Opera: Finding Butterfly

The trend of theatre companies to take classic operas and find new perspectives on them continues with The Wedding Collective's latest production of Finding Butterfly. Produced in association with Soho Theatre, Finding Butterfly is a deconstruction and re-imagining of Puccini's Madame Butterfly set in a hospital. Rather than beautiful Japanese screens and gardens, we have Butterfly institutionalised and believing her American soldier will return while doctors and other patients know otherwise. The story of the opera is then told in flashbacks and fragments. It is quite an ingenious concept that is only let down from time to time from some over-staged dramatics and a booming clavinova accompaniment. Both tend to distract you from the sensuality and fine singing that is taking place almost in your lap...

In this pared down work, the piece is at its most exciting when the performers playing Suzuki, Butterfly and Pinkerton are on stage, and this production emphasises their roles. All three performers sang with strength and clarity that gives emotional intensity to this interpretation. Suzuki is a nurse at the hospital rather than a servant and played by Japanese mezzo soprano Megumi Shiozaki. Cio Cio San was played by feisty Li Li and Joe Morgan plays the role of Pinkerton. The wedding night duet is re imagined in bed with Pinkerton in loose boxers and Cio Cio San in a flimsy slip. There is no full frontal nudity (after all it isn't the Royal Opera), but leaving things to the imagination makes for as just an equally satisfying piece, particularly when the duet is sung so close to the audience and with such tenderness.

These days it seems as if staging a production in a theatre is rather passé, and anything from a septic tank to an abandoned office block is is a preferred performance space. But Limehouse Town Hall, with its grimy peeling paint, flooded bathrooms and general decay creates a perfect atmosphere for a clinical, alienating hospital. Here's hoping that if the venue isn't demolished at some point a future refurbishment includes the purchase of a piano. All told it is hard not to like a production that takes a fresh look on reinterpreting a classic and mixes it with some excellent performances.

Finding Butterfly runs until 20 October and there are good discounts available from the usual outlets. It deserves a future outing as well so keep an eye out for future productions.

Post show Audioboo on busy Commercial Road follows...

listen to ‘Butterfly boo: Finding Butterfly’ on Audioboo

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