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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Anderson    RIGIDLY PURITANICAL

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Opera now exists on a shoestring. Or rather, costs of singing stars, stage staff, orchestra and conductor are so astronomical that the Dutch have discovered there is hardly a euro left for scenery. It is perhaps tactful that on this Opus Arte DVD we see nothing of Nagasaki pre- or post-1945. Unless it be that the emptiness of Butterfly's house, the absence of a hill up which the consul and relations are supposed to huff and puff, are somehow symbolic of a city not just financially desolate. As so often, then, we must engage more ear than eye, which is what operatic theorists have often recommended.

From left to right, Lieutenant B F Pinkerton (Martin Thompson), Goro (Peter Blanchet), Suzuki (Catherine Keen) and Butterfly's servants. DVD screenshot © 2003 NPS
From left to right, Lieutenant B F Pinkerton (Martin Thompson), Goro (Peter Blanchet), Suzuki (Catherine Keen) and Butterfly's servants. DVD screenshot © 2003 NPS

Puccini did his best to spatchcock Japanese motifs into the score, and he relished more than we now dare the essential differences between East and West. He has malicious fun at the expense of Goro, the marriage broker (Peter Blanchet), as he introduces Pinkerton to the household servants with names the impatient lieutenant of Martin Thompson finds merely ridiculous [listen -- 'Questa è la cameriera' (Act 1), DVD1 chapter 2, 0:00-1:34]. Richard Stilwell's Sharpless has done his best to spell out the implications of Pinkerton's marriage to Cheryl Barker, the fragile Butterfly, but the ceremony goes ahead, with bride and groom launching on one of Puccini's more protracted love duets [listen -- 'Bimba, dagli occhi pieni di malia' (Act 1), DVD1 chapter 11, 0:00-1:09].

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Copyright © 5 April 2006 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt

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