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Madama Butterfly 🦋 Fatal Passions and Attraction

I last wrote about this topic (in more detail)in my dissertation in the year cough cough etc.

You understand my entire dissertation wasn’t based on Michael Douglas but a small portion of it. I don’t have a degree in Michael Douglas.

I focussed on the femme fatale on film and how feminist theory has been applied on celluloid.

Have that, eh?

It was the lovely Glenn Close in the fantastically, ferocious Fatal Attraction who my attention was focussed on in part of my fancy pants essay. And whilst there are both implicit and hugely explicit parallels to be drawn and homages to be noted between Fatal Attraction and Madama Butterfly, I think that a little of the huge sympathy audiences have for our female protagonist in the latter should also be reserved for her or the former.

I’ll get to it.

Madama Butterfly is my favourite opera. Hands up I haven’t seen ALL of the operas. I work full time and have two cats to deal with. But it is a story and a score I’ve returned to theatres to see multiple times – once through the medium of ballet (those on stage, I mean, I didn’t go pirouetting off to the Opera House).

Last Tuesday I was invited to the opening night of Madama Butterfly at The Lowry Theatre.

My heart leapt in anticipation of what I knew would be a roller coaster of emotions throughout the performance from drama queen over here.

Opera North did duly take me on that ride and tears did duly flow.

You can read more here but, to summarise, Madama Butterfly 🦋 is a tale of the romance between Cio-Cio-San, a young Japanese girl and geisha who falls for the promises made, by visiting American naval officer Pinkerton, and agrees to marry him. This is to the chagrin of her family who are horrified that she is prepared to sacrifice her ancestral religion and embrace Christianity.

Pinkerton is going into the marriage for what he can’t be sure is love or a whim ‘someday I will take a real American wife’, but worries not, given that he is returning to American for an undisclosed period of time.

Three years pass and Butterfly still waits for her husband, and it is revealed that her marriage brought her a son. Together they wait for Pinkerton to return. Return he does, but with the ‘real’ American wife he always intended, here for the child, not Butterfly.

Devastated, Butterfly agrees, with what would be her penultimate sacrifice, the final being her life, using the dagger which took her own father’s life.

With a rousing score by Puccini which devastates me as much as the story playing out, there isn’t a performance goes by of this wonderfully sad story that doesn’t leave me in tears and as said Opera North’s was no exception, with a wonderful orchestra conducted by Martin Pickard.

Sung in Italian with English subtitles, the production was set in the home of Cio-Cio San (Ann Sophie Duprels) which was simply designed with what you might describe as typically Japanese minimalism, allowing the eye to focus on the players and drama ensuing within – not that you would need encouragement to do so.

Along with Merunas Vitulskis (Pinkerton) and Ann Taylor (loyal maid Suzuki) and all the players, I was mesmerised by the passion and emotion displayed through the vocals, body language and even periods of abject silence (the devastating scene as Cio-Cio San waits at the harbour with her son, to no avail).

The audience’s heart strings are tugged to breaking point by Cio-Cio-San’s sorrow and so I return to Glenn Close’s Alex Forrest, in Fatal Attraction.

There are immense parallels, as said some obvious (Alex playing Madama Butterfly at her home as she cooks newly acquainted married lover Dan Gallagher (Douglas) dinner, later trying to make nice by buying them two tickets to said opera.

There is even a nod (bow?) to Japanese culture in early scenes where Dan and Alex’s paths first cross at the launch for a Japanese self-help book.

Everything in Alex’s home is white, crisp, clean simple lines. Her father is dead (there is a double bluff where she proclaims him to be dead from a heart attack when Dan feigns collapse, only to then reveal she is joking and he is very much alive – Dan later learns he is in fact dead). She is spurned by her lover who has an American wife and child (to be fair to Dan, Alex knew of this from the off). However it’s the role that Alex doesn’t have, hers being that of the other half of a two night stand whilst Dan’s wife is at her parents.

There is a child (unborn) that Dan rejects upon being given the news that Alex is pregnant (immediately offering her money to abort). The (unsuccessful) suicide attempt as Alex slashes her wrists when realising that Dan is going to immediately return to his family set-up, their ‘love’ affair lasting only a weekend.

Alex is spurned by her lover but he is not her husband. He belongs to another and was never hers to begin with. Cio-Cio-San was lead to believe Pinkerton was hers and whilst both women are spurned, the latter is wholly more naive to reality than the former.

However, who can fail to be moved by the scene in Fatal Attraction where on the night of the opera performance that Alex had tickets to, she sits on the floor at home turning the lamp on and off rhythmically to the desperate strains of Puccini’s score, face frozen in an expression that is both despair and rage.

It’s terrifying and we’re all cheering Alex’s downfall in the end (not in support of Dan, it has to be said, but his ever so lovely wife Beth (Anne Archer). But shouldn’t we reserve a little of our sympathy for Alex?

She may not have had the naivety of Cio-Cio-San and her reaction to rejection may have been somewhat more outwardly facing than self-destructive, but there are definite parallels to be drawn.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

Or as originally written…

Heav’n has no Rage, Like Love to Hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d…

We all focus on the fury but rarely the scorn. In both stories, both women scorned suffered fatal consequences, one more directly, one indirectly, by their one hands as a result of their reactions.

Madama Butterfly, a beautifully sad story that must be seen and also heard, not least by Opera North.

Part of the Fatal Passions season at The Lowry there’s that F word again), you can see further Opera North productions such as Saloma at the theatre through to April.

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Manchester plays host to Fizz Club – cava load of this! (sorry)

I’ve been a member of a number of clubs in my life.

Chess club, book club, netball club,

Never has my enthusiasm been so strong, my interest piqued so much, my commitment been so absolute than for this particular club I’m proud to be a member of.

That of course is Fizz Club, as brought to us by the people from the fantastically popular The Fizz Festival

Imagine, if you will, a place you can go where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came.

Actually on that point, I’m pretty sure only the lovely ladies who run the club know my name and that’s because I’m like an excited puppy when it hears the tell-tale jangle of its lead – my ears pricking sharply up at the pop of a cork.

To use another canine analogy (and why wouldn’t you), I’m like Pavlov’s dog. The cork is my bell, and at the mere POP I’m salivating, flute in hand.

That’s a bit gross, but you get the general idea.

Anyway, I basically love fizz, sparkling wine, whatever you want to call it.

Actually we need to call it fizz – it’s what the club’s called, after all.

And whilst my favourite is and always will be champagne, I thought that to be educated in all things fizz would be serve me well in two respects:

  • I would have the opportunity to expand my mind as to all of the different varieties and types of sparkling wines there are out there, as well as tasting and learning about different champagnes on the market; and
  • It would hugely justify my obsession with fizz it I placed it within an educational context.

I can drink it because I know a bit about it and I’m in a club and I need to be a good club member. So there.

And so duly did I join Fizz Club as did my husband (men, go join!) and I haven’t looked back since.

Up until this year, Fizz Club evenings had taken part in the suburbs, with tasting events in locations such as Hale and Knutsford.

However, this year Fizz Club is sharing the love further and taking their tastings into central Manchester as well. Perfect for anyone living in, working in, visiting, basically anything-ing Manchester.

Event are open to non-members too but at this point I shall link to all the deets of the advantages of what it means to be a member:

Become a Fizz Club member

Last week I attended the inaugural city centre event. Originally planned to be held at Kiehl’s on King Street, the Beast from the East and Storm Emma put paid to that, causing the store to close and matters in hand relocate next door to the wonderful El Gato Negro Tapas, with a chance to check out their top floor bar and dining space (that of the rather marvellous and infamous retractable roof better utilised in summer).

And so the Spanish theme was no coincidence (El Gato Negro Tapas had already been on board to provide us with delicious canapés to accompany our tasting), Cava was on the menu, with five different wines to taste and pour over.

I personally have a penchant for Cava over Prosecco as it’s made in the traditional method, in the same way as Champagne (note how I capitalise the drink types – fizz is that important) and is generally more dry than its sweeter Italian counterpart.

From the Catalonia region and the area of El Penedes, Cava traditionally brings together three grapes: Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada.

  • Bodegas Sumarroca Cava Brut Reserva

The first was brought to us by the lovely people at El Gato Negro Tapas themselves and on their menu at a cost of £6 a glass.

Decidedly toasty and very bubbly I would happily and unashamedly drink this as a session Cava. That is not to insult it by saying it can be knocked back without due care and attention. It’s to save it was lovely and light and I could drink lots and lots and lots of it…

The next four were brought to us by Codorniu.

I say brought to us – the poor rep and guest speaker joined Kiehl’s as a victim of the weather, and held hostage in Aberdeen. So more accurate is to say the next four were sent to us by the lovely man from Cordoniu and presented to us and poured by the equally lovely Janet who runs the whole lovely fizzy affair.

Incidentally Cordoniu is pronounced

COD-ON-YOU

Got that? Good on you.

My mind is blown nearly as much as a few years ago when my brother-in-law returned from his honeymoon in the Champagne region with news that Moët is pronounced with a hard t.

Yep.

Cordoniu is the second biggest Cava producer, the first being (I’ll whisper it out of respect to our lovely friends at the former), Freixenet (pronounced FRESH – EN – NAY).

  • Codorniu Brut NV

This was described as a Brut non-vintage entry level Cava. Perfect as an aperitif, it was very fresh and again light.

Whilst it had an earth aroma, its taste was the opposite and for me quite fragrant.

  • Codorniu Zero

This next Cava came with a quiz question

What do you think has been removed, thus resulting in its name?

I had already decided that sugar had been removed because I am currently obsessed with a certain slimming club and trying to see how much wine I can squeeze out of my syns allowance. So without even tasting it properly, I declared sugar and whilst desperate to love it as it could be my go to ‘skinny’ cava, I was saddened to learn I didn’t really.

Just why I didn’t like it became embarrassingly clear when the answer was revealed to be

Alcohol. It has no alcohol.

Oops. I’d genuinely rather have a vimto as my alcohol free drink of choice. Having said that, this is personal taste on my part and there were others who liked it.

  • Codorniu Vitcultura Ecologically Brut

The next tasted came with another revelation. Introduced as an organic cava, I immediately thought

Marvellous, no hangover. I shall strive to enjoy this come what may.

However our esteemed host told us that whilst sulphur can indeed provide people with something of a reaction, it isn’t what causes hangovers. Drinking lots of alcohol itself causes lots of hangovers. Nothing to do with sulphur content and so organic whilst a good thing in many respects, isn’t the answer to a hangover free drinking session.

I can hear a pin drop.

This wine is aged between 9 – 12 months and had a distinctly apple-y aroma and flavour. A good Cava to enjoy with traditional tapas and a little bolder (some might say ‘funky’. Just like Mark’s 90s ‘bunch’).

  • Codorniu Reina Ma Cristina Blanc de Noirs Vintage

Last but not least was the 2013 produced Vintage which was actually made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes.

Aged for 15 months, I was expecting not to enjoy this as much (yes I appear to run firmly with pre-conceived ideas in life, must stop this) as I tend not to like champagne on the more vintage side which I think is a contradiction to my liking my reds robust and full-bodied), this was not as complex and heavy as I expected it to taste and I liked it.

Advised it was a good food wine, particularly fish, I could see how it could hold its own whilst not taking over the show.

And so the inaugural city centre Fizz Club night was drawn to a close. But not before we were asked if we would like to enjoy more of what what was left from what we’d tasted and liked beforehand…

As mentioned earlier, Fizz Club is affiliated with and run by the same lovely people who treat us all to the annual event that is The Fizz Festival, held in South Manchester.

If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. Handily, though, I have and am happy to provide you with a run down of what goes on here:

An A in Fizzical Education

So what are you waiting for?

The next city centre event is at Randall and Aubin on 25 April 2018 but if you can’t wait that long, head along back to the ‘burbs to Didsbury on 21 March 2018!

Details of these and all events can be found right here!

Cheers and see you at the next one 🥂