As an avid theatre-goer, I am slightly ashamed to admit being more familiar with Miss Saigon than Puccini’s Madama Butterfly - the 110-year-old opera which inspired the hit musical currently enjoying a West End revival.
The original story takes place in Japan, rather than war-torn Vietnam, as American naval officer Pinkerton marries the young, naive Ciocio-San (Japanese for ‘butterfly’).
He showers her with complements, yet Pinkerton admits to his consul that the marriage is one of convenience and will be over as soon as he finds an American bride.
The fun and innocence of new love turn to despair in the intense act two - with Butterfly running short of money, three years into the marriage.
Pinkerton has not been seen after being stationed overseas.
It is only on the Consul’s return to her hilltop home - to tell her Pinkerton has a new wife - that Butterfly reveals her own secret; a blonde son.
Each party’s surprise is revealed, with tragic consequences. The Ellen Kent production, for Opera And Ballet International, featured in the marriage scene the rather unnecessary addition of what looked to be a small chorus of non-singing teenagers in addition to the singing company.
While I’m all for opening opportunities in the arts, this crowded the stage and their under-rehearsed moves provided - a disappointing contrast and distraction from the beautiful sounds from the professionals.
Knowing the basic plot of Miss Saigon was helpful, but surtitles translating the Italian into English ensured the story flowed even to a novice.
Although it’s one-night stay at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool, was as brief as a butterfly’s flutter, the tale drew a large audience and as one person declared: “You can’t miss the opportunity when it comes.”
I’d whole-heartedly agree. Madama Butterfly was a charming production where haunting harmonies and arias stayed in the mind long after the final notes were sung.