Madama Butterfly – Opera in two acts (Brescia Version) to a libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa & Luigi Illica after the play by David Belasco, itself based on a story by John L. Long [sung in Italian with English surtitles]
Madama Butterfly (Cio-Cio-San ) – Mihoko Kinoshita
Lt. Pinkerton – Peter Furlong
Sharpless – Michael Corvino
Suzuki – Sara Petrocelli
Goro – Ubaldo Feliciano-Hernandez
Kate Pinkerton – Sarah Kennedy
Prince Yamadori – Daniel Quintana
The Bonze – Tom McNichols
Yakusidé – Stephen Lavonier
Imperial Commissioner – Ryan Stoudt
Registrar – Dane Reese
La Madre – Selena Moretz
La Cugina – Antonina Ermolenko
La Zia – Colleen Beaumont
Trouble – Isabelle Gendron
Michael Capasso – Stage Director
John Farrell – Set Design
Angela Huff – Costume Design
Susan Roth – Lighting Design
Fran Harman – Choreographer
Reviewed by: Victor Wheeler
Reviewed: 23 April, 2010
Venue: DiCapo Opera Theatre at 76th Street and Lexington Avenue, New York City
“The closest thing New York has to a mini-Met” is how Justin Davidson described Dicapo Opera Theatre in the 30 November 2008 issue of New York Magazine. From its humble beginnings in 1981 in the sepulchral space of the St. Jean Baptiste Church basement to what it is now after the area was renovated in 1995 – a venue containing 204 burgundy velvet seats, a 38-foot adjustable proscenium, an orchestra pit that easily accommodates 30 musicians, quiet air conditioning, computerized lighting, and lots of other amenities – the result is a splendidly alluring opera house in which the productions are artistically wonderful. The operas are of crowd-pleasing traditional repertoire to rarely heard operas (such as Janáček’s early opera “Šárka” ) to world premieres (Francesco Cilluffo’s “Il Caso Mortara”).
The company is particularly enamored with Puccini, as is shown by its having presented all of his operas and instrumental music, including presenting all three versions of “Madama Butterfly” successively in one weekend (in the 2003-2004 season to celebrate the 100th-anniversary of the premiere of the opera). In keeping with the company’s adoration for Puccini, four presentations of the Brescia Version of “Madama Butterfly” were presented in April (I saw the third performance).
The opera was terribly received on its opening night in Milan on 17 February 1904. Puccini immediately withdrew the opera and made alterations to the score, such as discarding a few details involving Butterfly’s relations in Act One, dividing the long second act into two parts separated by an interval (10 minutes here) and adding the arietta ‘Addio, fiorito asil’ (Farewell, flowery refuge) for Pinkerton in Part 2 of Act Two. The second performance of the opera occurred on 28 May 1904 in Brescia, and it was a triumph.
Mihoko Kinoshita’s dynamic explosive voice dominated the stage, but when she had to use her voice in a quiet, delicate, elegant manner, she was more than up to it. Her ‘Un bel dì’ (One fine day) was magnificently sung. Peter Furlong started out a bit wobbly and his acting was somewhat stiff, but quickly his rich, expressive lyric tenor took over and he asserted himself, thus leading to fine emotive singing and with his acting talent becoming evident. The lengthy love-duet ‘Bimba, Bimba, non piangere’ (Sweetheart, sweetheart, do not weep) between Pinkerton and Butterfly was sung by both singers with great feeling and heartfelt emotion. The singing was captivating. Michael Corvino’s clear, lush baritone cut through the hills of Nagasaki.
Sara Petrocelli put her fine voice to great use. She believingly conveyed her great affection and concern for Butterfly. The ‘Tutti I fior?’ (All the flowers?), a wonderful duet between Butterfly and Suzuki was gorgeously done by both singers. Ubaldo Feliciano-Hernandez used his supple tenor to wonderful effect; he was a pleasure to listen to. The other singers used their short appearances to show that their voices and acting were of a high standard, Isabelle Gendron, a real cutie, was a more active Trouble than I had seen in other performances – but all to interesting effect. The chorus performed admirably, especially in the beautifully haunting ‘Humming chorus’.
Pacien Mazzagatti conducted an even-paced performance that brought out all the passions and nuances of the music, with the orchestra playing splendidly. The sets were simple but effective and the lighting was not obtrusive. The costumes were traditional (in a positive sense). All in all, a most enjoyable evening at Dicapo.