Giacomo Puccini’s masterpiece Madama Butterfly arrives perfectly on beat even if the poor Lieutenant was tardy. On Tuesday, October 15th the Lyric Opera of Chicago gave their audience a home for the evening. The theater only kept them waiting three minutes, unlike Lieutenant Pinkerton who kept his Japanese wife, Cio-Cio San, waiting for over three years.
In this story, the plot circles around Lieutenant Pinkerton (played by tenor James Valenti) and the youthful geisha, Cio-Cio San Butterfly (played by Amanda Echalaz). The story is crafted out of a conflict of two culturally different nations and the consequences created by the American soldier’s conquests. Butterfly, who is fifteen when she is betrothed to Pinkerton, has moved from riches to rags in her short life and divides herself even further from her world when marrying Pinkerton. This choice ultimately forces her to sacrifice everything.
Amid the turbulent waters surrounding Butterfly’s home, there is an air of simplicity. The set is unchanging for the majority of the opera. Many of the musical themes return as if nothing has been altered since the first act’s romance. Even during the famous “Humming Chorus” at the end of the second act, nothing moves except the stage underneath Butterfly as she waits for Pinkerton’s arrival. This stillness is what effectively makes the audience realize how long and agonizing it must have been for Butterfly to wait to see her husband. This stillness also makes Butterfly’s painful conclusion that much more sympathetic. When she refuses to accept her dishonor in the final minutes of act three, she has the audience with her at the other end of her father’s blade.
Many thanks to the Lyric Opera of Chicago and their production of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. With a beautiful cast and a house full of grateful patrons, the show should be considered a triumph. Making opera like this in such a house should be respected and appreciated. Each performer deserves praise for their accomplishments in this tragic piece. The story was told well and the players transported at least one poor writer in the audience to a place he had wanted go that evening.