Butterfly Diaries, Part IV: Illustrated Edition

Butterfly Diaries, Part IV: Illustrated Edition

1. An offer

Butterfly1A bad thing has happened, but you, yes you, may benefit from my misfortune. Last week I returned to the box office to book for Madama Butterfly on the 7th of March. All seemed well. Then I got home, looked at the thing, and realised what I had in my hand was a ticket for Madama Butterfly on the 7th of February. Alas, alack. Did I misspeak? Did the box office make an error? Either way, I know from past experience that they won't consider exchanging it, and anyway, I've already re-booked for the right date. Which means I have a ticket going spare — the 7th of February is a performance by Antoinette Halloran and Rosario La Spina, and having already seen Antoinette (three times!) in Cheryl's place, I no longer need to go again during her scheduled season. 

The ticket is for C-reserve, seat C12 in the stalls. No surtitle view, but acoustically pretty excellent, and you'll be in exactly the right spot to appreciate the full force of Antoinette's "Un bel di". If you're in Sydney and you'd like it, send me an email and we'll figure something out. As a Saturday night C-reserve ticket, it cost me $106, but I think we can work out a pretty nice deal — I'd just like it to go to a good home. 

2. 09-01-09, 14-01-09 FOURTH & FIFTH PERFORMANCES

Butterfly3Two more Butterflies, two more Cheryl Barker cancellations, two more appearances by Antoinette. What a good thing it's so impossible to be mad at Cheryl Barker. I'm frustrated by the situation, but not by her — painful as her absences are, in the end, I'm pleased she's doing whatever she deems necessary to look after that precious voice. And if there's an element of supercautiousness, on account of her upcoming Parisian début, well, that's fine too. I forgive and forgive, and keep crossing my fingers that she might just make it to the matinée on Saturday, her last scheduled performance this month. And meanwhile, let's just hope she returns in March ready to blaze through her final performances. 

Of Antoinette's three performances so far, I'd say her first was her best. On the 9th her voice was still sounding a bit ragged from the demands she'd placed on it in the previous performance. Wednesday's was somewhere in the middle. Vocally, she's best at the extremes, the high, soaring passages and big, low chest voice. In the middle, a little less secure, but we make allowances, because what a role for anyone to sing. She remains a fine actress, a charming Butterfly, especially in the first act, where she is all youthful excitability. Her own personal take on the role is coming through more clearly with each performance, although so too is a slight tendency to perhaps (for my tastes, anyway) overdo the giggly exuberance just a little. There's a serious and formal side to Cio-Cio San too, after all, but that's something Antoinette has plenty of time and world to grow into. 

Julian Gavin remains our almost lovely Pinkerton, and with Cheryl not around, I actually take the time to watch him a bit more than usual. He's pretty good at finding three dimensions in a character who could just about get away with one, and that bright, secure voice makes him easier still to indulge. I'm more taken with Graeme Macfarlane's Goro all the time, too. Whereas I'm starting to wish Barry Ryan's Sharpless had just a bit more presence and a more benevolent air — maybe it's just me, but I like to feel that he's really on Butterfly's side, as far as possible, rather than that he's just taking care of business as painlessly as he can manage. Wednesday's performance was an especially moving one for Suzuki, Catherine seemed quite genuinely distraught by the end. 

That said, it was also the only one I've remained dry-eyed throughout, but that's more to do with my frustration at diva cancellation than the performance per se — and it received a pretty substantial standing ovation, much to my surprise, so what do I know? 

So now there's only Saturday's matinée left, and then I'm Butterfly-free until March. I'm doing my level best to expect Antoinette to sing. If Cheryl happens to appear, well, what a bonus that would be. All this uncertainty wreaks havoc on my poor nerves, though. It's terribly traumatic, not knowing until the very last moment. 

3. Santé
For our prima donna, on the eve of her Parisian début. Get well soon, for les grenouilles if not for us. But that matinée would be nice. 

6 thoughts on “Butterfly Diaries, Part IV: Illustrated Edition

  1. I think you neglected to mention the standing ovation that Miss Halloran received at the opera house for her performance on Wednesday night. I’m not sure if we could have been at the same performance! I did not once hear this Butterfly sound “ragged”. And Butterfly should be young and bright and fervent. It is only in Act 3 that the tragedy unfolds. I am sure Ms Halloran deserves higher praise, having made an audience who started the evening mourning the loss of Miss Barker, rise to their feet at her final bow.

  2. I did mention the ovation, which took me by (pleasant) surprise. I was ready to stand after her first Butterfly (on the 6th) but alas, it didn’t happen, so I’m glad she got her dues after all.
    My “ragged” comment was actually about her performance on the 9th, and maybe in my efforts to be concise, I’ve been unfair, but she did just sound a bit exhausted to me. Wednesday’s was much shinier, but maybe the sheer force of her first performance just means the others pale in comparison. I don’t know. I was exhausted too at that Friday performance, for reasons too ridiculous to go into. And I cried like a baby.
    And look, yes, of course Antoinette deserves higher praise, but I’ve lavished quite a lot of it on her in other posts, so she’s hardly been neglected. More than a year later, I still wax lyrical about her Stella (in Streetcar) to anyone who’ll listen (and many who won’t) and I’ve written several pieces in rapturous tribute since then, too. Maybe I’ve been uncharacteristically subdued above, but fear not, I’m still in the fan club.

  3. Sarah –
    You are perhaps quite qualified to answer a question about seating in the Opera Theatre. I notice the ticket you purchased is C12; is there any obstructed viewing from here? I am booking for Peter Grimes in October and cannot decide between C reserve and A reserve. I realise it would be acoustically beautiful to sit in row C but I am taking someone less musically inclined and I hate to think half the stage would be missing!!

  4. Row C in the stalls is excellent. The only issue is that you won’t be able to see the surtitles. If you’re sitting right at one end or the other, you might miss a tiny bit of action if the set extends into the wings, but nothing of consequence – I think the most I’ve missed at the end of Row C was Emilia Marty getting out of bed. You only risk half the stage being missing if you go for a loge – if you’re in the stalls, you’re safe, just stay in front of the overhang or you won’t hear much.

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