Soprano Hyeseoung Kwon on giving wings to the final season of Moffatt Oxenbould’s Madama Butterfly

In a final two-week season at the Capitol Theatre, Opera Australia is farewelling one of the most beloved productions in its history – Moffatt Oxenbould’s Madama Butterfly.

Someone who is very well acquainted with Butterfly is Opera Australia soprano Hyeseoung Kwon!

This will be the fourth year you take to the stage as Cio-Cio-San with Opera Australia, do you feel you have grown closer to the character or are approaching her differently to how you did back in the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour production in 2014?

Well, I feel I have definitely grown closer to the character over the years. Every time I perform the role of Cio-Cio-San, I try to make each season a different feeling and sound as much as possible. Even though I’ve performed the role many times before, in the rehearsal period I like to learn the role from the scratch as I want to see the role differently. I guess you could say I’m preparing for the same role but a different role at the same time.

Butterfly is of course one of the greatest tragedies, but it has moments of great beauty and love as well. Do you have a personal favourite moment of the opera?

I really love the second aria in Act II, which is Che tua madre. What she is trying to say to her baby is really sad but she is explaining the story. She has to tell the story like a lullaby and later she gets crazy. It really hurts me.

The costumes too are absolutely beautiful. Do you have a favourite that you wear?

Oh, yes!!! I absolutely love the color of the costumes in this production. They’re all so amazingly beautiful and a lot of work has been put in to making them. I think my favourite is the blue gown in Act I, when she takes off the wedding gown and you can see it immediately.

This production also draws upon the more traditional Japan theatre arts, through Kabuki and Bunraku. Do you feel this creates a more authentic representation of Madama Butterfly?

This production is definitely more authentic than any other Madama Butterfly production. Moffatt Oxenbould created an absolutely beautiful production and thought of everything from the costumes and set to the movement and use of props.

Have you seen a production of Miss Saigon? How do you think the two representations of a similar story compare? 

Actually, I haven’t seen the whole production, but I know the story. Yes, I think the two stories are very similar, Miss Saigon is based on Madama Butterfly after all. Kim is more active than Cio-Cio-San. Cio-Cio-San is a strong character but I think she is gentler deep down. 

Opera Australia has also temporarily relocated to the Capitol Theatre. What do you think will be the biggest differences between the venues?

The Capitol Theatre is bigger than the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House, and also has a different acoustic! The stage is also larger, which allows me to have more space. I personally really love the ceiling in the Capitol, it makes the production feel more real.

And finally- the poster art for this production is very unique and you look stunning! How was this photoshoot undertaken? Did you have to sit in water for a long time?

Thank you! It really is a beautiful photo and I am so glad I was given this opportunity. I feel the photo allowed me to show desire and longing. The photo was taken in winter and I was in a different production in a different state. The weather was getting cold so the company provided me warmer water in a pool. I was in the water with candles and flowers and, of course, in costume. It is all real! Actually, it was a wonderful experience. I didn’t have to stay in the water for a long time. Everyone working on the photo shoot were so generous and helpful. They let me stay in a warm place and made sure I had everything I needed.  

Madama Butterfly will flutter her wings in the Capitol Theatre for a strictly limited season from 24th October to 4th November. For more information and to book visit opera.org.au