Madame Butterfly

performed by the Dayton Opera

I’ve always wanted to connect with opera on an intense emotional level. I figure this stems from watching that scene in Philadelphia where Tom Hanks provides a description of an operatic piece (La Mama Morte ) while it plays in the background.

I keep going to operas hoping for those goose bumps, but it never shakes down that way.

Seeing the dress rehearsal for Madame Butterfly in Dayton last week was no different.

I’m never sure if it’s because I’m unfamiliar with the music, that with repeat experiences I will understand the structure and nuance, or if it is something else.

Some works of art are timeless, but I don’t particularly like the story of Madame Butterfly. After being performed over 100 years, it seems especially long in the tooth and ready for retirement (though it is the most popular opera performed today).


It doesn’t help that it is set in Japan, sung in Italian, and presented with English subtitles. I know this is how opera goes, but it just seems extra complicated.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some really excellent bits to the experience.

The Schuster Center in Dayton is a great venue—sound carries unusually well, and seats are comfortable.

The stage set was spartan and graphic (designed by Japanese artist, Jun Kaneko) with abstract videos on screens that would drop down from time to time. The whole thing reminded me of a food court from the 80’s. Sounds repulsive, I know, but it kept me engaged. Perhaps to a fault.

Maybe next time I just need to close my eyes, stop reading, stop looking, and just listen.

I dunno.

2 responses to “Madame Butterfly”

  1. byron Avatar

    maybe you just dont like oprea. dont worry, we won’t revoke your gay pass 🙂
    my favorite is Turandot and La Boheme (both Puccini). Amazingly beautiful music. Tosca is ranked up there too. i tend to get more into the sound and sets moreso than the story. i figure i don’t have to know everything going on (i.e. reading subtitles) to appreciate it.
    just my 2 cents.

  2. Jeanette Avatar

    Hey Chris,
    Was noodling around on here because a link from themonkeybear reminded me how great your site is. As somebody who studies opera, I can tell you, I’m not surprised you feel this way.
    Probably the biggest reason you don’t get goosebumps is most of todays singers are chosen because they look great in the costumes. Not ‘cuz they can sing. I haven’t heard a live opera performance in probably over a decade that gives me the shivers.
    When you run across an opera singer that can really sing, they can be singing about meatloaf on a bare stage in Iowa and will STILL totally blow audiences out of their shoes. If that really great singer also happens to be singing something that is meaningful, in a well thought out production that doesn’t necessarily have giant flying trash cans or oogie projection effects, it can be pure magic.
    Your chances of seeing a production like that in the U.S. are slim to none.
    So you may or may not like opera. Until you see a really good production, you’ll never know.
    The Fat Chick