Shaken Not Stirred

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Madame Butterfly An Opera with Sub-Titles

My cousin Sue and my buddy Tim convinced me to watch my first opera this weekend--Madame Butterfly. The story is about a sailor who purchases a bride for nine-hundred ninety-nine years. The catch is, he has the option to opt out of this contract because she's on a month to month approval (why don't all marriage contracts come with this option?). So after he has this lady (who was a geisha by trade) fall in love with him, he leaves for the United States vowing to return. Meanwhile, Madame Butterfly gives birth to a child--a little boy with blonde hair and blue eyes (this is possible in the Asian world--my brother and his wife have one. The child has blonde hair and blue yes, but my brother's face. Genetics is cool huh?).

Three years later (he had promised her he'd return when the robin made it's nest again a.k.a. SPRING!) he returns, but with a new wife (she's gorgeous by the way--in a Debra Messing sort of sexy). The sailor and his wife end up wanting to take the child back to America with them. This distresses Madame Butterfly and in her depression, she kills herself hari-kari.

Now, I missed most of the action on stage. The opera is completely done in Italian. However, for the uneducated like me, there were sub-titles which flashed on a small screen above the stage. So I spent most of the time reading what was being said. The lyrics were actually pretty nice. One statement I remember in particular, uttered by Madame butterfly: "I gave the earth my tears, she gave me flowers". Yes, she actually wailed that much about the sailor being gone!!! Although I was reading half the time, I did hear the distress in her high pitched voice. But you see, what did she expect? She was an off-the-rack bride. She knew she could be returned. As for falling in love? W.T.F.? Sex and lust isn't love!

Now for my critique:
The sailor was named Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton and he sailed on a ship named Abraham Lincoln. In the sailor's home (which he left to Madame Butterfly), they constantly flashed in the background pictures of the old movie stars (Clark Gable, Great Garbo, The Little Rascals). Very distracting to me. The sailor was played by some dude who looked like Dennis Hopper's character from Blue Velvet. So he was convincing as a scoundrel!!!

The female was played by a Japanese actress who looked 30 in Asian years (we look younger than our ages, so 30 would be about 40 in other years). She was trying to pull off 15 years old.
She did not, I repeat, did not look 15. They called her butterfly because she was suppose to be a pretty thing. The only time she looked like a butterfly to me was when she spread her arms during song and her kimono cloth fell to the ground, giving me the illusion that she had wings.

I had a good time, probably mainly to the company of Sue and Tim. They both got earfuls of either my sighs or complaints. I was shushed numerous times, as I would point out various mistakes (not of the singing) but of the stage direction. And I have a feeling they won't invite me to their next opera outing.


  • I'm always being shushed. They know nothing. :)

    By Blogger Christopher, at 11:29 AM  

  • Nice commentary:) You were shushed? I don't believe it.

    By Anonymous Babette, at 11:38 AM  

  • I've never been to the opera...but now I want to go.

    That is a great story.

    I think you have to go back...shushers be damned.

    By Blogger Chick, at 11:45 AM  

  • I am with you; I would have been shushed too. Either that or tsk tsked.

    By Blogger Cathy, at 12:12 PM  

  • This reminds me of one of the greatest ideas I've ever had: produce and direct a live action rendition of "What's Opera, Doc?"

    It's just crazy enough to work...

    By Blogger Vince, at 12:33 PM  

  • I live near The San Francisco Opera House, I love to just stand back on big opera openning nights and watch all the dressed up people going in to the performance.

    By Blogger SkyeBlue2U, at 12:45 PM  

  • First off my man..You said:
    "....he has the option to opt out of this contract because she's on a month to month approval (why don't all marriage contracts come with this option?"

    I was ROLLING...I am divorced, and appreciated that line much!

    I TOO am a recently opera-eted guy. 3 years ago My first experince was "The flying Dutchman" done in my native German tongue much HARSHER and gutteral than the italian language I so assure you.

    Same thing-Subbies (subtitles) above on a monitor.

    I had seats up higher, so the effect was that i was able to see the subs while still getting the view of the action. I didn't miss anything.

    My experience was fantastische~(Thats German for pretty fucking cool)I was most impressed by the emotional contanet of the actors.

    I am a blubbering idiot at chick flicks anyway, but I loved the subbies too, because although i think i would have liked the opera even not knowing the translations, the subbies added alot to my understanding of the storyline, and made me appreciate the experience as a whole better.

    You are ovbviously a detail oriented person. Thats why you caught the various mistakes in direction..My brother Ben is alot like you..Its part of the way he has fun, and there is noting wrong with it.

    You are both freaks, but it's only jealousy (on my part), because alot of the detail eludes me! A.D.D sucks!

    Yes, you committed th unpardonable sin by yakking during the show. But your friends should have told you that. Its their fault. My friend who invited me THOROUGHLY indoctrinated me in the etiquette of the opera.

    But you ARE, however free to critique during the intermission.Thats when you let the comments fly.

    Anyway, MY overall experience was that I LOVED it. I am a romantic fool by nature, so to me, it was all about the passion and the storyline. All well done in my opinion. I would go back and see another in a minizzel.

    And I did. I saw "Phantom.." which I HIGHLY recommend.

    By Blogger twolf1920, at 12:46 PM  

  • I have zero culture and actually fell alseep during my first opera.

    By Blogger Ruben, at 1:13 PM  

  • i always read the subtitles and i don't know anybody who doesn't. you are not uneducated!
    opera is not sacred.

    By Blogger Chloe, at 1:27 PM  

  • Christopher,
    I agree, I hate being shushed and thus my blog!

    I was indeed shushed and tapped in the back of the head!

    I am going to go to another opera and I'm sure, be shushed again. But this time I'm going to purposely try and be shushed.

    I was shushed and taped in the back of the head.

    I'm going to audition for that!

    Yeah, people got all kinds of dressed up. I wore dark blue jeans and an oxford. I may have been mistaken for someone selling popcorn.

    I do find myself more engrossed with detail that the actual big picture. This is why non one can ever say to me, "look at the big picture", cause I'll find the splotch of paint that is out of place.

    It is great music to sleep by. I may find myself marketing adult mobiles with opera music. It may help pill popping addicts.

    Thanks. You should have seen some of the looks I got during intermission when I was asking questions. You would have thought I was speaking in foreign tongue.

    By Blogger angel, jr., at 2:28 PM  

  • Wow, to be shushed. Do they not know who you are??

    By Blogger Luke, at 3:29 PM  

  • i just went to see my first musical a few days ago- not exactly an opera, but it was better than i expected. thanks for stopping by! :)

    By Blogger vani, at 4:20 PM  

  • well you'd hate to watch a movie with me then. i love subtitles and have them on every time!!

    By Blogger cher, at 5:55 PM  

  • I am sticking to my vow of never, ever watching an opera. Even if it was topless and they served booze. A man has to stick by his words.

    By Blogger mrshife, at 6:37 PM  

  • Luke,
    I know, can you believe the nerve of some people! I am not one to be shushed!

    I think opera and musical are one in the same--just different languages.

    I love sub-titles too. Just not when someone is shushing me or tapping the back of my head to behave.

    Mr. Shife,
    Damn! Damn! Damn! There's a vow we can take?

    By Blogger angel, jr., at 7:54 PM  

  • The only operas I get are Gilbert & Sullivan's operettas. First, they are sung in English (no need for subtitles), and second they are funny.

    In The Mikado, the only one I've seen performed, the government is formed by the Lord High Executioner, and the Lord High Everythingelse.

    The Executioner's song, "I've Got A Little List" is often updated for modern audiences, but I love it anyway. The thought of carrying around a little list of people/personality types that annoys you... I admit I've made up a list once or twice (or three of four times) myself.

    I don't think I'd go to an actual opera because, like you, I'd be too busy reading the subtitles to watch the actors. And if there weren't any subtitles I wouldn't have a clue what was going on.

    By Blogger blackcrag, at 7:55 PM  

  • FUCK !

    a male angel

    By Blogger saby, at 9:22 PM  

  • It sounds like it was beautiful. Now that you read all of the subtitles, you will have to go back so you can enjoy the performance! I love theatre and opera! Lucky you!

    By Blogger Lee Ann, at 10:53 PM  

  • Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings!!~~

    By Blogger paranoid, at 2:26 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home