Right at the beginning, the violins of the Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra snarl and growl sharply and alertly – with a vivacity, of course, that one would not want to encounter in the dark.

The conductor Antonello Manacorda – valued above all for his historically trained Mozart and Mendelssohn performances – encourages the strings to meticulously follow Giacomo Puccini's meticulously notated articulation and bowing changes.

At the same time stands




in the notes – strong and coarse.

The warning sign that is set here is already the first punchline of "Madama Butterfly".

Because it is strong and coarse in a compositional technique of the highest culture: a small fugue.

Not only are sophistication and rudeness brought together in cipher and expression, by Puccini, the purportedly pure sentimentalist, but the fugue is a piece of "old-style" music, something old-European at the start of a drama about the relationship of American naval lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton to the young Japanese woman Cio-Cio-San.

Jan Brachmann

Editor in the Feuilleton.

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The audience around 1900, who still had historical farces or cruel burlesques in their ears like "Le roi s'amuse" by Léo Delibes or "Henry VIII" by Camille Saint-Saëns, was warned by such a technical signal: Old Europeans couldn't get along here sit back morally just because it's about a ruthless Yankee in Japan.

Through the music, Puccini gives the colonialist constellation of hierarchical sex and mental cruelty in the piece a historical extension into European feudalism.

The director RB Schlather, who, like the character of Pinkerton, comes from the United States, effortlessly brought the play at the Frankfurt Opera from the world around 1900 to the present day, where sex tourism has become an industry.

While the service providers in the house rental and catering sectors wear black and white livery, Pinkerton turns up informally in a shirt and shorts from the fast-fashion discount store in western shopping malls.

The costume designer Doey Lüthi has already said a lot: Even when it comes to clothing, Pinkerton is primarily concerned with the rapid consumption of disposable goods.

women belong to it.

He knows nothing about cultural differences.

That smile, like the maid Suzuki gave him - smiling!

– singing to you can be a sign to hide your sorrow instead of just expressing that you are feeling good,

For this purpose, Johannes Leiacker built a stage that is only abstractly reminiscent of Japan: Two sliding walls with a square view structure the space in a new way, revealing, hiding, uniting and separating the figures.

Otherwise there is extreme sparseness, which allows for the strictest concentration on the characters.

Vincenzo Costanzo, who substituted in for Evan Leroy Johnson as Pinkerton at short notice, is a highly gifted actor who, from his point of view, does not do anything bad.

Heather Engebretson as Cio-Cio-San charmed him.

There's that tension between attraction and reluctance that betrays being in love: they're drawn together, but they're also afraid of hurting and disappointing each other.

This Pinkerton is not unsympathetic;

he is just naïve and of the legitimacy of his actions - which he feels completely good about;

he hasn't learned anything else - convinced.

Only at the end, when he returns after three years and realizes that Cio-Cio-San, who has a child by him, is serious about him, does he become a pathetic coward,

Engebretson designs the destruction of Cio-Cio-San's personality with feverish precision.

Engebretson transforms the director's clinical-analytical view of the repressions and over-jumping actions of this character – when the good-natured Consul Sharpless, sung with heartfelt warmth by Domen Križaj, reads Pinkerton's letter of divorce – into a compelling play.

Kelsey Lauritano, rightly celebrated by the audience for their vocal performance as Suzuki, and Jakob Fritschi as a mute child are deliberately used as a mirror and amplifier of Cio-Cio-San's emotions.

Although Costanzo shines as an actor, the role is still too big for his voice.

He struggles to stand up to the orchestra.

He manages conversation in a conversational tone quickly and elegantly;

he lacks the strength for the arioso climaxes.

His tenor tenses up and becomes brittle, finally becoming alarmingly hoarse.

Heather Engebretson is a delicate woman with a voice that is strong yet so light, seemingly effortless even in the outbursts, that can tremble with panic and glow with hope.

She, like Kelsey Lauritano as Suzuki, sang the role on stage for the first time in her life - with a lyricism that knows how to assert itself without ceasing to remain lyric.

The choir of the Frankfurt Opera, rehearsed by Àlvaro Corral Matute, provides in the famous humming choir, the actual musical center of the opera,

The direction, which shows neither the conception of a child in the first act nor the suicide in the last act on an open stage, but outsources everything drastic to the viewer's imagination, is great in its discretion and in its trust in the music, which is in the best hands with Manacorda .