My wife and I have been to a few opera performances in the past. Yet, I was slightly nervous to attend Opéra Louisiane’s production of “Madama Butterfly” on March 8. We filed into the Baton Rouge River Center and were dismayed with the sparse attendance. Nevertheless, we were delighted to be in the company of avid operagoers.
“Madama Butterfly” is a story about a cross-cultural love. A classic plot for a classic art. The costumes were intricate and authentic. Though I expected the orchestra to be great, I did not know how haunting the melodies of “Madama Butterfly” would resonate.
The play tells a love story with a tragic ending. The U.S. demanded entry to Japan in the later 19th century. A naval officer could “rent a bride” for his stay. Lt. Pinkerton “marries” 15-year-old Cio-Cio-San, whose noble family has been impoverished since the emperor directed her father to commit ritual suicide. She takes the initiative to convert to Christianity, for which she is ostracized by the community. Pinkerton ships out; Cio-Cio-San discovers she is with child. Instead of moving on to the next bidder, she waits for Pinkerton’s return, hopefully scouting every ship that comes to port with a spyglass — for three years. When the lieutenant finally returns to claim his son, he is accompanied by his American wife. Butterfly is devastated. She gives him his 3-year-old son and kills herself.
We were captivated with the beauty of the production from the start. The story was riveting and the performances were absorbing. We were both swept up into the lives of every person living in that small house. I had no idea this opera would be so intense and moving.
Congratulations to Opéra Louisiane for a beautiful production of “Madama Butterfly.” The marvelous performers, musicians and directors who produced this opera can take credit for setting a high bar for the renaissance of the arts in Baton Rouge.