ODEON OF HERODES ATTICUS / ATHENS
Madama ButterflyFollowing the huge success of his Wozzeck, the leading French director and Director of the Festival d’Avignon Olivier Py is returning to the Greek National Opera, this time to stage one of Puccini’s most popular masterpieces, Madama Butterfly, at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This production is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to enhance the GNO’s artistic outreach.
© Athens, Odeon Of Herodes Atticus - GNTO/ YSkoulas
The much sought-after stage director and performer Olivier Py, who has put on more than forty works of opera around the world, will be tackling Madama Butterfly for the first time, placing the orchestra up on stage inside the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and filling the Roman outdoor venue with the aesthetics and colors of Japan, as filtered through his own signature directorial style. Working with him to create the sets and costumes is his long-time collaborator Pierre-André Weitz.
Giacomo Puccini’s “Japanese tragedy”, first presented at La Scala in Milan in 1904, tells the story of the star-crossed love harbored by the fifteen-year-old geisha Cio-Cio-San for Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, a lieutenant in the United States Navy.
An American officer acquired the services of the young geisha Miss Butterfly at an expense of 39 dollars per month. Four dollars of this bought the license that entitled her to be his mistress, and to a daily bath in the public bathhouse. He paid her 25 dollars a month and hired a room and a servant for her, which cost another ten dollars. For this sum, he enjoyed all the comforts of a married man for a set time, and she had a roof over her head and a servant at her command. On leaving for America, he promised he would return to her when the robins nest again but in fact deserted her, leaving her desperately poor, with babe in arms. The author John Luther Long was inspired by this account of a real-life young geisha called Cio-Cio-San –recounted to him by his sister, who had lived in Nagasaki– to start writing his own short story of the tale, which formed the basis for a theatre play and, subsequently, Puccini’s opera.
Madama Butterfly never strays from the principles of verismo, with its intense clashes and love of theatrical flourishes. In this vein, the score carefully selects how best to embellish each and every moment. Orchestral influences drawn from the musical universes of Debussy and Ravel, singular elements taken from the Japanese musical tradition, striking escalations, chamber music aspects, and eruptions featuring the entire orchestra charge the opera with its particular pulsating exuberance, its unique vivacity.