Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

Un ballo in maschera in San Francisco

The subject is regicide, a hot topic during the Italian risorgimento when the Italian peninsula was in the grip of the Hapsburgs, the Bourbons, the House of Savoy and the Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

Los Angeles Opera Opens with La traviata

On September 13, Los Angeles Opera opened its 2014-2015 season with a revival of Marta Domingo’s updated, Art Deco staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. It starred Nino Machaidze as Violetta, Arturo Chácon-Cruz as Alfredo, and Plácido Domingo as Giorgio Germont. The conductor was Music Director James Conlon.

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2014

In its annual concert previewing the forthcoming season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its “Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park” during the past weekend to a large audience of enthusiastic listeners.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Shu-Ying Li as Cio-Cio-San [Photo by Carol Rosegg courtesy of New York City Opera]
29 Mar 2010

Madama Butterfly, NYCO

Once again, as in L’Etoile, Mark Lamos’s staging and Robert Wierzel’s lighting nearly steal the show in the City Opera’s revival of Madama Butterfly.

Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly

Cio-Cio-San: Shu-Ying Li; Suzuki: Nina Yoshida Nelsen; Pinkerton: Steven Harrison; Sharpless: Quinn Kelsey; Goro: Jeffrey Halili; Sorrow: Eddie Schweighardt. Production by Mark Lamos. New York City Opera chorus and orchestra conducted by George Manahan. Performance of March 25.

Above: Shu-Ying Li as Cio-Cio-San

All photos by Carol Rosegg courtesy of New York City Opera

 

It says a great deal in her favor that in her sensitive and passionate account of the title role, Shu-Ying Li holds her own against such competition. For example, a great circle dominates the backdrop — red against white for the rising sun or the Japanese flag as the opera opens, turning black against red when the Bonze denounces his errant niece for renouncing her ancestral gods, then white against serene blue for moonlight during the great duet that closes the act.

2010Butterfly0024.pngQuinn Kelsey as Sharpless, Eddie Schweighardt as Sorrow and Shu-Ying Li as Cio-Cio San

There are few props on the wide, bare stage, and therefore those we see possess greater significance. The tiny ancestral gods that Pinkerton scorns as “dolls” are placed stage center, as on an altar, during later acts of the story — first for Butterfly to ignore them, preferring the wide-awake American god, then for her to atone before them by hara-kiri when she has lost honor, child and everything else. A fleet of tiny red “warships” floats like a flock of birds above the stage at curtain-rise — to be echoed in Act II by the toy ship Sorrow plays with. A telescope is not merely functional, permitting Butterfly to stare at the empty harbor of Nagasaki, but also symbolizes her undying hopes.

The traditional screen behind which the heroine kills herself does not appear — instead she shows her gumption (and forfeits a pathos playwright David Belasco and composer Puccini both wished to claim) by turning about to slash her throat in her faithless lover’s face, precisely as Pinkerton enters and after his desperate, perhaps repentant cries of “Butterfly!” This confrontational death is an excess. Butterfly, as Belasco and Puccini conceived her, may be a convenient myth, a construction of the guilty Western colonialist conscience, but that is how they created her; to turn her final act into an expression of vendetta, a spitting in the face of her oppressor — the man she has entirely loved hitherto — seems an intrusive modern afterthought. We may have been patronizing when we took Cio-Cio-San to our hearts — but this resentful figure, this image of hate, will not win our hearts at all.

2010Butterfly0005.pngShu-Ying Li as Cio-Cio San and Steven Harrison as B.F. Pinkerton

Shu-Ying Li has a large and genuine Puccini soprano of great beauty, but there is a certain unsteadiness until it warms up. Her entrance was not luminous, but the duet was, and many other soaring phrases as well. Her Cio-Cio-San was a complete portrait, each line part of the whole, not the collection of pretty excerpts it can become. She is a tall woman and does not move like a small one, and in her enormous wedding kimono she all but dwarfs her Pinkerton, but the robe is soon removed — it is present, hanging on rods, for the rest of the opera, a visible symbol of her past — and in slimmer robes she manages to appear becomingly frail.

2010Butterfly0039.pngJessica Klein as Kate Pinkerton, Nina Yoshida Nelsen as Suzuki, Quinn Kelsey as Sharpless, and Shu-Ying Li as Cio-Cio San

Broad-shouldered Steven Harrison was, like most modern Pinkertons, cast in the shade by his Butterfly. The role may be thankless, an exemplary cad, but he should be a robust cad and Harrison sounded provincial. Nina Yoshida Nelsen sang an effective Suzuki, especially impressive in the Flower Duet and the penultimate trio. Quinn Kelsey’s Sharpless possessed — not only because of his size — a real presence, so that one accepted the judgments of this involved, sympathetic observer as more than the official boilerplate they can seem. Little Eddie Schweighardt made one of the liveliest Troubles I’ve seen, whacking Jeffrey Halili’s Goro with a fan and chasing about the stage with his toy boat.

George Manahan drew a precise and lustrous account of the score from his orchestra, full of Italian Wagnerism in the way melodies were foreshadowed, then foregrounded, then fragrantly recollected to remind us of joys past or hint at doom to come.

John Yohalem

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):