Butterfly spreads its wings at open-air opera

One of the best known and most beloved of all operas, Madame Butterfly was written by the great Italian composer Giacomo Puccini at the turn of the last century, and despite a critical flop at its first performance in February 1904, it was quickly rewritten and performed again later that year to widespread acclaim. The opera has since continued to be performed and adapted to various media: there have been nearly a dozen film adaptations, various ballets, pop songs and artworks all based on or inspired by the opera.

This heart-wrenching tale centres on an American officer stationed in Nagasaki who marries a young Japanese girl, not for love, but for companionship, until he can return to the United States and marry an American bride (the Japanese divorce laws were very lax at the time). The teenage girl in question, however, is not privy to his true intentions and becomes completely enamoured with the officer. Three years after he returns to America and essentially abandons her, she continues to remain devoted to him and faithfully raises his child, still believing that he will return. When he eventually does return, however, it is with his new American wife and child.

Opera Hedeland’s production of the opera is presented under the evening sky in an amphitheatre located among the beautiful rural vistas of Hedeland (a mere 30 minutes from Copenhagen – check website for travel details), and promises a unique treatment from a renowned symphony, performed by some of Scandinavia’s best talent. Swedish director Tobias Theorell recently wowed German audiences with his interpretation of Weber’s Der Freischütz, and has been described as a “refreshing, innovative and courageous” new talent. No doubt he will be bringing these qualities to this production of Madame Butterfly.

Conducting the Collegium Musicum orchestra (which boasts handpicked talent from various orchestras all over Denmark) is Alexander Polianichko, who was previously the head of the opera at St Petersburg’s Marinsky Theatre. He has conducted at opera houses such as Milan’s La Scala, Berlin’s Deutsche Oper, Opera National de Paris, San Francisco Opera, Opera de Lyon, Covent Garden and the English National Opera, all of which suggests what audiences can expect from this talented ensemble: something highly memorable, both aurally and visually.

The Hedeland area provides a very special ambience for these productions, boasting ancient Danish burial grounds, pristine lake waters and charming woodlands. There are various travel options, including an opera shuttle bus that leaves from Copenhagen costing 100kr for a return trip, but tourists new to the area should also be advised that if possible, it’s worth setting aside time outside the performance to explore the surrounding landscape.

All picnickers are encouraged, either to bring their own basket or to order one luxuriously prepared by Meyers Køkken catering (205kr) at the time of ticket purchase.

Madame Butterfly
Opera Hedeland, Tranemosevej 8, Hedehusene; starts Fri, ends Aug 10, performances on Fri (Aug 2), Aug 9 & 10 21:00, doors open 18:00; tickets: 312-530kr, 7015 6565, www.operahedeland.dk