Review: Anthony Minghella’s Madam Butterfly, Coliseum

I’m a crier. I can’t even think about Elliot and ET’s parting without my eyes stinging and if I hear even a few bars of West Side Story’s Somewhere I’m reaching for the tissues.

But even that innate knowledge of my own temperament couldn’t have prepared me for the big, fat tears that rolled silently down my cheeks for the entirety of Madam Butterfly’s final act at the Coliseum.

Butterfly’s anguish at Pinkerton’s betrayal was palpable and my heart broke as her hope was shattered and she realised she would have to give up her child; her only reminder that her marriage had been real, at least for her.

Bird-like Mary Plazas is excellent as Butterfly who, unable to live without her only two loves, mirrors her father’s fate by ending her own life.

Plazas is supported admirably by Gwyn Hughes Jones as the callous Pinkerton and the tormented go-betweens Butterfly’s maid Suzuki and the US Consul Sharpless.

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But what sets the late Anthony Minghells’ production apart is the staging; simple Japanese paper screens are moved to create rooms by dancers who themselves become part of the scenery, wielding paper lanterns, origami cranes on bamboo poles and even becoming a bed of flowers in one scene.

Mingella’s scenery is cinematic in its scope; cherry blossom fills the stage on Butterfly and Pinkerton’s wedding night and the audience’s first glimpse of Butterfly’s character, a silent movement piece by the company’s dancers, conveys her ethereal beauty.

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Three puppeteers bring Butterfly’s son Sorrow to life so convincingly that it’s easy to forget he is just a wooden doll as he falls asleep in her lap as his mother waits in vain through the night to the poignant Humming Chorus for her husband to return.

This production has cemented itself in my psyche and, for the rest of my life, I won’t be able to listen to One Fine Day without welling up.

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