Madama Butterfly- new cast for 2014

 

lyric opera of chicago
Madama Butterfly

Music by Giacomo Puccini

Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica

After the story by John Luther Long and

the play by David Belasco

Directed by Michael Grandage

Conductor Marco Armiliato

At the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Haunting melodic Puccini romantic opera is a pleasure

The Lyric Opera of Chicago has mounted a most pleasing production of Puccini’s favorite opera—Madama Butterfly. Each time I see Butterfly live on stage. I am overwhelmed by the haunting and melodic score by Puccini. I can see why this is one of the most beloved operas of all-time. The sheer intensity and sweeping majesty of the Japanese set (design by Christopher Oram), in a new production,  together with Puccini’s theatrical score made for a marvelous experience. Add the exquisite voice of Amanda Echalaz who deftly depicts Cio-Cio-San as the epitome of devotion, hope and honor. Patricia Racette takes over the role of Cia-Cia-San for the January, 2014 dates and she received an enthusiastic standing ovation on January 11, 2014.

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Based on David Belasco’s play, Madama Butterfly,  is the story of an American naval officer Lt. B.F. Pinkerton (James Valenti,  now Stefano Secco for the January dates) who arrives in Nagasaki, Japan. He rents a home from Goro (David Cangelosi) who also is a marriage broker. Pinkerton marries Cio-Cio-San (know as Madame Butterfly) a fifteen year-old former geisha. Pinkerton is a cad who sings his carefree life style of always seeking pleasure wherever he goes. Pinkerton becomes enchanted with Cio-Cio-San’s beauty and loyalty. She is smitten by Pinkerton’s charm. We hear Amanda Echalaz (now Patricia Racette for January dates) deliver her ‘Ancora un passo or via’ aria with extreme sincerity. Act one ends with Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton in the famous haunting duet “Viene la sera’ a tribute to their love.

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Act two finds Cio-Cio-San still awaiting Pinkerton’s promised return to Nagasaki. She has his child, a three year-old boy with blond hair and blues eyes. Suzuki (Maryann McCormick), Butterfly’s loyal maid prayers for the Pinkerton to return despite her belief that he’ll never come back. Cio-Cio-San asks Suzuki to have faith that one day hope will prevail in the amazingly powerful duet ‘Un bel di vedremo.’ Butterfly never loses hope. Sharpless (Christopher Purves) arrives with a letter but before he can read it to her, Goro arrives with another suitor for Butterfly Prince Yamadori (Anthony Clark Evans). Cio-Cio-San clings to hope that Pinkerton will come back but if not she’d rather die or return to being a geisha. She will not marry anyone. She became delirious with excitement upon seeing Pinkerton’s ship in the harbor. She sings her joy in a duet with Suzuki ‘Scuoti quella fronda di ciliegio’ as flowers cover the house.

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Act three finds that Pinkerton has indeed returned to Japan but with an American wife. Cio-Cio-San is asleep when Pinkerton and his wife arrive at the house. Suzuki greets the Americans and quickly understands what has happened. Pinkerton’s guilt overcomes him and he leaves the house. Butterfly wakes up to find Kate (Laura Wilde) and Sharpless in her house. She quickly assesses the situation. She agrees to give up the child if the father returns for him in a half an hour. She is a most honorable and loving person whose Japanese traditions forcers her obey her husband. Her loyalty and unconditional love give her few options. Her love for her son motivates her final act.

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This most romantic, emotionally wrenching and ultimately tragic love story features a most memorable character marvelously sung and fully realized by Amanda Echalaz and now in a triumphant turn by Patricia Racette in the 2014 dates. Marco Armiliatos’ orchestra plays Puccini score with enchanting verve. “Madama Butterfly” is wonderful show to expose young folks to the grandeur of world-class opera. I was totally engrossed throughout. Each time I see Butterfly it works its magic on me-it is so enticing! The January cast changes only add depth and craft to this magnificent new production of an opera classic.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: October 18, 2013

For more info checkout the Madama Butterfly page at theatreinchicago.com

At theLyric Opera of Chicago, running time is 2 hours 55 minutes, tickets $34-$244

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