"Madama Butterfly"
"Madama Butterfly"

A tale of betrayal and suicide

music July 06, 2018 01:00

By Special to The Nation

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Opera Siam brings “Madama Butterfly” to the Bangkok stage

Thais often regard opera as elitist and hard to understand, but there are some stories told through the medium that everyone can enjoy and one of these is the tale “Madama Butterfly”.

Being staged by Opera Siam this Wednesday and Thursday at the Thailand Cultural Centre, “Madama Butterly” stars Asean’s reigning diva Nancy Yuen in the title role. 

Yuen, who has also portrayed Butterfly at the Royal Albert Hall in London as well as in productions in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Hong Kong is joined by a lineup of international stars accompanied by the award-winning Siam Sinfonietta. 

Spanish-American tenor Israel Lozano, a protege of Placido Domingo, returns to Thailand to play Pinkerton, the American naval officer who “buys” the young Asian girlfrom a marriage broker and proceeds to abandon her. 

Phillip Joll appears as the American consul Sharpless, Italian mezzo-soprano Emanuela Barazia, plays Suzuki, Australian bass Damian Whiteley stars as the bonze and Thailand’s own Chaiporn Phuangmalee is the devious Goro.


“A ‘Butterfly’ in the #metoo era is a delicate operation because while on the one hand this opera has always been viewed as romantic, lyrical and with all those fabulous melodies, at its heart it’s about a creepy white man exploiting a young Asian girl – an act to which people in Asia today are more sensitive, and certainly more condemnatory, than a 100 years ago when this opera had its premiere,” says artistic director Somtow Sucharitkul.

“In 1904, audiences couldn’t take such a caddish anti-hero, and Puccini revised the opera to make Pinkerton kinder and gentler, but he is still an antihero. Indeed, the stream of irony that ran through Puccini's first version of the opera is not toned down at all and so the best way to show the irony is to play it straight. Make the opera as beautiful as possible, and the dark side will show itself,” he adds. 

“Madama Butterfly” is one of the most influential of operas. The musical “Miss Saigon” is essentially a remake and the tale was retold in a gender-bending way in “M Butterfly”. There have also been countless movie spinoffs, including the Shirley MacLaine comedy “My Geisha”.  

The Thai drama “Sao Khrueh Fah” was adapted from “Madama Butterfly” and in the 1960s, Dusdi Malakul recreated the libretto of the opera in Thai lyric poetry. A production of this Thai language play was presented in the 1960s and proved highly popular. 

- Opera Siam’s “Madama Butterfly” will be performed on Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm at the Thailand Cultural Centre. 

- Tickets costing Bt500 to Bt5,000 (including the reception) are on sale at Thai Ticket Major outlets and online at www.ThaiTicketMajor.com, at at www.EventBrite.com.