THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: She is a geisha belonging to the world of immaculate kimonos and ritzy teahouses, but gets drawn to a destiny of silent suffering. Madama Butterfly, the tragic heroine of Puccini’s legendary opera, has inspired a bevy of ballets and plays in various languages. The latest in the list is a Malayalam dance drama directed by Kalamandalam Shiju Kumar and choreographed by Gayathri Subramaniam. “We have used the original title ‘Madama Butterfly’ for the production which will have its premiere in Taiwan a couple of months later,” says Shiju Kumar who is busy fine-tuning the production with his team in the city. The show is being arranged by Jeffry Woo, a Tai art coordinator and founder of the Indian Music and Culture Organisation in Taipei.
‘Madama Butterfly’ is a story bursting with Japanese culture set in 19th century Nagasaki. It revolves around 15-year-old Ciocio-san, the abandoned bride of a European marine, who spends long years waiting for her husband’s return.
“In this adaptation the port city of Goa becomes the backdrop. Antonio, a sailor, comes there in search of the famous Japanese danseuses known as Madama Butterfly,” says Shiju Kumar. They fall in love and marry, but Antonio sets off to another port leaving behind a pregnant Butterfly. She shakes off other marriage proposals and keeps herself busy raising their son. “Antonio returns after many years and Butterfly is elated. But soon she learns that he has come with his European wife to adopt his kid. Butterfly is devastated, but finally she comes to terms with reality. She makes all the arrangements for the adoption and then takes her life with a samurai sword,” Shiju Kumar explains the plot.
The Indian version is interspersed with classical dance forms without tampering the soul of original opera. “There are sequences in which Antonio dreams of Lord Krishna. He has no idea who the blue-skinned flautist is, but gets enticed by his dance. The nearly two-hour production has a total of 18 dance segments in it,“ says Gayathri. While Shravanthi Sainath, who has been part of Ang Lee’s ‘Life of Pi’, appears on stage as Madama Butterfly, Kalamandalm Shiju Kumar and Kalanilayam Bijoy play other important characters. Another key role in ‘Madama Butterfly’ is Suzuki, “she is a maid, mother and friend rolled into one, the constant companion of Butterfly,” adds Gayathri who steps into Suzuki’s role for the production.
Another highlight of the production is that it’s not confined to the template of any specific classical dance form.
“We have used the mudras of many classical dance forms instead of resorting to one. The dancers will be accompanied by Kerala percussion artists in chenda and mridangam,” adds Gayathri. The production will have its first staging in Taiwan in November.