Take flight with this safe pair of wings

Madame Butterfly’ was originally a short story by John Luther Long who was inspired by his sister’s account of the time she spent in Japan. The short story was later dramatised, and in 1904, Puccini’s opera of the same name made its debut. Although it was originally poorly received – mainly because of its late completion and lack of rehearsal – it went on to become one of the most magnificent and most often performed operas of all time.

The driving force behind the Royal Danish Theatre’s production is Guido Paevatalu, a singer, set designer and director with the theatre since 1982. His experience was evident in the production of an opera that was entertaining and well rounded.

The opera is a heart-wrenching love story accompanied by some of the most beautiful melodies of all time. The music seems to agree with the format of the chamber opera, and the small band consisting of piano, clarinet, violin and cello made for an intimate feel without the music losing any of its essence.
The opera is well cast and no singer was really out of place, although a few were better than others. Elsebeth Dreisig deserves special praise for her performance: not only was her singing sublime, but her portrayal of Butterfly as a young and innocent yet passionate woman was simply mesmerising. Guido Paevatulu also deserves praise for an excellent performance as Sharpless. He plays his role as a bearer of bad news so convincingly that one cannot help but feel sorry for him.

Despite not singing, seven-year-old Oliva Riis, who played the role of Madame Butterfly’s young son, also deserves recognition. Not only did she perform her role with a composure and grace that is rarely seen in child performers – especially when an aria is being belted out into her face – but she was so convincing as a little, innocent boy that it wasn’t until the very end when she took her bow and removed her hat to reveal a cascade of long hair, that I realised she was, in fact, a girl.

The only thing that could be improved in an otherwise good production was the hair and make-up design. The costumes were all right, but the hair and make-up was somewhat inconsistent. Dreisig had white face paint, red lipstick and black eyeliner that, although far from being proper geisha make-up, somewhat gave her the appearance of a Japanese geisha. However, the rest of the cast portraying Japanese characters had to make do with a slight smudge of black eyeliner, which was neither here nor there, really.

All in all, this production of ‘Madame Butterfly’ is good: the music is well performed and the acting and singing is performed convincingly by every cast member. The only downside is the fact that there are no subtitles and not understanding every word somewhat diminishes the dramatic effect of this heart-breaking story, but thanks to Paevatulu’s introduction to the story at the beginning, one should not feel too lost.

‘Madame Butterfly’ is currently touring Denmark until February 9, with several more performances planned for Zealand, including one in Frederikssund this Saturday. For more details, see www.kglteater.dk.


Madame Butterfly


October 19

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