Mariko Mori, Madama Butterfly | Staged by Àlex Rigola | Photo © Michele Crosera

Mariko Mori, Madama Butterfly

April 18, 2018

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This 2013 production of Teatro La Fenice was conceived in collaboration with the Venice Biennale.

Internationally acclaimed artist Mariko Mori designed the sets and costumes. The set is an empty white space featuring, over the three acts, different sculptural elements produced by the artist.

Mariko Mori, Madama Butterfly | Staged by Àlex Rigola | Photo © Michele Crosera
Mariko Mori, Madama Butterfly | Staged by Àlex Rigola | Photo © Michele Crosera

In act one, three stones, a recurrent element in Mori’s art, lay on stage. In act two Mori’s layered acrylic ring stands on the floor—a symbol of oneness, completeness, and eternity as she explained referring to her 2016 installation Ring: One with Nature on the Véu da Noiva waterfall in Brazil.

Mariko Mori, Madama Butterfly | Staged by Àlex Rigola | Photo © Michele Crosera
Mariko Mori, Madama Butterfly | Staged by Àlex Rigola | Photo © Michele Crosera

The scene, though, is dominated by a large sculptural element: an eight meters large möbius. A Möbius strip is a ruled surface characterised by peculiar mathematical properties. When embedded in a three-dimensional Euclidean space, the Möbius strip is a surface with only one side. It is possible to draw a line on it and get to the other side without ever passing through the surface, thereby allowing a continuous “circulation”.

Mariko Mori, Madama Butterfly | Staged by Àlex Rigola | Photo © Michele Crosera
Mariko Mori, Madama Butterfly | Staged by Àlex Rigola | Photo © Michele Crosera

“I produced a möbius,” Mori said in an interview with Teatro La Fenice, “a symbol of circulation, of life, death, and rebirth. There’s a continuous circle, the front becomes the back side and the back side becomes the front.”

As a Japanese artist designing the sets for the story of a Japanese woman, Mori felt really honoured, she said, and wanted to revitalise this classic opera, originally produced by Western culture and now performed in a globalised world, by expressing ideas of Eastern philosophy, like Buddhist philosophy, in Madama Butterfly itself.

Mariko Mori, Madama Butterfly | Staged by Àlex Rigola | Photo © Michele Crosera
Mariko Mori, Madama Butterfly | Staged by Àlex Rigola | Photo © Michele Crosera

The idea of circulation of life, death, and rebirth is recurrent in Mori’s production and applies to Madama Butterfly in that, in Mori’s vision, the protagonist dies and then is reborn as a butterfly. Mori’s contribution to the opera, as she said, was aimed at sharing a “consciousness of oneness”, especially between East and West. “I wanted to promote the idea that we can be one,” she said.

Mariko Mori, Madama Butterfly | Staged by Àlex Rigola | Photo © Michele Crosera
Mariko Mori, Madama Butterfly | Staged by Àlex Rigola | Photo © Michele Crosera

Madama Butterfly is back on stage at Teatro La Fenice of Venice in 2018 (April 6-24)

Directed by Àlex Rigola, light design by Albert Faura, sets and costumes by Mariko Mori.