The King’s Head Theatre is renowned for its radical reinventions of classic operas, from the reality TV set Cosí fan tutte, innovatively staged in rep with Louis Nowra’s play Cosi, to the intense La bohéme with a cast of four updated to the contemporary artist community of London.
Here Madam Butterfly, designed by Luke W. Robson, is transposed into the contemporary world of manga, anime and Japanese street fashion, where Puccini’s poignant and lyrical tragedy dips into the underbelly of one of the most patriarchal societies in the developed world.
Japanese schoolgirl culture, or Joeshi-kosei is huge in Japan. But is it harmless fun or sexual exploitation? In 21st century Nagasaki, Butterfly is trapped working in a maid’s café when she meets an American Lieutenant and she believes they are marrying for love. Can she become a real wife in the eyes of this man who sees her as a temporary plaything?
Following his successful Cosí fan tutte last spring, Paul Higgins returns to the King’s Head Theatre to direct. Paul has worked as a revival and assistant director on many productions at the Royal Opera House, English National Opera and Glyndebourne and has directed operas for English Touring Opera and Opera Holland Park.
On the production, director, Paul Higgins, said: “By moving the action to contemporary Nagasaki and exploring the world of Joeshi-Kosei, we’re breathing new life into this timeless tragedy. Madam Butterfly is the perfect opera in which to explore the damaging effects of the clash between hyper-sexualised youth culture and a heavily patriarchal society. This is Puccini’s work as you’ve never seen it before.”
Olivier-Award winner Amanda Holden has written a new English version of the libretto for the production, Amanda has written librettos including Don Giovanni, for Jonathan Miller; Bliss and The Silver Tassie for which she won the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera with Mark-Anthony Turnage.
In the role of Butterfly is Becca Marriott and Stephanie Edwards. Becca recently appeared as Mimi in the King’s Head Theatre’s production of La bohéme and will be performing in Die Walküre at Grange Park Opera, she will return to The King’s Head in the autumn as co-librettist for Tosca. Stephanie is returning to the King’s Head Theatre after appearing in Cosí fan tutte in 2016 and has also performed extensively with English Touring Opera including the roles of Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro and Papagena in The Magic Flute.
Author: Tom BaileyTom is a theatre maker and writer based in London, England. He covers news and interviews for Theatre Bubble.
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