For One Night Only on Thursday 18 September over 250 cinemas in the UK and Ireland including Cineworld, Odeon and Vue theatres will screen one of the world’s most spectacular opera events, giving cinema audiences an exciting opportunity to see a world-class production from the other side of the globe. Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour makes a welcome return to cinema screens with a modern retelling of Puccini’s tale of love and honour, Madama Butterfly, captured live from the waters of the Sydney Harbour on a magnificent floating stage.
Madama Butterfly is the third production to be staged by Handa Opera, suspended over the harbour against a backdrop of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. This outdoor spectacle is set on a purpose-built stage with a Japanese bamboo forest and giant sun and moon – both 12 metres wide – which rise from the water to hang above the stage. This will be the only Opera Australia production screened in cinemas this season, and is a One Night Only event.
More than a century after it was first performed at La Scala in Milan, Giacoma Puccini’s three-act opera is still one of the world’s most performed operas with its poignant story of lost love and its unmistakable arias. Said to have been inspired by French author Pierre Loti’s semi-autobiographical novel Madame Chrysanthème, it tells of a young Japanese woman Cio-Cio San and an American soldier Pinkerton who fall in love despite their cultural differences. When reality separates the couple, the lovelorn Cio-Cio carries the torch for her beloved, certain that he will return for her one day.
Director, Àlex Ollé, of experimental Catalan theatrical company, La Fura dels Baus, has staged many outdoor productions, including Aida at Verona Arena in 2013. His very contemporary production reimagines Pinkerton as a ruthless property developer, who brings ruin to Cio-Cio-San’s unspoilt world of delicate beauty, symbolising the loss of paradise. Ollé makes full use of the waterside setting, integrating the magical landscape of Sydney Harbour at night into his production. Cio-Cio-San’s suitor, Prince Yamadori, arrives by motor-boat in Act II. And, as always with Handa Opera, a dazzling firework display is a highlight of the performance.
Japanese soprano Hiromi Omura portrays tragic Cio-Cio San, having sung this role many times around the world, including at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, Lausanne, Savonlinna, as well as Opera Australia. Her co-star is the young Russian tenor Georgy Vasiliev who performs the role of Pinkerton.
Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has become an annual treat, and as with both previous productions, 44% of ticket buyers for Madama Butterfly had never attended an Opera Australia event before, reflecting the true accessibility of this unique occasion to new audiences.
Madama Butterfly is performed in Italian with English subtitles.