Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Question....


Last week the Utah Opera opened its new season with Puccini's "Madame Butterfly," and we were there, five rows back, center right. Sure, it's a tearjerker, and I (along with most of the audience) shed some tears. Barbara Shivis was perfect as Butterfly; as the 15-year old in the first act, she was fragile and vulnerable, funny and trusting, and stubborn (as most 15-year-olds are!). She was magnificent as Butterfly three years later, her trust broken by that cad Pinkerton. Her performance was "stunning" as the review in the paper said--which brings to mind an ongoing argument (discussion?) I have with my husband concerning opera in general. He believes the voice rules. Physical appearance, not so much.

I remember when Martina Arroyo sang the role of Butterfly. She is a hefty Black woman, about 45 at the time. Well, that sort of thing doesn't work for me. The voice may be terrific, but Butterfly should look like an Asian teenager full of innocence and hope, like a butterfly, if you will. I have nothing against Ms. Arroyo, who has a splendid operatic voice and is a lovely lady in her own right.

So, what do you think? Does appearance matter, or does the voice overcome questionable casting??? Should an opera singer also be able to act?

Sitting next to us, as they have for many seasons, was a nice lady lawyer and her elderly father, who recently returned from a visit to New Zealand--Queenstown and Hamilton. They took harbor cruises and visited the LDS Temple and College in Hamilton. They LOVED New Zealand, and it was fun to hear their stories. And it turns out, their guide was an old friend of my husband's! Small world.
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7 comments:

January said...

I guess it depends. I'm all for the willing suspension on disbelief, pretending that a 45-year old black woman can be Asian. But it does make sense to put someone more appropriate in the role.

Still, most parts written for one ethnicity or gender. Long ago, I saw two revivals of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." One show featured Nathan Lane; a year later, this show featured Whoopi Goldberg. They both brought different things to the role, which was originally written for a male lead.

Interesting questions.

Tammy said...

I've never had the opportunity to go to an opera. I am a visual person and would need acting and singing to make it believable.

Lucky you! XXOO

christine said...

An amazing evening all around for you and your husband.

I do think the visual is important, although if the voice fits the role, our imagination can take over. But if I have to vote, you win the the discussion. But don't tell your husband I said so. He might think we're ganging up on him.

Kay said...

I'm a visual person - that is I think in pictures / images, so a visual fit has to be right for me. If you are more of an aural person maybe not so much.
The opera you saw / heard sounds / looks awesome. :)

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

It was awesome. Everyone in the cast was awesome. I can usually take opera or leave it...but this one made me cry. An OPERA made me CRY!

January, I would have loved seeing ANY of those great people in "Forum."

Tammy, yes, lucky me. Tell Dave you want to go to the opera! What kind of a response would that get?

Christine, my husband NEVER reads what I write ~ never has. No worries about that!

Kay, I thought about you all during our NZ talk--I even told them about you! (All GOOD!)

Michelle said...

For me, I think this might be one of those questions you can only answer after you've been in the situation.

The visual is important, yet I'm against "discrimination" or "selectivity" on a visual basis to the detriment of other talents.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Hi, Michelle, you shapeshifter! Glad to find you here! Thanks for your comment, and for coming by. I don't think I would have been bothered by any casting if it were staged in concert, where there were no sets or actual staging, and they just SANG ~ but as a piece of THEATER, with costumes and sets, etc....Or even if the role was not specific to age or gender or whatever, like January said, it wouldn't bother me.