Culture Magazine

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Madama Butterfly

By Superconductor @ppelkonen
A revival of Anthony Minghella's evocative staging.
by Paul J. Pelkonen.

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Madama Butterfly

The opening image of Madama Butterfly evokes the rising sun of Japan.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2013 The Metropolitan Opera.

Anthony Minghella's spare production of Madama Butterfly reduced the opera to a bright wash of colors and fabrics against a spare black acting surface. This revival features Amanda Echlaz in her debut as the courtesan Cio-Cio San and tenor Bryan Hymel (star of last year's Les Troyens) as B.F. Pinkerton.
Puccini's opera tells the story of a Japanese courtesan who falls in love with an American sailor, only to be abandoned when he sails away. When Pinkerton returns to Nagasaki to see his wife and child, (with his "real American bride" in tow) Butterfly commits ritual suicide in the tradition of her Japanese ancestors.
Mr. Minghella's production makes innovative use of dancers and shadow puppets to bring out the authentic Japanese atmosphere of the opera. But it is Puccini's glorious, soaring music that will rend the heart, particularly the famous soprano showpiece "Un bel di."
Madama Butterfly opens January 16, 2014.
Recording Recommendations:
Coro e Orchestra de Teatro dell'Opera di Roma cond. Sir John Barbirolli (EMI, 1967)
Cio-Cio San: Renata Scotto
Lt. B. F. Pinkerton: Carlo Bergonzi
Sharpless: Rolando Panerai
Suzuki: Anna di Stasio
Goro: Piero da Palma
There are a number of fine Butterfly recordings, but this EMI set is ahead of the pack, thanks to the expert conducting of Sir John Barbiriolli. The British maestro leads an authentic, Italian chorus and orchestra, with excellent results--this is passionate music-making. The young Renata Scotto is at her best as Puccini's heroine. Carlo Bergonzi is a seductive, impressive presence as Pinkerton, and almost makes you feel sympathy toward his feckless character.
Tickets for Madama Butterfly are available at MetOperaFamily.Org, by calling (212) 362-6000, or at the box office starting August 11.

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