Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kazumi Zatkin Stars in Madame Butterfly

For many people, the Opera of Madame Butterfly conjures up the music of Puccini and the strange appearance of kimono clad western actresses donning Edo Period wigs singing in Italian. What many people are not unaware of is the actual short story written in 1898 by John Luther Long that appeared in Century Magazine. More so, is the original one act play written by David Belasco that resulted from Long’s work that first debuted at the Herald Square Theater in New York on March 5th 1900. Belasco’s play would later make its way to London where on opening night at the Duke of York's Theater it  captivated and inspired Puccini to create his own epic opera based on Belasco's production. Though not entirely lost to history, Belasco’s original play is rarely performed in theaters.  Fortunately for us, we were lucky enough to catch this exceptionaly rare beautiful performance of Madame Butterfly at The Ventura Court Theater in Studio City California.

This recent limited production was the work of student actors of The Ventura Court Theater with Alejandra Cejudo directing. This starred the lovely Kazumi Zatkin (War of the Wolves, Repercussions, Memory of Mother) as Cho-Cho San aka Madame Butterfly who is supported by the hilarious antics of Chihiro Kawamura as Suzuki, John Maraffi as the sympathetic American Consul Sharpless, Daniel Park as Yamadori, the young Ace Thor playing a convincing Nakado, the old marriage broker, Lt. Pinkerton Michael Miller, and finally steely determined role of Kate by Marissa Cole played with the absolute seriousness of her character’s resolve. Played so well in fact I swear I heard someone unintentionally whisper “Bitch!” during her dramatic exit from her scene. But hey, that’s what happens when actors perform to a high degree of realistic intensity that you forget that these are just characters and not the real personalities of the actors on stage. To that, I say Bravo!

Continuing on with great performances, we have seen Kazumi shine before on previous Japanese film and stage productions. She has been more than ready to star in her own play and is co-credited with her co-star Chihiro Kawamura as producers in this production of Madame Butterfly. Kazumi delves so deeply and convincingly into her characters she instantly mesmerizes her audiences with her moving performances. Co-star Chihiro Kawamura literally steals many of the scenes with comedic antics and then returns to dramatic prose. Her range is quite remarkable and not understated.

This sixty minute production that was held over a five night engagement which left no dry eye in the house as it entertained and moved the audience to the most Japanese of dramatic endings. It was quite refreshing to see actual Japanese actresses play these roles and insert what Nihongo where situation found it appropriate. This added to the dimension of realism and the tragic fatality of Japan's cultural taboo's of the Meiji Era Japan that was enacted in Puccini’s opera
but never truly realized in the pure Japanese sense that could only be accomplished by Nihon-jin they portrayed. We at American Mishima would like to congratulate the cast and crew of Madame Butterfly for a most memorable and moving performance. We would also like to personally send a well deserved arigatou to Kazumi Zatkin for inviting us to attend the closing night performance.
おめでとう ございます!
To all the student actors we wish them great success in their future productions.
がんばって ください!

To find out more about Kazumi Zatkin please visit:

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