The Gotham Chamber Opera at the New Victory Theater on Saturday, October 9.
Not everyone liked the little puppet boy in Anthony Minghella’s 2006 production of Madama Butterfly. The artifice was unapologetically overt: the puppeteers might have been dressed in black, but they were there on stage, right next to Cio-Cio San, manipulating the boy’s head and limbs by hand. You either accepted it or you didn’t.
I did. To my eyes, the puppet fit beautifully into the production’s vividly stylized aesthetic, apiece with the paper-lantern stars and, for that matter, the thirty-something Butterfly. But I can understand (grudgingly) how for other people, puppetry was jarring in a relatively realistic opera and better suited for something like, oh, El Gato Con Botas, in which the lead is not a victimized teenage girl but a wily talking cat.
Those people clearly are no fun at all. The stunningly expressive creations of Blind Summit Theatre (the company responsible for the puppets in Butterfly and El Gato) should not be limited to children’s fairy tales—though they are, I admit, perfect for fairy tales. Xavier Montsalvatge’s slight little opera isn’t much on its own, but with the cat and rabbits and ogre (not to mention a few of the humans) brought to life through Blind Summit Theatre’s artistry, El Gato Con Botas makes for a dazzling hour or so of entertainment.