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Review Ellen Kent’s Madama Butterfly Manchester Opera House

Joy on the stage at Madama Butterfly UK Tour
27 Jan 2023

Ellen Kent’s Madama Butterfly has flown into Manchester’s Opera House, discover what we thought in our review. 

Brought to Manchester by the Ukrainian Opera and Ballet Theatre Kyviv, it’s the first of three operas from the company to grace the Opera House’s stage this week. 

We asked our On The Go reviewer Rachael and her daughter to check it out and here is what they thought. 

Review of Ellen Kent’s Madama Butterfly Manchester Opera House

Madama Butterfly Production Death Print

If I was going to introduce my teen to opera for the very first time, Madama Butterfly seemed a perfect choice, being one of the world’s most popular operas, and telling the tale as old as time of unrequited love.

It follows the devastating story of Cio Cio San (Madam Butterfly), a young Japanese girl who falls in love with US naval lieutenant Pinkerton, only to be bitterly betrayed after devoting her life to him.

The plotline may sound familiar, and rightly so. The award-winning musical Miss Saigon is based on Puccini’s much-loved masterpiece, making it a great first opera.

I knew the romantic twists and turns would be enough to entice my teen; but how would she feel about the entire production being sung in Italian? 

I wouldn’t usually check out the plot line before heading to the theatre (why spoil the experience), but I fully recommend checking out the brief synopsis of any opera in the programme beforehand.

It meant we could follow along with ease, and enjoy being swept along with the music without focusing too much on the subtitles over the stage.

Madama Butterfly Production House Print

The entire opera is based around one, detailed set of a house featuring a Japanese garden, sat on a hill in Japan’s Nagasaki which sets the scene perfectly.

Lighting is used effectively to highlight the passing of the days, and the seasons, contributing to a stunning backdrop from which to tell the tragic tale of Cio Cio San’s youthful but unrequited love for Pinkerton.

The costumes are traditional and opulent, pulling the audience even further into the traditional oriental setting. Their beauty contrasts with Cio Cio San’s future as she stubbornly rejects her Japanese heritage for the promises of a life with her new American husband. 

Madama Butterfly Production Flowers Print

Featuring a full orchestra, which ebbs and rises with the trials of Madama Butterfly, the music truly is the star of the show. Filled with hope and despair, haunting arias –  most famously “Un bel di, vedremo” – bring the storyline to life in a way that only opera can. 

My teenage daughter was probably one of the youngest members of the audience – but is she glad she went?

Most definitely yes. Watching Madama Butterfly is a beautiful and unique experience.

Its full orchestra, heart-breaking melodies, fabulous costumes and realistic set combine in a way that is guaranteed to sweep you along for every bit of the story, all the way to its tragic climax.  

At the end of the opera, it was touching to stand and join the entire cast as they displayed the Ulkranian flag, singing their national anthem.

It provided a stark reminder of events in Ukraine, whilst we had had the luxury of enjoying a beautiful evening at the opera. 

Although Madama Butterfly is in Manchester for just one night only (26th January 2023), La Boheme and Aida are hot on its heels.

La Boheme3

La Boheme which is on at the Opera House on Friday 27th January, tells the story of a group of friends whose lives change forever when a girl called Mimi knocks on their door.

It features a local brass band and snow effects and is considered to be one of the most romantic operas ever written. 

Aida Amphitheatre

On Saturday 28th January, Aida takes centre stage, following the trials and tribulations of an Egyptian Army General who leads an assault on his Ethiopian enemies, to win the hand of his lover Aida. 

A story of war and revenge featuring fire performers and even a real black stallion, it promises to be a spectacle to behold.  

So whether you’re already a fan of opera, or are intrigued to find out what it’s all about, you can purchase tickets to both shows here.

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