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Entertainment editor and opera dunce John Turnbull is joined by special guest reviewer Kay Turnbull, longtime arts afficionado and fan of all things highbrow.

I’LL BE HONEST WITH YOU, fine readers — I’ve never been a huge fan of the Opera. I’ve been to a few performances over the years, but nothing has really set my world on fire.

Given the chance to see the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, it would be childish of me to refuse, as there is always the chance that, as I approach forty, I might have matured enough to appreciate the more classical side of the arts.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the spectacular sight of sunset over Sydney Harbour, a mock-village full of Japanese street stalls and a bar with prices that remind you that you’re looking at the best view in the country, cheapskate.

As hush drops over the media-heavy crowd (lots of hornrims and ironic turtlenecks) as the players come on stage, female lead Cio-Cio-San entering the scene backlit like Monty Burns from the X-Files episode of The Simpsons

See, this is why I asked my mother to come with me. Ten minutes into one of the classic operas and I’m thinking about The Simpsons.

Let me pass you over to someone who knows what they’re talking about; Kay Turnbull:

The third in the series of Opera on Sydney Harbour – made possible by the generous funding of Japanese business man and Shinto priest Dr Haruhisa Handa – staged it’s dress rehearsal in front of a large audience of media on 19 March.

The staging and production of this performance was certainly spectacular, with an intense 20 minutes of the interval filled with total reconstruction of the stage from a peaceful Japanese bamboo forest to a total construction site, complete with cranes and several half-finished buildings.

Whilst the leading artists, Cio-Cio-San (Hiromi Omura), Pinkerton (Georgy Vasiliev), Suzuki (Anna Yun) and the American Consul Sharpless (Michael Honeyman) were impressive, both in voice quality and artistic interpretation of their roles, the overall impression of the opera in this particular setting may fall short. This was mainly due to the immensely tragic nature of the story and that, compared with the previous two Sydney Harbour Productions (La Traviata in 2012 and Carmen in 2013) Madama Butterfly has no rousing choruses. 

The well-recognised aria, Cio-Cio-San’s One Fine Day (Un bel di verdremo) was beautifully sung with considerable passion, whilst the Love Duet (Vogliatemi bene), also in Act I allowed Pinkerton to display, with irony and skill, the only few moments of amusement in the opera. In his rendition of the Aria of Farewell (Addio fiorito asil) in Act II he was able to demonstrate the quality and depth of his talent. 

So, there you have it folks.

From my perspective, it was as enjoyable as any opera I’ve ever been to and it has two separate firework moments, which is pretty impressive.

If you like Opera, this is more than worth a look. If you don’t, Madama Butterfly probably isn’t going to change your mind.

Sorry Mum.

The Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour is showing Madama Butterfly at the Fleet Steps until April 13. For more information and tickets please click here.

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