Interview: Andrew Sinclair for Madama Butterfly

What is one surprising thing about a theater director’s work that the general public doesn’t know?
Andrew Sinclair: I think most of the general public doesn’t understand what a director does. I know some think that we stop the singers bumping into each other on the stage by devising a traffic pattern. In fact, we have to decide the shape the production is to take—visually and dramatically—how the characters are to be played, which means interpreting both text and music carefully and working with the singers and conductor to achieve this. It also means working in detail with the set, costume and lighting designers. It’s a huge job and it makes me angry when people think we are only “traffic cops”.

Is Madam Butterfly your favorite Puccini work?
AS: I can certainly say that it is one of my favorites. It is not just a romantic opera but a clash of two cultures that do not understand the other.

What do you think accounts for the enduring appeal of Puccini’s operas?
AS: Puccini’s music makes his pieces so well-loved. But he was also a great man of the theater. Half the time, audiences are taken on an emotional journey through his music without realizing it. Very few members of an audience remain dry-eyed when Butterfly carries her child into the room in Act 2. It gets me every time: Puccini’s extraordinary use of music coupled with dramatic situation.

What would you like audiences to take away from the show?
AS: Hopefully, it will make us think about our behavior towards each other so we try to understand each other better.

Madama Butterfly is on February 1-2, 4-5, 8pm at the Esplanade Theatre.