A Tornado in Covent Garden? OperaUpClose transforms Madame Butterfly at the Kings Head

What is the Butterfly Effect?

It is postulated that a small change at one place in a complex system can have a large change at another, ie, when a butterfly beats its wings in Brazil, it can cause a tornado in Texas.  In this case, could the tiny opera productions at the Kings Head be the wing beat that transforms opera?

So, can they do it again after the success of La Boehme at the Soho Theatre?

Yes, and with our front row seats it was Operaevenmoreupclose.

How did they do the updating this time?        

The setting is Bangkok; Pinkerton is an American Airlines Pilot, Butterfly a Ladyboy.

Does it work?

Amazingly well.  They seem to have picked on genuinely modern themes to add power to the original.  Butterfly is almost as in love with America and the idea of going there as she is with Pinkerton.  The exploitation of empire translates seamlessly into the commercial inequalities of our times – the ‘Occidental contract’ as Sharpless calls it.  And of course the issues of AIDs in poorer countries, same-sex marriage and the rights of transgendered individuals are very hot topics indeed.  The fact that even in modern times a marriage between Pinkerton and his ‘wife’ would not be recognised in many countries makes the situation all the more poignant.

How is the singing?

In such an intimate venue the sheer volume and power can be almost overwhelming at times, but this is real opera.  We don’t pretend to be experts  but we were certainly moved.  Hats off to the entire cast who were utterly convincing, especially Butterfly.  Playing such a naive yet sympathetic character in modern times is not easy to pull off.

Why do you think these shows are such a success?

Well, we do have a theory.  Watching the show we noticed how still the performers are.  Whilst opera singers are often criticised for appearing wooden, in a small setting this minimalistic style is a positive asset.   Everything we need to know is conveyed through the singing and the facial expressions, and that is all we need.


Well, we would love to hear some other theories…..

Any more?

Yes, there’s even more to come.

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6 Responses to A Tornado in Covent Garden? OperaUpClose transforms Madame Butterfly at the Kings Head

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