"Butterfly remains so popular precisely because it requires no translation for the 21st century."

Angus WoodPinkerton - Madama Butterfly (2019)

Angus Wood, a well known Pinkerton joins us for Madama Butterfly and chats with us about the creation of his character over the years and how he approaches being “the bad guy”.

Tell us about your character of Pinkerton – What do you find most intriguing about him?

When we first meet Pinkerton he is a US Naval Lieutenant, stationed in Nagasaki. He makes his posting in Japan more comfortable for himself by renting a house and arranging to marry the young Cio-Cio-San. It would be fair to say that he views marriage to a Japanese girl as about as permanent and binding as the rental agreement.

The intrigue and challenge of Pinkerton, in my mind, is in how one takes that synopsis and endeavors to make him believable, trustworthy and charismatic. Charismatic enough that Cio-Cio-San not only agrees to the marriage, but believes in it, and him.

What do you love about Madama Butterfly? Why should people see it?

It’s Puccini !! It is truly engaging music theater. Puccini is one of the most loved of all operatic composers for many very good reasons, but principal among them must be for the emotional immediacy of his music. Like few other theatrical composers, Puccini makes you feel for, and with, his characters. In Madama Butterfly he creates a heroine of such beauty, fragility and strength, that for most, the experience of the opera lasts far beyond the time that the curtain comes down.

What is your favourite moment of the opera?

That is a difficult to pin down to just one moment. There are many moments in the work that I love to sing and be a part of. But if forced to pick just one moment, then I would have to say Butterfly’s final aria in Act 3. No spoilers for those who haven’t seen the piece before, but it is certainly one of those moments that Puccini succeeds in making you feel for and with his characters.

How do you feel about being known as “the bad guy” and how do you prepare for a role like this that is so well-known?

The preparation is a little easier in some ways, as I have sung this role a number of times. As always though, the excitement comes in rehearsing and performing these familiar roles with new colleagues. How your own character and the character you play is informed by each group and their own personalities and ideas, is what makes each performance a premiere. In that regard, the preparation I suppose, never stops, but is a continual, living process.

As for being “the bad guy” Well, perhaps through necessity, I draw some distinction between his actions (or at least the motivation for some of his actions) and the man himself. He certainly ignores many of the warning signs and acts selfishly, but I don’t feel that he is inherently malicious, and in the end he is at least capable of remorse.

Small comfort, I know!

How do you think this type of opera translates into the 21st century?

The themes that Madama Butterfly deals with are constant and universal. The setting may be somewhat unfamiliar, but that serves simply to highlight how familiar are the stories themes. Butterfly remains so popular precisely because it requires no translation for the 21st century, we haven’t changed sufficiently to warrant that. Puccini’s genius is in crafting a work that makes that realisation so accessible and so moving.

Book Now for Madama Butterfly

Madama Butterfly, NZ Opera
“…The standout performance of the evening is Angus Wood as Pinkerton. He portrays Pinkerton as charismatic but entitled, out to get the best of what he can. From his first entrance, he holds the stage and his vocal performance is rich, strong, and exhilarating. Wood gives us a performance that allows us to understand why Butterfly falls so deeply in love with him, not realising that he does not return or warrant the depth of her loyalty and affection. Their long duet at the end of Act I and Butterfly emerging from the cocoon of her wedding dress is beautiful and entrancing.”

Naomi van den BroekTheatrereview.org.nz

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