The second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth was a period when Europe was fascinated by Japanese culture. Japanese gardens and interiors were in fashion, as well as commercial art and clothing. So it is no surprise that when in a small London theatre Giacomo Puccini saw a play by the American dramatist David Belasco about the unhappy love of a Japanese geisha Cio-Cio-San (called Butterfly) for an American naval officer called Pinkerton, he immediately decided to set it to music. The story provided the composer with a theme containing a large helping of sentiment and the exotic environment of Japanese culture, which Puccini complemented with moving melodies. The choice of a foreign setting meant that in the opera Madame Butterfly he had to master a new form of musical expression. He studied culturally distant Japan, having a number of gramophone records brought over from Tokyo so as to get to know Japanese folk music, and put great effort into capturing Japanese local colour. Madame Butterfly is a masterpiece in the fine detail of atmosphere and poesy. The creative duo of Jiří Nekvasil and Daniel Dvořák created an attractive minimalist production inspired by Japanese culture, which respects modern trends in contemporary European theatre.
Premiere 13th November 2009, Janáček Theatre
Janáček Opera Ensemble and Orchestra of the National Theatre Brno