April 9th, 2003

Fishy Circumstances

Music: Chess, Madama Butterfly

I attended two particularly wonderful musical events recently, largely thanks to pittenweem. On Saturday we went to a Chess in Concert performance, and tonight was Madama Butterfly, performed by the COC.

I wonder if Chess fans are particularly insular. Lindsay would have gone even if she didn't have two fellow members of her regular chorus singing in the production since she's a big fan of the musical. I too own the discs, so she knew to invite me along. It was just a concert - there was a beautifully dressed narrator to connect the sung portions together into the plot and the singers did sing to each other, walking on and off stage as the plot demanded. But basically it was a concert. There were a number of respectably good singers performing, but none could compare to the force and depth of the singer playing the role of the Russian, Anatoly. His voice was rich and plummy, and his renditions of both Who I Want to Be and Anthem were gorgeous.

Speaking of gorgeous, tonight's performance of Madama Butterfly was all Cio-Cio-San's. Oh, did she have a voice! Her rendition of "Un bel dì, vedremo" sent shivers down my spine. Pinkerton was okay, but we couldn't help wondering if he was having an off day. He came through for his big duet with Butterfly though, "Viene la sera." The staging was nicely done, simple but effective. The directing highlight for me, however, was the choice to perform acts two and three as if a single, continuous event, with Butterfly, her son, and her servant waiting out the night together, the lights slowly fading, the moon and stars coming out, her son falling asleep, eventually the servant too, and Butterfly standing steadfast and vigilant through it all until morning dawns again and the dramatic action continues. Beautiful and effective. I'm glad I went. I almost wasn't going to since, with one exception, the COC has been doing tragedies all year, depressing opera after depressing opera. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow night's comedy.