Madame Butterfly ( 1995)

Director: Frederic Mitterrand

Opera lover Martin Scorsese has lent his name and approval to Frederic Mitterrand’s splendid film of Puccini’s beloved tear-jerker Madame Butterfly. The opera tells of a 15-year-old geisha, known as Butterfly, who marries Pinkerton, a U.S. Naval Officer on leave in the Japanese port of Nagasaki in 1904. To Pinkerton the marriage is an agreeable diversion, but Butterfly takes it very seriously and sacrifices everything for her husband. Pinkerton sails away, leaving Butterfly alone with her faithful maid. Years later, when Pinkerton returns to Japan with an American wife, Butterfly’s vigil ends in tragedy.
This handsomely mounted European production features a superb Orchestre de Paris conducted by James Conlon and the exciting Chinese soprano Ying Huang in the title role. Director Mitterand (nephew of the former French president) has mounted a fairly faithful adaptation. With fluid cinematography and subdued costume and set design, the film restrains from overblown cinematic attempts at operatic excess. In the final analysis, the film, like the opera, succeeds or fails on the performance of Butterfly, and Ying Huang doesn’t disappoint either as singer or actress.

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