Bats instead of Butterfly

Marthali Brand

It was to be the soap opera of operas in the capital of rugby, braaivleis en sonneskyn. And Madame Butterfly, at Loftus Versfeld “under summer skies”, lived up to all the hype.

And Pretoria turned out with gusto – only a few unclaimed seats were to be found on the field. Even some of the suites were lit up for the rich and corporate – lights they never switched off despite the polite request from the organisers, and which spoiled some of the finely executed starlight effects for those of us out in the open.

If it weren’t for the novelty of watching the most sentimental of operas in a rugby stadium, however, the evening would have been a huge disappointment. You would have thought that, after doing Aida at the same venue last year, organisers Operama would have sorted out the technical glitches. Considering the R600 price tag for some seats, it is unacceptable that half the spectators were left out of the action during the second half because everything that happened on the floor of the stage could not be seen from the front of the field.

And by the end of the performance those seated on the sides of the stage needed a massage to relax the stiff necks that resulted from two hours of straining to the side . The unfortunate seating arrangements also spoiled the high-tech backdrop, turning the elaborate slide show into a Wetherley’s curtain catalogue. No wonder a good number of people left during interval.

It didn’t help that the famous love duet was accompanied by the twitter of bats and the odd police siren going off in the distance. And just when Cio-Cio-San realised she’ll never get her Pinkerton back, a Boeing passed overhead with a disturbing growl.

For the most part, the principal voices were goof enough to carry off singing into the Loftus void. Local boy Jannie Moolman (Pinkerton) compared favourably with his international compatriots, and was a good match for Mina Yamazaki’s Cio-Cio-San. Just a pity we had to hear everything twice – first from our side of the stage and split seconds later from the speakers on the other.

The Cape Town City Chorus did well, with only a few shaky moments, as did the New Arts Philharmonic under the baton of Giuseppi Raffa, although there were quite a few moments where the singers were well ahead of or behind the instruments.

But the highlight oflll the evening was thell phallic prow of Pin-ll kerton’s ship en-ll gorging throughll wave after wavel of pale bluell ocean, over-ll poweringll poor littlell love-lornl Butterfly.

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