Tuesday, March 01, 2011


I was at the opening night of Madam Butterfly at the Royal Albert Hall - here's my review from today's Independent. Thoughts about the whys and wherefores of this are butterflitting about. This very popular in-the-round and sung-in-English production has a job to do and it does this very well. The singing was pretty damn good. David Freeman brings out some acute psychological detail that enhances the drama, too. But there was so much that got up my nose: the amplification, the dragging pace, the way that the setting just swallows the silken embroidery of the score's detail, and I have a job to do too, so I have to say so.

And yet... I took along my niece, who'd never heard it before, and she was entranced.  The thing is sold out and they've scheduled extra performances. It's a chance for thousands of people to discover Butterfly in a (supposedly) user-friendly place, sung in the vernacular (even if you can't hear many of the words) and in a production that doesn't muck around with concepts but just tells the story, which is quite enough on its own, thanks. This is all a Very Good Thing. So I feel extremely churlish about grumbling. But I know the score well, I love the opera to pieces and this is the only time I haven't had to get out my hanky at the end. Which means it doesn't deliver enough.

What do you think? Am I being fair?