Live review: OA’s Madama Butterfly

Sylvie Woods reviews Opera Australia



Madama Butterfly
Opera Australia
Capitol Theatre, 24 October

What’d you miss?

  •  One of the finest dramatic sopranos on the scene
  •  Optimism + woe (in equal parts)
  •  An alternative space for OA


On account of renovations at the Sydney Opera House, Opera Australia’s latest ‘stab’ at Madama Butterfly resets for the Capitol Theatre in Haymarket.

If some were vexed by the adjustment (it couldn’t have been for long) because Utzon’s splendid arcs did not beckon them to their seats – or perhaps because the downtown streets presented less photogenic a panorama than Bennelong Point – I predict they cut their losses quickly; for the Capitol Theatre is a fine alternative, a space well-designed for vocalists and for grand sets respectively.

Besides, after sitting through Carmen on the Harbour in the rain, I am relieved of OA’s sabbatical away from seaside canapés, post-performance fireworks, and general fixations on subsidiary sparkle.

The company triumphed in delivering a rousing reiteration of the Oxenbouldian production. The charm of Butterfly is found majorly within Puccini’s superb structural effect that leads to an overall emotional momentum; it was just right that conductor Brian Castles-Onion did not tarry in moving us through Butterfly’s tale.

Karah Son is undoubtedly one of the finest dramatic sopranos you can hear at the moment: warm-voiced with a measuredly mounting, spinning vibrato; overall an exquisite high register and remarkable stamina. Gesturally, Son persuaded me of Butterfly’s optimism and woe with equal might. Diego Torres made a convincing Pinkerton, introducing a powerful contrast in approach after his absence; his guilt tangible, making Butterfly’s last moments all the more unbearable. American consul Sharpless (the character who despairs at his duty to bring Butterfly the news that will kill her) portrayed by Barry Ryan was in fine voice, as was the sceptical Suzuki played by Sian Pendry.

This production sees a silken-swathed (and voiced) cast performing Puccini’s extraordinary music before a backdrop of starry skies, flickering candles on water, and scattered cherry blossoms.

In this recent heat, my apartment has begun to to solicit bogong moths through the window. In a welcome contrast, I say thank you to Karah Son for bringing me a most sublime Butterfly.

Images supplied. Credit: Prudence Upton.

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