Monday, November 20, 2006
Modernity at the Met: Madame Butterfly
Vive la revolution! This Saturday evening, I witnessed history in the making in the most visually breathtaking rendition of Madame Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera since, well since I can remember. Anthony Minghella, director of brilliant oeuvres such as The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley, has created a modern violently vibrant vision of Puccini’s tragic story of young Cio-Cio-San and Lieutenant Pinkerton.
Butterfly has always been a beautiful opera for me; the costumes have always been colorful, the set always pretty and straightforward with its ubiquitous dojo on a hill and cherry blossom tree that expectedly shook in Part 1 of Act II. However, the innovative-mirrored black set of Michael Levine, contemporary choreography of Carolyn Choa with designer Han Feng’s breathtaking costumes made for a modern-day dream that shook the retinas of the audience to experience eye candy at the highest saccharine-soaked level.
It was Kabuki Theater meets Japanimation with symbolic props and lighting as sliding paper doors for a house and a cascade of rose petals for the tree coupled with ninja-like dancers and brilliant lifelike puppetry. Too bad for the “technical difficulties” that prolonged the 1st intermission followed by soprano Cristina Gallardo-Domas falling ill just in time for Part II of the second act. Very strange incidents, yet even these hiccups did not take away from the startling image branded into my mind.
In fact everyone who is anyone surfaced for the occasion- including fashion A-listers Julie Gilhart of Barney’s New Hork, Grace Coddington of Vogue and Mr. Valentino himself. Even star du jour Sacha Baron Cohen and fiancé Isla Fisher sat a few rows behind the orchestra, canoodling and whispering sweet nothings before sneaking out after the second intermission.
Final Word: Perhaps this marks a new movement at the Met where modern day rules and tradition is played out. Either way, it seems the audience is ready for the change.