Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Madama Butterfly

Although Mitterand picked the wrong model for the new opera house - legend has it that he was told to choose the second from left or whatever and that would be Richard Meier - he was confused and chose the second from right or whatever - and so we're left with a v. disfunctional building that, never-the-less, is one of my favorite places to hear opera. Once you're inside the theatre it's perfect: flawless sight-lines everywhere, good acoustics, comfy seats, and the design of the house is such that the room disappears and your attention is completely focussed on the stage picture. And, if you trek all the way up to the top floor lobby the view across Paris is one of the best! Take a glass of champagne and a smoked-salmon sandwich up there before the first act and enjoy Paris at sunset - glorious.

For some reason at this performace the ceiling lights were not on during the intervals - and the view was dramatic!

This has to be the most moving, emotionally engaging, profoundly tragic and thrillingly sung Butterfly I've ever heard. A Robert Wilson production, it was stark and beautiful. Literally, one chair on the stage. Or a simple head-rest. Or a small object held by one of the singers. Every movement was slow and stylized, everything was suggested rather than acted, the simplest movement, therefore, carrying extreme emotional impact. (This was true of his Siegfried and Gotterdamerung also.) Butterfly simply crumpled to the floor rather than stabbing herself - a minimal motion that was riveting and shattering.

Butterfly was sung by a Chinese soprano - Liping Xhing - she's the one in the center with bare shoulders - and I have to say, having heard some pretty amazing women sing this role, she was absolutely the best. A gorgeous, supple, expressive voice - a riveting presence. David stood in line at an un-godly hour to get us tickets - we were in the second row center - the impact of this production and singing left us both speechless and drained. We had to collect ourselves a bit.

Once back at Blvd. Voltaire we were revived by Francois and his stupendous crepes - a tradition on Feb. 2 - Candlemas. Yum! He so fabulous!


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