I have serious doubts about Anthony Minghella's ideas on this production, making me wonder if he
read the script. Sometimes, in an effort to produce something new, I think the Met makes some very odd choices, and this is one of them. Rather than make Butterfly's family look like they just came from the stage of a Chinese-inspired Cirque du Soliel performance of the Mikado, he should have kept to the traditional Japanese theme. She came from a poor family, after all, and all of the extravagance of the costumes only distracted from the story. Similarly, the Bunraku-inspired puppet used to represent Butterfly's child, Trouble, was interesting, but the three puppet operators (whose faces and expressions you could see behind their veils) were another distraction from the story.
That said, I could not fault the singing. Patricia Racette and Maria Zifchak were excellent as Butterfly and Suzuki. Marcello Giordani was a convincing Pinkerton, and I was also impressed by David Won as Yamadori.
I listened to the live radio broadcast, and it did not impress me, so I was wondering if I would
like the video. I must tell you, there is no comparison. Seeing this opera gave so much more to the meaning of the story than just hearing it sung. Fleming and Hampson gave great characterizations of their roles. And the sets, while fairly simple, were great evocations of the location. Now I can listen to the recording with much more enjoyment.
Another great thing about these Met broadcasts is the behind-the-scenes interviews and insights into how an opera is put together and run, as well as historical information that has me looking for more. For example, it was mentioned that the last time the Met did Thais, Beverley Sills sang the title role. Looking around, I found that Sherril Milnes probably sang Athaniel opposite her. I must look for that recording now. What an adventure!
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