State Opera SA
Adelaide Festival Theatre
Until 23 Nov 2019

Review by Fran Edwards

State Opera SA can always be relied upon to give its audience a wonderful experience and their version of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is no exception. The set is simplicity itself, its panels glide in and out uncovering and exposing the action as required. It forms almost solid walls, which quickly become transparent with a change of lighting. It also changes from a bright and vibrant world of oriental colour to a stark monotone environment, from a warm home to a virtual prison. Matt Scott’s lighting beautifully enhances Christina Smith design, following the action.

The costumes are authentic and reflect the changing state of Butterfly’s world, the riot of colour in the family group at the wedding to Pinkerton, to the plain drabness of her life after he left. Everything is part of the whole with some stunning moments when their love is blossoming, with lanterns and sparkling showers to the dimness that prevails as hope dies.

There were some fine performances. Caitlin Cassidy is strong as Suzuki Cio-Cio-San’s servant and helpmate, Adam Goodburn is suitably obsequious as Goro the procurer and Jeremy Tatchell was regal as Prince Yamadori. These actors’ voices are always fine. With Pelham Andrews as Bonze and Joshua Rowe as the Imperial Commissioner this cast has talent even in the smaller roles. Douglas McNicol is impressive as Sharpless giving a balanced portrayal of a kind man in conflict between his duty and his conscience. Bethany Hill played the almost non-existent part of Kate Pinkerton, without being overly sentimental. In the small but significant role of Sorrow Nate Bryant was charming.

There was a strong connection between Angus Wood as Pinkerton and Marianna Hong as Cio-Cio-San, a believable love story. Wood is naively eager in the beginning and a remorseful coward at the end developing his character well. His voice blends with Hong and supports her performance. Hong is a spectacular Butterfly, soaring in her solos and never overwhelming her fellows. One Fine Day was enthralling and captured the audience completely. She captures the faith and constancy of this tragic figure.

Director Kate Cherry has crafted a beautiful production with Conductor Tobias Ringborg who had complete musical control over the cast, the State Opera Chorus and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and all should be proud of the lovely, gentle Humming Chorus, part of Puccini’s genius. If this is one of your favourite operas, don’t miss this production you’ll regret it if you do.