Opera Scotland

Madam Butterfly 1916O'Mara Grand Opera Company

Read more about the opera Madama Butterfly

The second performance of Butterfly in Dundee - by a substantial margin the most modern work in the company's repertoire.  Indeed one of the most interesting features here is to understand the favourable attitude of the critic to a modern work that could be faced with fresh ears.


Press Comment

Dundee Courier & Argus: Friday, March 3, 1916

“Madame Butterfly”

'The best house of the week met last night at Her Majesty's Theatre to welcome the most modern opera of the week. Up to date Madame Butterfly is also the opera newest to us, and we hope that when the still less known opera The Huguenots is presented to-night a still larger audience will attend.

'Madame Butterfly is a most charming and interesting example of modern Italian opera.  It is poles asunder from the older Italian opera, with its formal arias, its stereotyped duets, and quartettes, and its formal finales.   In Madame Butterfly story, action, and music seem merged into one indissoluble whole. It is an opera of really only one vocal part, that, of course, being Butterfly herself.  Next in importance is the band, which from beginning to end plays a wealth of wonderful melody and harmony, emphasising and illustrating every phase of the varying thought and feeling that prevails.

'It is a sad, sad, story, intensely human, no doubt, and intensely regrettable.  One does not know if such arrangements are peculiarly Japanese or not, but they exist everywhere, more or less, where a trusting woman finds herself deceived by a careless, not necessarily heartless, man.  Lieutenant Pinkerton married in haste - casually, no doubt - but he lived to repent at leisure!   It is a pitiful story of love and fidelity on one side, and passion and faithlessness on the other, but as a work of musical and dramatic art, and as performed last night, it is supremely absorbing, thrilling, and effective.

'There are scarcely any musical numbers that can be singled out for special notice.  There are no breaks, no formal numbers, the music flowing steadily and consistently on from beginning to end.  The superb duet which forms the finale of the first act is a gorgeous bit of work.  The marriage ceremony is done, the bride's irritating friends are dismissed, and the bride and bridegroom are left in the garden in front of the house.  The dusk deepens, and the servant, “Sweet-scented pine-trees,” lights the lamps and discreetly retires, and the lovers sing a passionate epithalamium ere they, too, retire.  With each bar of the music the warmth in the orchestra increases, culminating in a superb climax of the most sensuous character.

'Exquisitely touching is the end of the second act where faithful Butterfly awaits the arrival of her husband. The curtain falls, leaving her looking out at the window, watching the ship in the harbour which has brought Pinkerton back, and waiting with her maid and child for his arrival.  When the curtain rises on the third act night has passed into morning.  The maid and child are asleep, but Butterfly, patient as ever, still stands watching for the husband who never comes.  The last act is tragedy of the deepest kind.  Pinkerton's wife appears and offers to take the child, an offer which is met by a promise to give the child to his father in half-an-hour.  When the father comes he finds Butterfly dying, stabbed with her father's dagger, on which is inscribed - “To die with honour, when one can no longer live with honour.”

'Last night's performance showed the O'Mara Company at its best.  Miss Florence Morden was a most sympathetic and altogether admirable Butterfly.  She sang the music with consummate skill and feeling, and acted with all the poignant pathos necessary to the part.  The contrast between the blithe and cheerful bride of the first act and the deserted wife of the last act was most effectively shown.  Mr Henry Thompson was at his best as the faithless Pinkerton.   He was in capital voice, and the music seemed to suit him.  He did not force his voice as he sometimes does, but sang with a passion and breadth that were entirely convincing and satisfactory.

'Mr William Russell, too, was at his best as the highly discreet Consul Sharpless, who has such a delicate task to perform, and does it so prudently and in such kindly fashion.  Miss Constance Bower, as the faithful Suzuki, sang beautifully and acted with excellent point and dignity, and Mr Henry O'Dempsey was capital as the money-making Marriage Broker, Goro.  The child, Trouble, whose name was to be changed to “Joy” when her father came back, had a wonderfully clever and attractive little representative who had no name on the programme.

The orchestra, under Mr Sanfilippo’s careful direction, played the exquisite part with excellent spirit and finish, and the whole performance was an artistic joy from start to finish.  Madame Butterfly is one of those operas that one would like the opportunity of hearing twice in one week.  Its beauties are too many, too subtle, and too delicate for anyone to grasp and appreciate at a single hearing.

'To-night the only absolute novelty of the week, The Huguenots will be given.  It has never been heard in Dundee, and it demands a big cast.  Misses Anna Lindsey, Pauline Donnan, and Irene Ainsley and Messrs Henry Thompson, Arthur Vallance, William Heughan, and William Anderson are all in the cast, and we hope there will be a big house.  The Huguenots is a trying production, making large demands on any company, and the O'Mara Company have the reputation of doing it exceedingly well.  Last night the house was practically full, even every private box being occupied.'

Performance Cast

Lieutenant F B Pinkerton U S Navy

Henry Thompson

Goro marriage broker

Henry O'Dempsey

Suzuki Cio-Cio-San's servant

Constance Bower

Sharpless U S Consul in Nagasaki

William Russell

Cio-Cio-San known as Madam Butterfly

Florence Morden

Bonze a priest, Cio-Cio-San's uncle

Mr H Woollard

Prince Yamadori

Mr McCaffrey

Performance DatesMadam Butterfly 1916

Map List

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

2 Mar, 19.15

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