This popular production offers a strong message, and has left a deep impression on audiences at each performance since its premiere in 2005. Madama Butterfly was staged in Amagasaki as our Kansai production for three years running. As audiences watched this tale of the consuming love of Cio-Cio-San, a girl who is their own age and who marries at 15, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. Madama Butterfly has been produced in different ways by directors all over the world. This version was the second production directed by Kuriyama Tamiya with the NNT Opera; the first was Yuzuru. In Kuriyama's creation, Cio-Cio-San, a woman whose consuming love ends in tragedy, inhabits a space backdropped by an American flag fluttering at the rear of the stage. The subservient relationship of East to West depicted in the original work hints that even today, nothing has changed. In Madama Butterfly, we have a dramatic tale infused with the exquisite music of Puccini, the master of Italian opera. Audiences can look forward to impassioned performances from Okazaki Takako and Namikawa Hisami in the title role, among a cast of singers who have made numerous appearances in NNTT productions.
[Educational Programme for High School Students]
One mission of the New National Theatre, Tokyo is to promote the popularization of the contemporary performing arts. The Educational Programme for High School Students was started in 1998 and is offered each year, to give young people the opportunity to experience real, high caliber artistic productions. It began with a novel concept to present great works of opera in full, and stage them for high school students in exactly the same manner as they are for our regular patrons. The response to the Programme has been overwhelmingly positive. Questionnaires have shown that for over 80% of those attending each year, it is their first time to see an opera; and 70% cannot even name a single opera. That notwithstanding, once the curtain opens, a hush falls over the noisy theatre as the students are presented with the dramatic storylines and musical intensity of these great operatic works. In 2008 the NNTT staged its first production in the Kansai region, with a production of Madama Butterfly. This timeless classic was staged again in 2009 and 2010. Each year, between the performances in Tokyo and those in Kansai, a combined total of more than 13,000 high school students get their first experience of a real opera via the Educational Programme for High School Students. The works staged thus far are among the finest in opera: Madama Butterfly; Tosca; Carmen; Cavalleria rusticana; and La traviata. In 2011, Madama Butterfly will be staged in Tokyo for the first time in four years. And in Kansai, we will present the NNTT production of L'elisir d'amore, which delighted audiences when it premiered in April 2010. The Kansai production will be performed at Archaic Hall, and with their performance of the orchestral score, the Kansai Philharmonic Orchestra will no doubt breathe new life into an already great production.
The setting is Nagasaki in the Meiji Era. The U.S. naval officer Pinkerton buys the freedom of 15-year-old Cio-Cio-San in Nagasaki, where his ship docked, and marries her without giving it too much thought. Pinkerton soon departs for America. Despite his long silence, Cio-Cio-San waits for her husband's return in the belief that "one fine day he will come back" and turns down a new proposal of marriage. Finally Pinkerton's ship calls at Nagasaki again. But he is accompanied by his wife Kate. Having seen an unfamiliar American woman and learned the whole truth, Cio-Cio-San kills herself with a dagger left by her father.