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

Petrenko Directs Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis

The quick rise to prominence and thin catalog of recordings by Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko, outgoing General Music Director of the Bayerische Staatsoper and incoming chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, renders each of his forays into the classic repertoire significant. Last Sunday morning, the Bayerisches Staatsorchester gave the first of three performances of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis under his direction.

Faust in Marseille

We sat, bewildered, all of us, watching (enduring) Gounod’s sweet little tear jerker as a nasty drug trip. Except for the Australian Marguerite it was an all French cast and they all gamely played along, the sophisticated verse of Offenbach’s librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carré clearly sailing out over an abrasive pit.

Down in flames: Les Troyens, Opéra de Paris

Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens with Philippe Jordan conducting the Opéra National de Paris. Since Les Troyens headlined the inauguration of Opéra Bastille 30 years ago, we might have expected something special of this new production. It should have been a triumph, with such a good conductor and some of the best singers in the business. But it wasn't.

Andrew Davis conducts Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ at Hoddinott Hall

A weekend commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) entitled Berlioz: The Ultimate Romantic was launched in style from Cardiff’s Hoddinott Hall with a magnificent account of L’enfance du Christ (Childhood of Christ). The emotional impact of this ‘sacred trilogy’ seemed to gain further weight for its performance midway between Christmas and Easter, neatly encapsulating Christ’s journey from birth to death.

Love Songs: Temple Song Series

In contrast to the ‘single-shaming’ advertisement - “To the 12,750 people who ordered a single takeaway on Valentine’s Day. You ok, hun?” - for which the financial services company, Revolut, were taken to task, this Temple Music recital programme on 14th February put the emphasis firmly on partnerships: intimate, impassioned and impetuous.

Philip Glass: Akhnaten – English National Opera

There is a famous story that when Philip Glass first met Nadia Boulanger she pointed to a single bar of one of his early pieces and said: “There, that was written by a real composer”. Glass recalls that it was the only positive thing she ever said about him

Rachvelishvili excels in ROH Orchestra's Russian programme

Cardboard buds flaming into magic orchids. The frenzied whizz of a Catherine Wheel as it pushes forth its fiery petals. A harvest sky threshed and glittering with golden grain.

Lucrèce Borgia in Toulouse

This famed murderess worked her magic on Toulouse’s Théâtre du Capitole stage, six dead including her beloved long lost son. It was Victor Hugo’s carefully crafted 1833 thriller recrafted by Italian librettist Felice Romano that became Donizetti’s fragile Lucrezia Borgia.

Amanda Majeski makes a stunning debut at Covent Garden in Richard Jones's new production of Kát’a Kabanová

How important is ‘context’, in opera? Or, ‘symbol’? How does one balance the realism of a broad social milieu with the expressionistic intensity of an individual’s psychological torment and fracture?

Returning to heaven: The Cardinall's Musick at Wigmore Hall

The Cardinall’s Musick invited us for a second time to join them in ‘the company of heaven’ at Wigmore Hall, in a recital that was framed by musical devotions to St Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary.

Diana Damrau’s Richard Strauss Residency at the Barbican: The first two concerts

Listening to these two concerts - largely devoted to the music of Richard Strauss, and given by the soprano Diana Damrau, and the superlative Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in the second - I was reminded of Wilhelm Furtwängler’s observation that German music would be unthinkable without him.

De la Maison des Morts in Lyon

The obsessive Russian Dostoevsky’s novel cruelly objectified into music by Czech composer Leos Janacek brutalized into action by Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski beatified by Argentine conductor Alejo Pérez.

La Nuova Musica perform Handel's Alcina at St John's Smith Square

There was a full house at St John’s Smith Square for La Nuova Musica’s presentation of Handel’s Alcina.

Ermonela Jaho is an emotively powerful Violetta in ROH's La traviata

Perhaps it was the ‘Blue Monday’ effect, but the first Act of this revival of Richard Eyre’s 1994 production of La Traviata seemed strangely ‘consumptive’, its energy dissipating, its ‘breathing’ rather laboured.

Vivaldi scores intriguing but uneven Dangerous Liaisons in The Hague

“Why should I spend good money on tables when I have men standing idle?” asks a Regency country squire in the British sitcom Blackadder the Third. The Marquise de Merteuil in OPERA2DAY’s Dangerous Liaisons would agree with him. Her servants support her dinner table, groaning with gateaux, on their backs.

Porgy and Bess at Dutch National Opera – Exhilarating and Moving

Thanks to the phenomenon of international co-productions, Dutch National Opera’s first-ever Porgy and Bess is an energizing, heart-stirring show with a wow-factor cast. Last year in London, co-producer English National Opera hosted it to glowing reviews. Its third parent, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, will present it at a later date. In the meantime, in Amsterdam the singers are the crowing glory in George Gershwin’s 1935 masterpiece.

Il trovatore at Seattle Opera

After a series of productions somehow skewed, perverse, and/or pallid, the first Seattle Opera production of the new year comes like a powerful gust of invigorating fresh air: a show squarely, single-mindedly focused on presenting the work of art at hand as vividly and idiomatically as possible.

Opera as Life: Stefan Herheim's The Queen of Spades at Covent Garden

‘I pitied Hermann so much that I suddenly began weeping copiously … [it] turned into a mild fit of hysteria of the most pleasant kind.’

Venus Unwrapped launches at Kings Place, with ‘Barbara Strozzi: Star of Venice’

‘Playing music is for a woman a vain and frivolous thing. And I would wish you to be the most serious and chaste woman alive. Beyond this, if you do not play well your playing will give you little pleasure and not a little embarrassment. … Therefore, set aside thoughts of this frivolity and work to be humble and good and wise and obedient. Don’t let yourself be carried away by these desires, indeed resist them with a strong will.’

Burying the Dead: Ceruleo offer 'Baroque at the Edge'

“Who are you? And what are you doing in my bedroom?”

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

[Photo by R. Tinker]
05 Dec 2017

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

Manitoba Opera opened its 45th season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly proving that the aching heart as expressed through art knows no racial or cultural divide, with the Italian composer’s self-avowed favourite opera still able to spread its poetic wings across time and space since its Milan premiere in 1904.

Manitoba Opera: Madama Butterfly

A review by Holly Harris

Above: Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton

Photos by R. Tinker

 

Last staged locally in April 2009, the three-show run directed by Winnipeg’s Robert Herriot also featured Tyrone Paterson leading the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra through Puccini’s rapturous score. The maestro also notably marked his own auspicious anniversary on the MO podium in November, beginning his tenure as the company’s music advisor/principal conductor 25 years ago conducting exactly this same work.

The three-act tragedy sung in Italian, and based on a libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa tells the tale of 15-year old Cio-Cio San (a.k.a. Madama Butterfly), who weds American naval officer B.F. Pinkerton based in Nagasaki, Japan. After he returns home to the U.S to find a “proper” American wife, she bears his son, little Sorrow, and awaits his return with tragic consequences.

The 150-minute production featured a particularly strong cast of principals. The first of those is world-renowned Tokyo-born soprano Hiromi Omura, who delivered a masterful performance as the young geisha in a role she debuted in 2004, and has now performed over 100 times. As she morphed from lovesick girl to noble young woman who dies for honour, her soaring, well-paced vocals in the notoriously difficult part were fully displayed from her opening “Ancora un passo or via—Spira sul mar,” until final “suicide aria” “Con onor muore.”

MB Opera Madama Butterfly, 2017. Photo - R. Tinker.png

Omura also performed her highly anticipated aria “Un bel di vedremo” with limpid fragility and ringing high notes as sparkling as the starry night sky, trembling in anticipation for her husband’s ship to sail back into harbour that earned her spontaneous applause and cries of brava. However, it’s during her silent vigil as she awaits Pinkerton’s return during the exquisite “Humming Chorus” where Omura’s profoundly moving artistry spoke loudest, as seemingly every shade of raw, vulnerable emotion flashed across her face: from hope to fear; love to loss, lit beautifully by Bill Williams.

Her equal in every way, acclaimed Canadian lyric tenor David Pomeroy created a strapping, 19-year old Pinkerton, who swaggered through his opening aria “Dovunque al mondo” fueled by strains of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and chillingly proclaimed “America forever.” Pomeroy set sail on his own harrowing narrative arc with port stops along the way, including sweetly tender love duet with this new bride, “Viene la sera,” until becoming unmoored and wracked with remorse during Act III’s “Addio fiorito asil” sung with dramatic intensity.

It’s also a testament to Pomeroy’s powerhouse acting skills that he earned perhaps one of the greatest compliments during his opening night curtain call: boisterous boos from a clearly engaged, impassioned audience on their feet for his wholly believable characterization that the artist acknowledged with delight.

Baritone Gregory Dahl also brought subtle nuance to his role as US consul Sharpless, who urges Pinkerton to be cautious of Butterfly’s heart, and later becomes caught in the lovers’ downward spiral during trio “Io so che alle sue pene,” sung with Pinkerton and Suzuki as a well-balanced ensemble.

MB Opera Madama Butterfly 2017, Laurelle Froese (Kate Pinkerton), Nina Yoshida Nelsen (Suzuki), Gregory Dahl (Sharpless). Photo - R. Tinker.png

Suzuki, portrayed by Japanese-American mezzo-soprano Nina Yoshida Nelsen in her MO debut also crafted a dedicated maid and confidant, who harmonized seamlessly with Butterfly and strewed cherry blossom petals during “Flower Duet” “Scuoti quella fronda,” while infusing the culturally sensitive production with greater verisimilitude.

It’s always a joy seeing baritone David Watson onstage, who made every moment count as The Bonze. Kudos also to Quinn Ledlow (alternating with Ava Kilfoyle), who brought sweet innocence to little Sorrow, despite the evening’s late hour for a four-year old tot. Winnipeg baritone Mel Braun served double duty as the Commissioner and a Prince Yamadori, while mezzo-soprano Laurelle Jade Froese instilled Kate Pinkerton with dignified, sensitive compassion.

However, the production is not without flaw. Cio-Cio San—now Mrs. Pinkerton—remained resolutely Japanese in appearance, still dressed in a kimono during Acts II and III despite singing of her “American house” that visually weakened her character’s transformation. And marriage broker Goro, (tenor James McLennan), who machinates the nuptials between Pinkerton and Cio-Cio San appeared far too polite and at times overly pedestrian for a scheming plot driver.

Just as Cio-Cio San paints pictures of wisps of smoke with her voice during her iconic “Un bel di vedremo,” Herriot likewise uses the stage as a canvas for his creative ideas.

His thoughtfully created tableaux including glorious eye candy, including Cio-Cio San’s first entrance flanked by the MO Chorus of geishas, well prepared by Tadeusz Biernacki, that primly take their place and twirl their delicate parasols on the tiered set of sliding shoji screens originally designed by Patrick Clark for Pacific Opera Victoria. Herriot also injects a new layer of fascinating sub-text into the opera’s dying moments, as each lead character suddenly reappears onstage to witness Butterfly’s demise, now trapped in their own world of unspoken regret.

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly does not offer the grand spectacle of Verdi’s Aida or even his own opulent Turandot, preferring instead to peer deeply into the hearts and minds of its doomed characters. Despite those that might still believe his “East-meets-West” operatic butterfly should be captured and pinned to a board—archaic and irrelevant, to be shelved as a curiosity of the past fueled by the then fashionable “orientalism”—MO’s latest production proved that in the hands of a soaring cast, this great Italian love story still flies high.

Holly Harris

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):