Lorenzo Amato: “I am a strange Italian”
The Stage Director of the opera “Madama Butterfly” Lorenzo Amato has a great sense of music, shares secrets of the acting skills with the performers, likes to cook and create new recipes. In his interview, the Italian master shared his impressions from working with the Kazakhstani opera singers and talked about why he likes the weather in Astana.
– You have spent more than one rehearsal working with our artists, how do you evaluate their level of training?
– “Madama Butterfly” is a very difficult opera for the singers. The only difference between the Italian and Kazakhstani interpreters is that it is easier for Italians because of the language proficiency. The performers’ level is high, but the difficulties are still there, because in this kind of theatre, in verismo theatre, the power of the word, the meaning of the word is extremely important, so the full knowledge of the language makes the work easier. Of particular importance is the acting, as the opera was based on David Belasco’s drama “Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan”.
– What do you consider the most important thing in this production?
– There are many important things. As a director, for me the thing that comes first when I stage a production is the music. In “Madama Butterfly”, the music is very beautiful, extremely powerful and moving; it makes the audiences all over the world cry. This opera is very particular among the entire world opera repertoire, because at the end the two main characters are the two women. The tenor is not such a big role in this scene, and for the most part of the performance, we would see two women on stage. There is a strong line of friendship being built between the two women: a relationship of loyalty and devotion; in the end, the imaginary love fades into the background.
– How would you characterize Madama Butterfly, how do you see her?
– Cio-Cio-san or Madama Butterfly is one of the most demanding and difficult characters in the whole opera repertoire. In the beginning, she is a young girl, supposedly fifteen years of age. She renounces her parents, her family, and her religion in order to marry this American man with vile, heinous intentions… and he takes advantage of her. In the second part, we find that Butterfly has completely lost her identity. She does not have a religion or a culture anymore, she is half-American, half-Japanese, she has lost herself completely. At the end of the opera, Cio-Cio-san finds her true identity only in the moment when she kills herself by embracing the Japanese tradition of seppuku.
– Would you say that the majority of young men today are like Pinkerton?
– No. Thank God, no. The majority of people are not like Pinkerton. Puccini was probably very angry with the Americans, the American culture. Pinkerton represents all the bad things about Americans, but there are also many good things in the American culture.
– Love is a mutual commitment; do you think Madama Butterfly went thought ‘love’s ordeal’?
– I do not think that Butterfly had a chance to do it, because she was never given an opportunity to live with Pinkerton: her love for Pinkerton is only in her mind, in her imagination. From the very beginning, even before he meets Butterfly, Pinkerton tells Sharpless that this marriage is a fake and he is going to marry an American woman. Therefore, we know from the outset that there is no ordeal, this is all a game, a farce, it is not real.
– Have you ever been to Japan and how long did you study the culture of this country?
– Unfortunately, I never went to Japan, but I do want to go there. I have staged “Madama Butterfly” in 2012 in Italy before. Therefore, I studied Japanese culture for a long time. In order to stage “Madama Butterfly”, you have to know drama theatre. I worked in drama theatre before becoming specialized in opera, you need to work with actors first and then with singers.
– Even though the music has enough of Japanese flavor, Madama Butterfly herself is perceived more like an Italian woman rather than Japanese. What is your opinion?
– Puccini enjoyed himself introducing some Japanese music themes, but in the end, it remains true Italian opera. Thus, sometimes it is very confusing for the listeners, but I think that Puccini’s goal was to create emotions and so, yes, Madama Butterfly seems like an Italian opera singer. In the second part, she wants to be an American woman, which is not quite the same as an Italian woman, but similar, it is a western woman. I think that the emotions and struggle that Butterfly has to go through are characteristic of a person in every part of the world, be it Japan, China, Italy or Australia. We are talking about betrayal, loneliness, money difficulties. All of these are emotions that are the same in every part of the world.
– It is already warm in Italy, how do you like the weather in Astana, have you been here before, do you like the city?
– I have to tell you something. I am an Italian; I live in Rome, a very warm and sunny city. It is a wonderful city. However, I am not in love with spring and summer. I am more of a winter type of man. Therefore, I enjoy the weather in Astana. I like cold weather, so it is not a problem for me. Actually, I was very happy when I came here last week. It was already warm in Rome, and I like to breathe in cold air, so I am a strange Italian, but I do like cold air. I have only been working the entire time, so I am waiting for an opportunity to relax and visit some of Astana because I have only seen the hotel and the opera house so far.
– How do you spend your spare time?
– Usually, I play the piano. I was supposed to be a pianist, studied music at the conservatory. I also cook a lot. I love to cook Italian cuisine, Chinese cuisine, Asian fusion cuisine, so I spend a lot of time cooking, and creating good recipes.
We would like to remind that the premiere of the opera “Madama Butterfly” will take place on April 15 and 16 in the Main Hall of the Astana Opera.