping the focus on the vocals and the orchestra.  Small touches and subtle lighting changes allowed the actors to move from one scene to the next with no thought and brought the audience with them, creating a feeling of being closer then you are to the stage.
So, what are you waiting for, you don’t need me to tell you that you’re missing out – four of the eight shows are sold out.  Grab a couple tickets and friend (or date) for a great night out and discover the opera.

*The FTC made me do it: Disclosure of Material Connection: TC Jewfolk received free tickets to  ”Madame Butterfly” in the hope that we would mention it on TC Jewfolk. But getting the tickets for free doesn’t mean that we were obligated to give a glowing review. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Blah, blah, blah…