To celebrate the centenary of Madama Butterlfly and the opening of the 50th Puccini Festival at the Torre del Lago open-air theatre in Italy, two highly orginal performances of this popular opera were staged under the baton of Placido Domingo.
Since the Japan represented by Puccini was the fruit of his imagination (he never actually visited the country), it was decided to create a version set in a contemporary dream-like world inhabited by insects, with set design by sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro and costumes by Guillermo Mariotto for Maison Gattinoni, with the collaboration of Alberto Bartalini.
Director Stefano Monti added the Dream Weaver, a character apparently only seen by Butterfly's son and representing the child's imagination.
For Butterfly, something had to be created that gave the idea of flying, so Mariotto designed a kimono/parachute for Act One's marriage scene and in Act Two she was a chrysalis, ready to fly towards her tragic fate. Pinkerton's despicable behavior was envisaged as typical of a scorpion and his shiny black uniform had a cap that brought to mind the insect's sting.
Sharpless, the cricket/consul, had the rather ambiguous air of a mundane, pluri-decorated character, with his extrovert combination of biker's leather and tailcoat, while Pinkerton's American wife Kate, probably the only character in which the 19th century spirit of Puccini's work could be seen, was a busy ant, with an enormous coulisson.
Prince Jamadori's costume paid tribute to the silkworm, able to produce the valuable thread sought everywhere (so a symbol of richness), and Butterfly's loving maid Suzuki was a cicada, with a voluminous jacquard kimono.
This Puccini Festival production will be staged in Japan in September.