Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

Seventeenth-century rhetoric from The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

‘Yes, in my opinion no rhetoric more persuadeth or hath greater power over the mind; hath not Musicke her figures, the same which Rhetorique? What is a but her Antistrophe? her reports, but sweet Anaphora's? her counterchange of points, Antimetabole's? her passionate Aires but Prosopopoea's? with infinite other of the same nature.’

Hrůša’s Mahler: A Resurrection from the Golden Age

Jakub Hrůša has an unusual gift for a conductor and that is to make the mightiest symphony sound uncommonly intimate. There were many moments during this performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony where he grappled with its monumental scale while reducing sections of it to chamber music; times when the power of his vision might crack the heavens apart and times when a velvet glove imposed the solitude of prayer.

Full-Throated Troubador Serenades San José

Verdi’s sublimely memorable melodies inform and redeem his setting of the dramatically muddled Il Trovatore, the most challenging piece to stage of his middle-period successes.

Opera North deliver a chilling Turn of the Screw

Storm Dennis posed no disruption to this revival of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, first unveiled at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2010, but there was plenty of emotional turbulence.

Luisa Miller at English National Opera

Verdi's Luisa Miller occupies an important position in the composer's operatic output. Written for Naples in 1849, the work's genesis was complex owing to problems with the theatre and the Neapolitan censors.

Eugène Onéguine in Marseille

A splendid 1997 provincial production of Tchaikovsky’s take on Pushkin’s Bryonic hero found its way onto a major Provençal stage just now. The historic Opéra Municipal de Marseille possesses a remarkable acoustic that allowed the Pushkin verses to flow magically through Tchaikovsky’s ebullient score.

Opera Undone: Tosca and La bohème

If opera can sometimes seem unyieldingly conservative, even reactionary, it made quite the change to spend an evening hearing and seeing something which was so radically done.

A refined Acis and Galatea at Cadogan Hall

The first performance of Handel's two-act Acis and Galatea - variously described as a masque, serenata, pastoral or ‘little opera’ - took place in the summer of 1718 at Cannons, the elegant residence of James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos.

Lise Davidsen: A superlative journey through the art of song

Are critics capable of humility? The answer should always be yes, yet I’m often surprised how rare it seems to be. It took the film critic of The Sunday Times, Dilys Powell, several decades to admit she had been wrong about Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, a film excoriated on its release in 1960. It’s taken me considerably less time - and largely because of this astounding recital - to realise I was very wrong about Lise Davidsen.

Parsifal in Toulouse

Aurélien Bory, director of a small, avant garde theater company in Toulouse, staged a spellbinding Parsifal at the Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse’s famed Orchestre National du Capitole in the pit — FYI the Capitole is Toulouse’s city hall, the opera house is a part of it.

An Evening with Rosina Storchio: Ermonela Jaho at Wigmore Hall

‘The world’s most acclaimed Soprano’: the programme booklet produced for Ermonela Jaho’s Wigmore Hall debut was keen to emphasise the Albanian soprano’s prestigious status, as judged by The Economist, and it was standing-room only at the Hall which was full to capacity with Jaho’s fervent fans and opera-lovers.

Parsifal in Palermo

Richard Wagner chose to finish his Good Friday opera while residing in Sicily’s Palermo, partaking of the natural splendors of its famed verdant basin, the Conca d’Oro, and reveling in the golden light of its surreal Monreale cathedral.

Vladimir Jurowski conducts a magnificent Siegfried

“Siegfried is the Man of the Future, the man we wish, the man we will, but cannot make, and the man who must create himself through our annihilation.” This was Richard Wagner, writing in 1854, his thoughts on Siegfried. The hero of Wagner’s Siegfried, however, has quite some journey to travel before he gets to the vision the composer described in that letter to August Roeckel. Watching Torsten Kerl’s Siegfried in this - largely magnificent - concert performance one really wondered how tortuous a journey this would be.

I Capuleti e i Montecchi in Rome

Shakespearean sentiments may gracefully enrich Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet, but powerful Baroque tensions enthrall us in the bel canto complexities of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Conductor Daniele Gatti’s offered a truly fine bel canto evening at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera introducing a trio of fine young artists.

Santtu-Matias Rouvali makes versatile debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali has been making waves internationally for some time. The chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra is set to take over from Esa-Pekka Salonen as principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2021.

Tristan und Isolde in Bologna

East German stage director Ralf Pleger promised us a Tristan unlike anything we had ever seen. It was indeed. And Slovakian conductor Jura Valčuha gave us a Tristan as never before heard. All of this just now in the most Wagnerian of all Italian cities — Bologna!


Seductively morbid – The Fall of the House of Usher in The Hague

What does it feel like to be depressed? “It’s like water seeping into my heart” is how one young sufferer put it.

Daring Pairing Doubles the Fun by Pacific Opera Project

Puccini’s only comedy, the one act Gianni Schicchi is most often programmed with a second short piece of tragic fare, but the adventurous Pacific Opera Project has banked on a fanciful Ravel opus to sustain the mood and send the audience home with tickled ribs and gladdened hearts.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Levi Hernandez as Sharpless, and Sandra Lopez at Cio-Cio-San, with the child supernumerary [Photo by Tim Trumble]
08 Feb 2017

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Levi Hernandez as Sharpless, and Sandra Lopez at Cio-Cio-San, with the child supernumerary

Photos by Tim Trumble

 

Beginning as a lovesick teenager, Lopez grew in the role as she began to realize that she was on her own with a child, having lost her protective husband as well as the closeness of friends and family. Lopez sang with strong well-supported tones from the entrance with her family to her finale with her father’s dagger. If only the Japanese girl had listened to her mother, the family priest, or the Consul, she would never have been caught up in the final disaster, but she was a normal teenager and we relate to her all-encompassing love.

Supporting Lopez in the title role were a number of fine singing actors. Daniel Montenegro was a lyrical Pinkerton who sang a most memorable Love Duet with her. Levi Hernandez was a dramatic Sharpless with a burnished bronze sound. I think we will hear a great deal more from him. Usually, Suzuki, the maid, is a role to which we pay little attention. Not this time! Mezzo Deborah Nansteel, who caught the eye of both audience and opera management last summer at the premiere of Jennifer Higdon's Cold Mountain in Santa Fe, was a charismatic Suzuki whose low notes helped establish her place on the opera stage for coming seasons.

M-Butterfly-1.pngSandra Lopez as Cio-Cio-San, with Jason Ferrante as Goro and the Arizona Opera Chorus

Completing the cast were several more excellent artists. Jason Ferrante was a skittish Marriage Broker who tried to get Butterfly to consider wedding the rich but fickle Prince Yamadori. Joseph Lattanzi seemed to be having fun as the overdressed prince and he sang his lines with polished tones. Zachary Owen was a bit disappointing as the Bonze. He should be frightening and even violent, but Owen scared no one. Alyssa Martin, on the other hand, created interest in Pinkerton’s American wife with her chain smoking. Would she be healthy enough to raise Butterfly’s child? What would happen to the little boy in the United States?

Matthew Ozawa’s direction gave us a story we could relate to despite its taking place in a foreign environment. John Gunter’s house of sliding doors, which seemed fragile when seen at Los Angeles Opera, loomed much larger on Phoenix Symphony Hall’s shallow stage where its charming details were more apparent. Arizona Opera’s own Kathleen Trott designed a gorgeous orange and white kimono for Butterfly’s wedding. Hanging on a chair, it was a decorative reminder of her marriage. Later, it became the gown for her final, heart rending hara kiri.

M-Butterfly-10.pngDaniel Montenegro as B.F. Pinkerton and Sandra Lopez as Cio-Cio-San

AZ Opera played the composer’s fifth version of the score, now the standard three-act version of the work. Puccini’s first version had only two acts and attained nowhere near the success of his previous works: Manon Lescaut, La bohème, and Tosca at its 1904 La Scala premiere. Immediately afterward, the composer began to rewrite Madama Butterfly and it received a much better reception later that year in Brescia. Two years later, a company in Washington DC performed it in English. Puccini made more changes for the Metropolitan Opera in 1906 and for the Paris performances of 1907. The version we saw in Phoenix last weekend was the one he completed in 1907.

Henri Venanzi’s chorus added charm and ebullience to the wedding and pulled at our heartstrings with their Humming Chorus. Maestro Craig Kier is new to Phoenix, but his leadership of the Arizona Opera Orchestra resulted in an intense and forward-thrusting performance of the well-loved score.

Maria Nockin



Cast and Production Information:

Composer, Giacomo Puccini; Librettists, Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa; Based on John Luther Long's short story "Madame Butterfly;" Conductor, Craig Kier; Director, Matthew Ozawa; Scenic Designer, John Gunter; Costume Designer, Kathleen Trott; Lighting Designer, Gregory Hirsch; Chorus Master, Henri Venanzi; Cio-Cio San, Sandra Lopez; Pinkerton, Daniel Montenegro; Suzuki, Deborah Nansteel; Sharpless, Levi Hernandez; Goro, Jason Ferrante; Prince Yamadori, Joseph Lattanzi.

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):