Originally created 05/12/05

'Madama Butterfly' takes different tack at Imperial



It's tough to build a better Butterfly.

On Friday, the Augusta Opera opens its production of Giacomo Puccini's classic tale of love forlorn, Madama Butterfly.

Henry Akina, the production's director, said the piece is the most produced opera in America. He said that there have been so many Butterflys that finding a new way to approach the tale of an American who loves and leaves a geisha in turn-of-the-century Japan can be difficult. He said his formula involves re-evaluating the tragedy, a suicide, central to Madama Butterfly's plot.

"My approach has been to make her (Butterfly) a little stronger, to not concentrate so heavily on the general victimization and sacrifice," he said. "One of the things we know about suicide is that it's a very angry act, and we want to see that in Butterfly. We want that idea to be as prevalent as that idea of victimization."

Musically grand and dramatically compact, Madama Butterfly gets it popularity from common themes expressed in uncommonly beautiful ways.

"It's this very intense psychogram, if you will, of an obsession," Mr. Akina said. "It's this thing that starts off really beautiful and then turns around and leads to this character's downfall. And although very few of us wait for two years on a hillside for happiness to fall upon us, there are a lot of things that all of us relate to."

The fact that audiences can and continue to relate to the story is the result of Puccini's musical mastery, Mr. Akina said. He said that when it was written (1904), the composer's subtle, stirring style was revolutionary.

"Puccini was the master of using music to paint an emotional picture," he said. "And he did it in ways that other composers seemingly couldn't. His grasp of emotional color is so different from say, Verdi or Wagner. In fact there are a lot of people who believe that contemporary opera begins with Butterfly."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626, or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

ON STAGE

WHAT: Madama Butterfly, presented by the Augusta Opera

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

WHERE: The Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.

COST: $15-$45; call 826-4710