Argentina Puccini, Madama Butterfly: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Colón. Conductor: Ira Levin, Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 28.11.2014. (JSJ)
Cio-Cio-San: Liana Aleksanyan / Monica Ferracani
Pinkerton: James Valenti / Enrique Folger
Suzuki: Guadalupe Barrientos / Alejandra Malvino
Sharpless: Igor Golovatenko / Alejandro Meerapfel
Goro: Sergio Spina / Gabriel Centeno
Prince Yamadori: Fernando Grassi
The Bonze: Fernando Radó / Cristián Peregrino
Imperial Commissioner: Mario De Salvo
Kate Pinkerton: Gabriela Ceaglio
Official: Roman Modzelwski
Cousin: Carina Höxter
Mother: María Castillo de Lima
Aunt: Carmen Nieddu
Director/sets/lighting/costumes: Hugo De Ana
Chorus: Miguel Martínez
It is obviously no more than a coincidence that the production of Madama Butterfly – with which the Teatro Colón closes its 2014 season – should have been preceded within days with another production of his immediately preceding work, Tosca (at the Teatro Argentino). But it makes for an interesting juxtaposition in contrasting these two very different heroines of different times who both end in suicide.
The Colón’s production by the Argentine producer Hugo De Ana – who also was responsible for the scenery, dress and lighting – was based around three cubes serving as rooms moving closer together or apart, with the centre the focus of the main action. Although hardly end of the 19th century-ish, it nevertheless pointed to the minimalism and simplicity that are associated with Japan. This was set against a sea backdrop, which was projected to give different representations for different times of day. But as though this wasn’t enough there were also projections such as giant butterflies and other oddities such as Yamadori more like a cross-dressing playboy than a noble and serious suitor, and Butterfly’s son brought on stage by ninjas.
Some other interesting points were a slap on the face for Pinkerton from Kate for his behaviour to Butterfly, and Suzuki’s assistance to Butterfly in her suicide.
Armenian soprano Liana Aleksanyan – replacing the originally programmed Patricia Racette – was a convincing Butterfly although lacking in volume. Tall and slim, American tenor James Valenti made for an appropriately dashing Pinkerton and he has a pleasing timbre, but his highs are uncomfortable, reportedly being booed on opening night.
The young Russian baritone Igor Golovatenko – also a replacement for Fabián Veloz – brought depth and understanding to the role of Sharpless, and Guadalupe Barrientos was outstanding as Suzuki.
Among the other roles, Sergio Spina’s Goro was also noteworthy.
Ira Levin brought a well conducted and interesting reading, with very varied tempi – the opening, for example, as fast as it could possibly be – while the chorus was precise and well sounding.
Jonathan Spencer Jones