“Madame Butterfly” as a manga opera in the Opernloft Hamburg | NDR.de – Culture – Music

As of: 08/09/2021 12:44 p.m.

The small Hamburg off-stage Opernloft in the old ferry terminal on the edge of the harbor has turned Puccini’s classic “Madame Butterfly” into a colorful present-day story – albeit with a rather daring staging trick.

by Daniel Kaiser

The costumes are brightly colored: blue hair, red boots, yellow XXL bow ties! Characters sing like from a Japanese cartoon. Instead of geisha and US officer as in the original, four young people meet for cosplay, a role-playing game with disguise, and act as typical characters from the anime world. For the equipment, Silvio Motta dug deep into the manga box. There are many eye-catchers. Splendid!

Instead of a large orchestra, there is only a trio playing in the small opera loft: the arrangement by musical director Amy Brinkmann-Davis for piano, double bass (Andreas Krumwiede) and flute (Arevik Khachatryan) is wonderfully successful and also captures the rich colors and the melting of the Music one. You can also cook the magic of Puccini hot on a low flame.

“Butterfly”: Great quartet of singers on the Opernloft stage

Ljuban Živanović, Aline Lettow and Rebecca Aline Frese from the ensemble of the production “Butterfly” at the Opernloft

The young quartet of singers operates at a high level: Aline Lettow as Butterfly has the rousing drama in her voice. Ljuban Živanović sings as Pinkerton, as if he should still be heard down the Elbe in Blankenese. With this power he could easily have kept up with the Typhon of the Queen Mary II. He climbs the dramatic heights effortlessly. He is a pink tone who can hardly walk with toxic masculinity and vocal power.

The mezzo-soprano Rebecca Aline Frese has a wonderful dark timbre that gives the opera evening a very special sound. And Lukas Anton rounds off the successful overall sound with his full baritone as Sharpless. So far so good.

Re-imagined story

Four opera singers in colorful clothes with glowing hula hoops on the stage.  © Inken Rahardt / Opernloft Photo: Inken Rahardt

The singer ensemble in the opera loft: Lukas Anton, Aline Lettow, Ljuban Živanović and Rebecca Aline Frese

For her staging, however, Nina Kupczyk threw the original plot almost completely overboard. The Italian text can be heard on the stage. But the surtitling is about something completely different in everyday prose: about the conflicts of the young people on stage and also about mothers who regret their motherhood.

The music becomes a purely emotional resonance space for the newly conceived story. Anyone who listens to the Italian text is a little lost. Just let the libretto be the libretto and tell your own story with Japanese motifs is somewhat daring.

Juggling with Japanese clichés

One can certainly accuse Puccini of having created a very stereotypical image of Japan from a geographical distance and with musical means of the European late romanticism, but the opera loft version of the “Butterfly” actually juggles mainly with Japanese clichés: On the On the screen you can see Godzilla destroying a city or atom bombs exploding again and again, while anime characters act on the stage.

The action on stage is particularly strong, however, when the original story and the new version coincide, for example in the famous love duet at the end of the first act (“Vieni! Vieni!”), In which there is sex with anime gestures on the stage.

Making opera classics accessible

Part of the philosophy of the Opernloft, whose new home is almost directly on the Elbe in a picture postcard, is to modernize and streamline the XXL classics of music history in order to make opera accessible to a wider audience. In this case, musically, it worked perfectly.

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Opera loft in the old ferry terminal © Silke Heyer

The Opernloft combines rousing opera productions and a stylish harbor atmosphere into a total work of art with goose bumps.
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The Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso in a black and white photo with historical costumes.  © Courtesy Everett Collectionx

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NDR 90.3 | Culture journal | 08/09/2021 | 7:00 p.m.

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