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'Butterfly': My first opera

May 13, 2008|By OLIVIA SMITH / Pulse Correspondent

When I agreed to review "Madama Butterfly," I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into.

I'm a teenager who has, granted, seen her fair share of musicals and plays, but never an opera. And I never thought I would see an opera. Opera has a reputation of, uh, refinement about it. Nearly every depiction of opera you see, whether it is in movies or in paintings, shows rich, older people in fancy clothes watching a fat lady wearing a Viking helmet sing.

Not a good fit for a teenager.

Or so it would seem. As it turns out, I managed to get myself into something very entertaining where I fit in just fine (my dad came with me). I can see where it would become addictive.

"Madama Butterfly" is a wonderful story about a young geisha in Japan who gets married to an American sailor and, after he's gone back to America, bears his child. But when he comes back to Japan three years later, he brings his new American wife with him, causing Butterfly irreversible heartbreak.

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Now, I know basically nothing of opera, but I know a little something of acting and singing. From my point of view, it seemed that while the acting was wonderful, the singing was a little off. Extraordinary, but something about it just wasn't right.

I sometimes felt, and my father agreed with me, like the sopranos were screaming rather than singing. Possibly it was just because they were hitting such high notes, but if that's the case, they shouldn't hit such high notes.

The costumes were wonderfully designed and fit each character's personality well. They were simple and elegant, but they weren't colorful enough in my opinion. They wore mainly whites, grays, and dark blues.

What the costumes lacked in color and extravagance, though, was made up for in the stage lighting and visual effects.

There were colors everywhere! Reds, oranges, greens, yellows, pinks -- everything. The visual effects they pulled off were phenomenal. They really helped tell the story, and interacted well with what was going on. Plus, when I got bored I would look at the background and admire the artwork or all the swirling colors, depending on what was being projected at the time. I think that was one of my favorite parts, if not my favorite part, of the entire production.

One of the only major letdowns was the subtitles. I don't know if all opera houses do this, but the Baltimore Opera Company has a screen above the stage that shows in English what the actors are saying, because basically all of the lines are in German or Italian. I did not enjoy the subtitles flashing. I thought the acting was good enough that you could guess what was going on without them. In my mind the only thing the subtitles served to do was take away from the action on stage. I would've been much happier to just absorb myself and not have words flashing above the stage.

All in all though, "Madama Butterfly" was a wonderful opera, full of rich characters -- both on stage and in the audience -- impressive singing and superb visual effects. A good night was had by all.

I highly recommend you hop in the car and go see it. Who knows, maybe you too will enjoy the drama that is the opera.

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