I have never being one of those enviable people who seem to win competitions and prizes almost every day. Not for me a home cluttered with brand new fridge freezers and wide-screen TVs or endless supplies of free dog food or holidays to Spain courtesy of timeshare companies. So it came as a pleasant surprise when out of the blue I received an email from those lovely people at the AA (not Alcoholic Anonymous, the other AA, the ones that fix sick cars) to say we had been selected for a night at the opera . next thing you know its grab your hat Mrs C, we are off to a V.I.P evening to see arguable the peoples favourite opera,Giacomo Puccini’s, Madam Butterfly, the classic love story enacted in the beautiful Victorian venue The Royal Albert Hall.
Opera at the RAH has its own fascinating problems, in producing a continuity of sound for a production performed as it is, in-the-round, as opposed to the more usual performance on a conventional stage, but this is the sixth season at the venue and the production is as seamless now as it was for original outstanding showing performed back in 1998. What a production in-the-round brings to the audience experience is a far more 3D realistic feeling that could never be achieved in a ordinary theatre.
Any production by Raymond Gubbay you would expect a high standard and this version doesn’t dissapoint,
backed as it is with some remarkable vocals from a rotating cast that includes Hyeseoung Kwon, Nan-Young Kim and Myungjoo Lee playing Cio-Cio-San and Jeffrey Gwaltney, James Edwards and Mario Sofroniou as Pinkerton on alternative nights supported by an amazing chorus and of course The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Oliver Gooch and Gareth Hancock.
We spoke to the Director David Freeman and Set and Costume Designer David Roger in a pre-show Q&A who answered questions ranging from the problem of the lake of water used in the first act, to the distribution of hundreds of hidden speakers throughout the hall, along with strategically placed TV monitors so that the cast would always be able to see the conductor as they moved around the circus ring like set.
All in all a most enjoyable evening of Puccini’s ultimate Masterpiece set in the iconic backdrop of this wonderful Victorian venue, the only tragedy of the night being the routine suicide of Cio-Cio-San to bring down the curtain on a sad but beautiful story.
Words David Coomber
Pictures curtesy Raymond Gubbay and the Royal Albert Hall
Special thanks to Amanda Patchett and the Automobile Association for a wonderful evening