It's got to be beautiful and some of the audience should be in tears...
Producer Ellen Kent has got a yardstick she applies to her productions of Madama Butterfly.
“If I don’t see people crying or sobbing at the end, then I always say to my cast ‘We have failed!’
“But I have done God knows how many Butterflies over the years, and I have never yet done one where people have not been crying at the end.
“I don’t mean everyone in tears. I just mean some people in tears.”
That’s the impact she aims for – and invariably achieves.
She does so by delivering what she terms a traditional production, respectful of all the elements she feels must go into an opera.
She brings Madama Butterfly to the Theatre Royal Brighton on Saturday, February 1.
Korean soprano Elena Dee returns to sing as Cio Cio San, with Alyona Kistenyova, plus Vasyl Vasylenko, artistic director and conductor for the National President’s Orchestra of Ukraine, Kiev and the guest conductor and artistic director of the National Opera of Moldova, Nicolae Dohotaru with 30 members of the National Ukrainian Orchestra, Kiev and the National Moldovan Opera.
The opera is Puccini’s tragic tale which the hit West End musical Miss Saigon is based on.
One of the world’s most popular operas, Madama Butterfly tells the heart-breaking story of the beautiful young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval lieutenant – with dramatic results.
Highlights include the melodic Humming Chorus, the moving aria One Fine Day and the unforgettable Love Duet.
“My vision of traditional is that I like my productions to reach back.
“For me it is about what the composer and the librettist wanted to do all those years ago.
“I look back into that and I try to grab their vision. I see myself as a facilitator for the composer.
“I take what the composer was trying to do and I add a few little Ellen Kent touches to it.
“What I do is also very visual. If I am watching Madama Butterfly, I want to see something that is rather beautiful and exotic. I always have the Japanese garden. That’s a must.
“When the curtain goes up, I want to hear a gasp from the audience.
“I love that wow factor you get when the curtain goes up. I have got a little house which is like a proper traditional Japanese villa that would be commensurate with a proper traditional Japanese garden. If you want a traditional opera, you want these things to be in place.
“You have got to create a beautiful stage picture that the audience is going to enjoy. You need to have a beautiful set to enhance the beauty of the opera, and obviously I want to have a girl who looks like Butterfly.
“I always choose pretty girls that have got stunning voices.
“If you had a horrible set that was supposed to be the Vietnam War, that wouldn’t do it for me at all.
“I am a fantasist. I like to go back and have a dream, and I think that definitely adds to the emotion of the opera.
“And then of course you have got the drama, and I like it all to be very dramatic and real.
“You want the set to the gorgeous, your Butterfly to be gorgeous and you want the orchestra to be very very good…
“And you also want an excellent tenor.
“You build it up layer by layer.
“It is a bit like a painting. I see my operas as paintings…
“My operas have to be emotional and beautiful.”
Also at the Theatre Royal Brighton is Ellen Kent’s La Bohème, Friday, January 31.
The classic tale of Parisian love and loss features many famous arias including Your Tiny Hand is Frozen, They Call Me Mimi and Muzetta’s Waltz. Sung in Italian with English surtitles.