A TRAGIC BUTTERFLY
This production of Puccini's beloved opera was first presented at the stage of the Greek National Opera, which is substantially smaller than that of the Athens Concert Hall were it was presented as a revival of the old production designed and directed by Nikos Petropoulos.
He opted for a spartan and sparse set which initially at the beginning of the opera was bare, but at the end of Act One , a wooden black house descended and encased the two lovers, at once becoming Butterfly's house and prison. The white, grey sets , colors which were reflected in the costumes as well, were very effective, only to be contrasted by Butterfly's red dress at the end of the opera.
All in all, the Chorus singers were restricted to almost ceremonial hypnotic movements, suggestive of the Noh Theater, without however betraying the westernized view of the action, for as Petropoulos suggests in his program notes, this is a westernized view of Japan , not a Japanese one. I think that in the huge stage of the Megaron the sets somehow lost the feeling of claustrophobia which one experienced in the smaller stage of the Olympia Theater.
The title role was sung by Celia Costea, a darling of the Greek public, with a lyrical well defined voice that brought forward the entire spectrum of Butterfly's emotions and final tragic realization of her fate. Her Butterfly was a sensitive tormented creature, which when realized the true feelings of her lover and husband, was transformed into a tragic figure in her confrontation with Sharpless when she presented him with her child. Her cries “then what is this..tell me” which she utters pointing to her child brought chills to my spine, she revealed the force and determination of the heroine which one rarely sees in other performances. I think that the role taxed her voice in various parts of the music – mainly due to the very slow tempi of the Conductor - but her great musicianship helped her get over the score in flying colors.
The revelation of the evening was the young Dario di Vietri , who was no stranger to the Greek Operatic Scene, since he sung at the Pireaus Theater the title role of El Greco an opera by Hatzinassios directed by the very talented Vassilis Anastassiou. His voice is indeed phenomenal, with an impressive range and crystal clear top notes which are emitted with force and a phenomenal ease. His vocalita was perfect for the role, although one would wish to hear him in roles such as Radames and Calaf, which he has sung all over the world. He is certainly on the way to become a top class world famous tenor the equal of Pavarotti and Domingo. He certainly has the voice and the technique to tackle the mainstream roles of a lyric dramatic tenor. He portrayed Pinkerton in the first Act as a flippant person , unable to really grasp fully what he was letting himself into, and at the second Act a more tragic character that realized suddenly the seriousness of the situation up to it's tragic ending. I hope that we will have the opportunity of hearing more of him in the future in Athens.
Ines Zikou sang to the best of her ability the role of Suzuki, and although in the first Act the voice was a bit unstable, later on it was stabilized especially in the flower duet which was well sung. I think most of the vocal problems were due to the very slow tempi of Maestro L.F.Malheiro.
Dionisis Sourbis was in excellent healthy voice in the role of Sharpless as was the young Alexis Tsilogiannis in the role of Goro. Not only he possesses a beautiful round voice, but he is an accomplished actor as well.
The Chorus was at its best under the inspired direction of A.Georgakatos, as was the Orchestra of the Greek National Opera under the direction of Luiz Fernando Malheiro. He opted for rather slow tempi which although for some may seem objectionable – especially to the singers – he stripped the score of its sugarish elements bringing to the surface the tragic and dramatic elements of the score, emitting loud and sometimes even harsh sounds from the Orchestra, especially from the timpani. I must admit that I have never heard the score of “Butterfly” so dramatically and evocatively performed ,before.
It was a very enjoyable evening, one of the best performances , real feather in the cap of the Greek National Opera.
All fotos by STEFANOS