Last night I had the unexpected pleasure of going to see Madame Butterfly at Petworth House. We sat in a tidy sized audience, enjoying a pic-nic supper before the performance began, and then sat spell-bound through it all.
It was put on by Opera Brava, and was totally brilliant. If you get the chance to see them, I urge you to go. Sometimes there is an orchestra, but not this time. They had a pianist instead, who played superbly, sensitively, orchestrally, and the singers were amazing, all completely committed to their roles. I was caught up in it all from start to finish.
I have never seen Madame Butterfly before, and I didn't know the plot until I read it in the programme. It's a very sad story, and I was absorbed in the implications of what was happening. I had to keep reminding myself "it's just a story". The only characters that appeared to behave with any common sense seemed to by Suzuki (the maid), and Kate (Pinkerton's American wife). Oh, and the little boy, beautifully played by a nine-year-old girl.
How dare a Naval officer take advantage of such a young girl, apparently in her teens, knowing that he planned to ditch her? His opening aria was so cynical - the world there for his taking, to grasp and use as he chose?
What must Kate think, finding herself married to such a shallow, self-centred, irresponsible, heartless man, and stuck with him for ever.
How on earth did the boy ever manage to recover from finding his mother's body, and then being carried off to America by strangers?
What an extraordinarily modern story, especially since it was composed in 1904.
Hey, calm down. It's only a story. Fiction. Right.