Krannert hosts ‘Madama Butterfly’

By Missy Smith

Love, sex, scandal and betrayal – what more could be needed to catch the eye of the many students on this campus?

Those are just a few of the themes running through Puccini’s famous opera “Madama Butterfly.”

Jerold Siena, professor in the school of Music and director of this performance holds the opera close to his heart. He knows every word, mainly because he has sung in it many times all over the world.

“It’s a very special, very moving and powerful work, and what we are going for is reality,” Siena said. “Real people on stage, not just opera singers standing up waving their arms.”

In fact the performance is all student performed, which is impressive because it is sung in its original Italian form, with the English translation on a screen above the stage.

The story of “Madama Butterfly” is set in Japan in the early twentieth century and follows the life of a former geisha, Cio-Cio-Son, more commonly referred to as Butterfly. She has managed to escape her former life, or so she thinks, by marrying American Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton.

However from the beginning, Pinkerton had the agenda to return to America and remarry, and effectively divorcing her Japanese culture.

This heart wrenching story follows Butterfly through her despair and pain, accurately depicting the longing of a woman in love.

What is refreshing about this performance is the chemistry that is shared by the cast. They genuinely mesh well, and the harmonic blending of their voices produce a show that is worth reading along with. It does not take long for the audience to understand what is happening in the plot, even with this barrier of language.

Their graceful movements and facial expressions produce a genuine feeling of despair; these people have become the cast. The cast’s likability entices the audience to get lost in the world of “Madama Butterfly,” if only for a moment. Their words and their rich voices jump out of the stage and engage the audience to be in this world.

This world is in part created by the amazing set.

“We have beautiful stagecraft and projections,” Siena said. “The atmosphere will be very calm.”

The scenery draws the audience into the world of the Japanese. The wonderful craftsmanship of the house accurately depicts the traditional Japanese homes, and the background provides the audience with the sense that they are actually on the mountaintops of Nagasaki. What is most intriguing about the set is the projection screen, which changes from a painted canvas to projections accompanying the action occurring on the stage.

The melodic orchestra plays a part in producing a serene atmosphere that the audience can get lost in.

The all student ensemble poetically uses their instruments to express the meanings of the words being sung. Their harmonic sound produces something that is beautiful in itself and with the voices.

It is in the blending of all these singular aspects that make this opera amazing in itself.

While the mere fact of “Madama Butterfly” being an opera may be overwhelming, it is a must see. The performance leaves a long lasting imprint on day to day life.

The performance will be running at the Tryon Festival Theater in The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., through Feb. 25.