I’m currently working on the score for the chorus of Madama Butterfly for a one night only production at the end of the month. I have been asked to play the character La Zia and understudy for the role of Kate by my first classical singing Teacher, Jayne Wilson.
I last performed with Jayne back in November 2013 when I was asked to take part in a fund raiser for the Bowdon Youth festival hosted by Edwina Currie, who commented in the Messenger newspaper :
There were also two stunning solos by soprano Charlotte Hoather and a duet with Jayne Wilson, artistic director of Bowdon Festival.
Jayne previously taught Charlotte. Edwina Currie said: “It was a pleasure for all of us – and especially to hear Jayne Wilson’s magnificent duet with Charlotte, after all the praises we’ve heard sung about her. That can’t be a one-off, we have to hear that again”.
Jayne is to play the role of Madama Butterfly in the opera which is to be performed at St Mary’s Church in Bowdon on the 27th June at 7:30 pm.
St Mary’s Church, Bowdon © Copyright David Dixon
This beautiful opera by Giacomo Puccini ( 1858 – 1924 ) is based on a short novel John Luther Long. The story takes us to Japan at the turn of the last century.
As the opera opens we finds ourselves in Nagasaki, Japan. The year is 1904 and an American naval officer Benjamin Pinkerton seeks the help of a local marriage broker named Goro to locate a house to lease, a lease he was told would come with a pretty young Japanese wife. Goro assured Pinkerton not to worry as both the lease on the house and the arranged marriage could be ended with just a month’s notice.
This suited the Naval officer as he could not wait to return home to America to marry a proper American wife. However the young Japanese girl had other ideas, seeing the arrangement as far more than a passing fancy. In her excitement to be the best possible wife she converted to Christianity in a bid to please her new American husband to be.
Her name was CioCio-San which is the Japanese word for “Butterfly” and she was only 15 years of age. She was so happy as the date of the marriage ceremony approached, which was to take place in the house that Goro had found for them both to live in. However her happiness is short lived as her Uncle, the Bonze, arrives at the house to condemn her religious conversion. Her family turn their backs on her leaving the poor young girl devastated and ostracised. Her despair is broken as she sings a love duet with her new Husband in the home they are to live in.
Three years have past and we find Butterfly in the house waiting for Pinkerton’s return. He had left her shortly after their marriage returning to America. Though Butterfly’s maid Suzuki tries to convince her that her husband will not be returning the advice falls on deaf ears. Since Pinkerton’s departure Goro has tried unsuccessfully to persuade Butterfly to take a new husband. Butterfly is utterly convinced that one day her husband, Pinkerton will return and along with their child they will all be a family again.
The American Consul, Sharpless arrives at the house with a letter from Pinkerton along with the news that he is to return to Japan. But seeing her and knowing the letter’s contents he cannot bring himself to read it to her. He beseeches her to marry one of her suitors, Prince Yamadori but Butterfly will not consider it at all. She instead reveals to Sharpless that before Pinkerton left she had become pregnant and proudly shows her son to him. She explains that she called her son “Trouble” who upon Pinkerton’s return she will rename “Joy”. She pleads with Sharpless to tell Pinkerton of their beautiful son and he promises to tell him about the child.
As Pinkerton’s ship docks in the harbour Butterfly decorates the house displaying her overwhelming joy at the return of her husband. Through the night she waits for Pinkerton to return to her and their son.
The morning arrives and Suzuki wakes as we see Butterfly finally succumbs to her exhaustion and falls asleep. Sharpless, Pinkerton and his new American wife Kate arrive at the house. Pinkerton has persuaded Kate to take in the child and raise it as their own but as they approach the house he sees the decorations and cannot face meeting Butterfly, he acknowledges his cowardice and leaves everyone to sort out the mess that he had created. Butterfly finally sees the helplessness of her situation and reluctantly agrees to give up her child, but only if Pinkerton comes to collect their son himself. The final scene is set Pinkerton is contacted and agrees to return to meet with Butterfly. Butterfly in turn prepares her son to meet his father for the first time and readies him to leave to live with him. The tension builds as we see everything unfold before our eyes………
But if you want to know how it ends you will have to go and watch it :)