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September, 2003
Review: Madama Butterfly
Madame Butterfly at The New Theatre
Madama Butterfly at The New Theatre.
An opera first-timer, Cherry Jordan was pleasantly surprised by Madama Butterfly at The New Theatre.

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Opera to some is the practise of large men with even larger voices parading on stage in a somewhat heroic manner (at least that's what I always thought anyway).

But considering the closest thing I've come to opera is seeing Russ Abbott impersonating a grossly oversized Pavarotti I don't think I'm really one to judge.

As I arrived at The New Theatre to see 'Madama Butterfly' I gathered my thoughts.

Maybe I wouldn't understand what was going on, they were singing in Italian after all. What if it went on for hours and I began to snore even more loudly than the large men could sing?

I'm pleased to report that I was pleasantly surprised. Madama Butterfly is based in Japan and focuses on a former Geisha girl, Cio-Cio-San (Rosa Lee Thomas) who manages to escape her past life by consenting to marry Lieutenant Pinkerton (Akhmed Agadi) of the American Navy.

Butterfly falls obsessively in love with Pinkerton, choosing to prove her devotion by not only disowning her religion, in favour of an "American God" but also her family.

Pinkerton however is working to a different agenda. He desires the fifteen-year-old but that is the limit of his affection and even before the marriage is consummated he knows he will soon leave his new bride.

I think it is probably obvious from this point that things don't get much better for poor Madama Butterfly.

So if you are looking for an uplifting tale, this probably isn't the show for you.

But if having a good old cry is top of your night's schedule you couldn't help but be moved by Thomas' goose-bump inducing voice and her outstanding portrayal of Butterfly's love and sorrow.

Thankfully there were sub-titles - so no need to confer with friends on what on earth was going on.

At first they were a little difficult to follow, merely because I was trying to take in every last detail of the oriental set, but after a few minutes I didn't even notice them.

I think I can safely say that my mind has been changed about opera for the best, thanks to Puccini.

I think 'Madama Butterfly' is perfect for the first time opera goer due to its small cast (so its easy to remember who's who), its simple storyline and its length (there's only two acts so no need to worry about snoring).

I would still rather go and see a good musical over an opera, but I think I could be persuaded to go and see another soon. At least next time there wouldn't be the pre-show nerves.

By Cherry Jordan

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