Ahead of Puccini's Madama Butterfly opening in just two weeks’ time, we caught up with our own Butterfly – soprano Anne Sophie Duprels.
Anne Sophie returns to the title role after huge successes here in our 2007/8 and 2011/12 seasons, but what is it like coming back to Cio-Cio-San, and what is special about THIS production?
Tell us a little bit about the character of Cio-Cio-San.
"Cio-Cio-San is a young Japanese girl – just 15 years old when the curtain goes up, and 18 when it comes down. She comes from a disgraced family and is sold to Lieutenant Pinkerton for 100 yen. That’s the background!
She is a very sincere, passionate character, and she’s fascinated by the exotic Pinkerton (as he is by her exoticism). She shows strength and faith even when her world falls apart. In my view, she’s not a fragile flower but a very strong and determined woman."
What is is like returning to the role of Cio-Cio-San? Will you do anything differently?
"In returning to this role, I always try to go deeper in the understanding of what Puccini wanted for his character. I will certainly do things differently as I am different now to how I was 10 years ago, when I first stepped into Cio-Cio-San’s kimono!
One must always be challenged and try to improve one’s interpretation. Opera is a living art form and very much alive – every night we get on stage we create a brand new show."
Do you have a favourite moment in the piece?
"A favourite moment would be the letter scene with Sharpless in Act II (where the Consul tries to read aloud Pinkerton’s letter, asking him to break the news to Butterfly). The details in the music and the way Puccini writes this pivotal exchange is stunning. Every second counts, and the orchestra paints with incredible precision and painful accuracy every heartbeat, every breath of hope or despair. It’s an amazing moment of theatre."
Why do you think Madama Butterfly has had such enduring audience appeal over the years?
"I think Puccini is an incredible storyteller. Butterfly is a heartbreaking story and the audience embarks on Cio-Cio-San’s journey as her fate unfolds with passion and realism. It’s simply gripping."
Is there anything that helps you get into character?
"To get into character we have the entire rehearsal period, where we build all the details of the relationships between the characters. Then on the day of a performance, putting on the costume, wig and make-up is the final touch of the transformation into someone else."
Is there anything that you think is special about this particular production of Madama Butterfly?
"I’ve been very privileged to sing Cio-Cio-San in quite a few different productions, and each one has brought different colours, views, and angles to the story and how to tell it. This production is very close to my heart not only because of its visual beauty but because of director Tim Albery’s attention to detail – details matching Puccini’s intricate score and highlighting every word, intention and emotion."
Are there any specific challenges to performing the role of Cio-Cio-San?
"The challenges of performing Cio-Cio-San are of several different natures. The obvious one is stamina, as Cio-Cio-San is on stage for almost the entire evening! Another one would be emotional – it’s a rollercoaster and you have to keep your head clear when your heart is ripped apart. As a performer, you can’t go through her emotions yourself, you have to transmit those emotions to the audience for them to experience."
What can the audience expect when they come to see Madama Butterfly?
"The audience can expect an intense emotional journey and also the visual delights of ravishing costumes and of a beautiful set transformed throughout the evening by fabulous lighting."
To book tickets or to find out more, visit the Madama Butterfly webpage.
Anne Sophie Duprels as Cio-Cio-San © Robert Workman 2011
Peter Savidge as Sharpless and Anne Sophie Duprels as Cio-Cio-San © Richard H Smith 2018