Categories
Culture Events Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

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.

Categories
Hotels Manchester Photography Popular culture Preview/review Travel Uncategorized

Bowled over by the Hilton

Brought up by cricket-loving parents. I can boast that I was there at the infamous Headingley Test in 1981. I was barely stringing a sentence together given my young years

what’s new?

(Good one, me. Who just wrote that too. About me)

… but I was there.

img_1756

And so with that grounding, I had no choice but to have a fondness for the game. I have to admit that my love lies more in the memories that it brings for me than the stats and quality of that day’s fielding…

My Dad in the garden, listening to test match special with its permanently crackly, radio interference against the dulcet tones of RP voices, detailing that day’s play.

I might not be able to tell you all the intricacies of the game, but I’ve seen Warne bowl and I’ve seen Beefy bat. And I like Boycott’s bonkers bantz.

And for those who have no interest in the game whatsoever I’ll get to the point which involves one of the newest hotels to hit Greater Manchester;  Hilton Garden Inn, at Old Trafford Cricket Ground (aka the Emirates Stadium).

Just celebrating its 3 month birthday, I recently checked both myself and husband in to celebrate our 9 year anniversary.

We do that thing where we try and come up with some sort of genius yet tenuous link of a gift, according to what anniversary it is that year; i.e. paper, pottery, copper, ketchup, Pot Noodle, titanium and so on and so forth.

To help our quest, we open up the options to both the modern list and the traditional list (we cheat, essentially, as it can be a ball-ache).

This year I went with ‘willow’. We’d both wanted to check out the new hotel on the block at some point and so I forced a link with cricket – (willow being the bat, those who aren’t au fait with the romantic cricketing description…

the sound of leather on willow

Unfortunately our wedding anniversary inconveniently lies outside of the cricket season (or, more accurately, those games played at Old Trafford Cricket Ground this year.

No matter, this could be a recce for next summer.

Booking a room that faced the pitch (imagining dropping the ball on that one), the view was fantastic enough to please any cricket fan (again, play or no play) and impressive enough for those who don’t know their googly from their search engine).

Throwing open the curtains and french doors alike (it admittedly took a number of goes – reassuringly stiff), your balcony is there waiting for you, the pitch opening up from your privileged vantage point.

On this occasion it was the perfect position to watch the sun go down over Greater Manchester.

One can only imagine the thrill of sitting there watching play on a summer’s day, from your room.

With your little fridge available in the room for cold beverages at will, and a bathroom that doesn’t involve queuing with your fellow fans, you could be forgiven for feeling positively like an MCC member (basically fancy-pants cricket-goer decked out in mustard and maroon).

Away from the view, for a second, The hotel itself is modern and stylish. The rooms comfortable, and the members of staff warm and welcoming.

There was brief hilarity in the hotel bar and restaurant when my request for a margarita cocktail was misunderstood for a margherita pizza (to be fair, it’d be a cold day in hell when I rejected either), but a good night was had by all (both).

Throw those curtains wide (making sure you’re decent first)
So your trip to Trafford be for cricket, football, music or just for the sunsets, I recommend the Hilton Garden Inn at the Emirates Stadium.

Howzat!

Well very good, since you asked. And we’ll be back next summer.

And he’s out
And he’s out!
All the deets.

Categories
Food and Drink Hotels Manchester Photography Popular culture

Malmaison brings the Millennial touch to Afternoon Tea 

When I was young, I had two major concerns about getting older:

I wouldn’t be allowed to wear my hair in a ponytail anymore; and 

What would I do about coffee mornings – I hated coffee and indeed tea.

What world I was living in where the latter was a real worry, I don’t know. One of my own making, clearly straight out of a Miss Marple story.

Anyway, it was a concern and whilst I still retch whenever coffee’s near me, two further things have since occurred to me:

You can get your adult badge by drinking herbal tea which is quite nice; and 

The coffee morning isn’t a concept that comes up too often. It’s fine.

What is a thing, and a big thing at that, is the increasing popularity of the afternoon tea. A quaint and quintessentially English affair which has taken hold, and is not just reserved for tea shops, The Ritz or, indeed, ladies of retirement age.

The afternoon tea has entered our bars, hotels and restaurants and, when done well, is a beautiful thing (especially when champagne enters the fray.

Celebrating 17 years since I started working, living in and generally loving Manchester, myself and my husband, took ourselves off to Malmaison. 

Here in the city before even I arrived (imagine!), Malmaison has held its own amongst new arrivals over the years, including The Lowry, Radisson Edwardian and, more recently, Gotham.



Malmaison always reminded me of two things:

Its past connection to another Mancunian stalwart, Mick Hucknall; and

drum roll

Hank Marvin.

Yes he of the Shadows and popular rhyming slang, Hank Marvin was once spotted in the lobby there, by a very excited young lady (me). Speaking of which, when I sat down for afternoon tea I was …hungry.

Thankfully Malmaison didn’t disappoint.


There was nothing cheeky about their Afternoon Tea in terms of taste and ingredients – it’s the perfect balance of pretty and  plentiful. 


It is not for me to use or assume gender stereotypes, but I took a man (it’s ok, we’re married) who, whilst would be perfectly at ease amongst sandwiches with their crusts removed, was reassured by sight of the savoury selection. 
The chipotle chicken and avocado wrap and burger sliders brought the millennial touches to the table, with a nod to the traditional with the smoked salmon sandwich. 

I know, I used millenial again. It’s what I’m doing now.

I’m relevant.

Relevant 

Scones are always my favourite part of afternoon tea (champagne aside), and what I put most stock in. They didn’t disappoint…

Technically a Devonian (born but not bred), the scone debate between Devon and Cornwall is obviously an issue close to my heart. So close that I couldn’t remember which county coveted which – jam before cream or cream before jam?

I hedged my bets, and dressed each half a different way…


A quick Google afterwards reminds me (tells me) the Devonians likes to do it cream before jam (left).
Plenty replenished and happy (but far from finished) it was time for tea (the champagne was, of course, long gone).

And here, I am trying and wanting to use both perfect storm and storm in a teacup. But both sound a little negative and it wasn’t. I’ll just go for it and assume the rest of my text assures that there was nothing bad about it 

The fruit and traditional teas available proved the perfect storm in a teacup.

Look they were good, is what I’m saying,  and beautifully presented. 

We were brought a little teapot each which could be refilled as required.

No confusing apparatus that looks like something out of a laboratory (I won’t name names, but there was plenty of time to ponder their tea brewing process in the lift down to reception that afternoon back in 2015), just a selection of teas, a teapot of hot water and really lovely people to refill it for you.

Between us we sampled English breakfast, peppermint and green. 

And you can’t have tea without cake and happy to report that each tasted as delicious as they look below…

The strawberry and vanilla mini pavlova caught my attention and it was everything I’d hoped. Trust me, I invest hope in such things. And it’s the little touches such as the little sliced strawberry on top which brings the elegance to proceedings.

Whilst each cake brought something different yet equally decadent, it was the pannacotta which stole the show for us both…

Tea for two but with a feast for more, I urge all Mancs – honorary or otherwise, and indeed Manchester guests to book in.

The balance between the classic and modern will suit Millenials, Miss Marples and both male and female diners alike. 

Especially if you’re Hank Marvin.

All the deets