The Juice Bloggers
By: Alexis Betia
Curtains raise, the music escalates, and the audience is met with stunning stage and costume design by Leeroy New, with lights by the celebrated John Battala and video by Pat Valera. Under the direction of critically acclaimed Anton Juan, and with Maestro Francisco Feliciano at the musical helm of our very own Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, it’s easy to see why the crowd is buzzing with anticipation. This is the first time Madame Butterfly is being staged on such a scale since 1994, and what a scale it is.
With the help of MusicArtes Inc. and CCP, Filipino audiences are treated to the sweet soprano of Mako Nishimoto and Dante Alcalá’s marvellous tenor as Cio-cio San aka Madame Butterfly and United States Navy Liutenant B.F. Pinkerton respectively. The cast is also studded with local musical talents, most notably Camille Lopez-Molina playing Cio-cio San’s indomitable maid Suzuki and Andrew Fernando as the United States Consul and Pinkerton’s good friend, Sharpless.
The two-act play takes place in Nagasaki sometime in the early 1890s, but its temporal setting doesn’t make it any less relevant to contemporary audiences. As one of the best-loved operas the world over, Madame Butterfly has been winning hearts since Giacomo Puccini first wrote and staged it in 1904. In true Puccini fashion, the story is wrought with love in its simplest and strongest, and let’s not forget tragedy – two themes Filipinos are all too familiar with.
Unlike most operas, the story of Madame Butterfly is straightforward and linear. The first act opens with Goro, a Japanese match-maker, showing Pinkerton around a cliff-side mansion overlooking the Nagasaki harbour, singing praises of the lieutenant’s wife-to-be, Butterfly. From the get-go you realize good old Pinkerton is a philandering tool as he croons to his buddy Sharpless about how as Americans they are privileged to reap the treasures of every dock they anchor at, and what a great place this Japan is, where your property lease is as conditional and terminable as your marriage. You heard it right, ladies and gentlemen, the respectable army man is only marrying poor little Butterfly until he finds a true blue American wife.
(Was the product bad? Was the service good? Rant or rave about it, and your might just win amazing prizes!)
This isn’t to say, however, that he isn’t infatuated. What hot-blooded male wouldn’t be, with Butterfly’s ethereal beauty and Maria Clara-esque demeanor, not to mention her unabashed admission of her ex-geisha past and oh, the fact that she’s only 15 years old. Kindhearted as she is, she begs him from the beginning to let her love him, even just a little.
The first act is ripe with foreshadowing as Sharpless warns him that the woman will love him sincerely, righteously and faithfully, but of course Pinkerton doesn’t listen, singing “driven by strong desire I must pursue her, unmindful of the harm I may do her.” You gotta give it to the guy, at least he knows what he wants. What little family Butterfly has in attendance at the wedding ceremony ends up condemning her along with her bonze (monk) uncle for marrying the American because in an act of selflessness and full-on commitment, Butterfly’s even abandoned her people’s age-old gods for Pinkerton’s Christ. Her soul gets cursed to a life of misery and eternal damnation, all in the name of love. Now doesn’t that sound deliciously tragic?
A short intermission later, the audience finds Butterfly begging her maid Suzuki, her only servant left, to remain steadfast in her faith that Pinkerton will return. The household barely has money left to get by as its been seven years since they last saw the lieutenant, and Goro, the match-maker, is constantly pounding at the door, trying to convince Butterfly to marry again in order to survive. As though in answer to their prayers, Sharpless pays a visit with a letter from Pinkerton, but in true double-edged fashion, all the guy wants to tell her is that he’s coming home soon and doesn’t want to see her again. The news doesn’t get delivered, though, as in excitement and anticipation for her husband’s return Butterfly adorns the mansion with every flower from the garden and puts on her wedding obi to remind her husband of that wonderful night. As gentle as ripping off a band-aid can be, Sharpless carefully asks her what she would do if Pinkerton were never to return, and Butterfly simply replies that her husband promised her he would when the robins nest, even though the event has come and gone thrice since then. She also surprises the consul with the existence of a son, Dolore, meaning sorrow, a faultless child in the spitting image of his father, living with the shame of not having him around.
(All the best deals are waiting for you at EYP Deal Finder.)
Sharpless promises to relay the information and departs, and Butterfly and what’s left of her family spot the SS Abraham Lincoln, Pinkerton’s ship, on the horizon. They stay up all night, but the second Butterfly falls asleep Pinkerton arrives with his new wife Kate. True to his spineless nature, Pinkerton ducks out of his responsibility to tell Butterfly himself that he has come to take their son away and raise him in a foreign land with another family, and leaves Kate, Suzuki and Sharpless to do the cruel, dirty deed. Butterfly accepts it all gracefully and bids her goodbyes, and in one of the most beautifully depicted and poignant hara-kiri scenes to grace the CCP stage, she ends her life.
Close curtain, take a deep breath, and exhale.
*The next time you’ve had enough of your telenovelas, mosey on over to the CCP. They’re promising us at least two other operas to hit the stage this year. And if you’re too much of a couch potato to leave your TV, Madame Butterfly has a movie version that was released in 1995. If you’re suffering from the tragedy of unrequited love or just looking for a reason to pick at old wounds, Madame Butterfly is a good go-to. It’s catharsis at its finest.
Juice Movies: All the latest from the big screens
Juice Night Out: Where the parties are at
Leave a CommentLogin first to submit a comment