January 17, 1991 |
Some things change. Some don't. Opera Pacific introduced an alternate pair of leading singers in its handsome, hand-me-down production of "Madama Butterfly" at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Sunday afternoon. Expressive stress and interpretive detail shifted in the process, but the quality of the generally conservative production remained solid.
January 10, 1991 |
Of all Puccini's tragic heroines, Cio-Cio San--"Madama Butterfly"--elicits the most pathos. Mimi in "La Boheme," after all, is a bit of a flirt. Manon Lescaut, in the opera named after her, finds love and luxury equally appealing--to her ruin. Tosca, the diva who dominates that opera, brings catastrophe upon herself and her lover because of her easily ignited jealousy. Turandot, the icy princess, repels many with her bloodthirsty sense of vengeance against all men.
September 29, 1990
Martin Bernheimer's cogent review (Sept. 13) of the John Adams-Alice Goodman opera "Nixon in China" lets me reflect anew on the utter gutlessness of the work, or perhaps merely of its creators. When I first heard that Adams was writing an opera about Richard Nixon, I thought, how splendid! It could be a character study of a brilliant, family-loving, articulate leader who is corrupted by power-greed and false advisers--rather like "Boris Godunov." Or had I heard it was to be about political intrigue and feminine succession in mysterious China, I might have thought, oh boy, another "Turandot."
November 21, 1989 |
Supertitles can be cruel. Early Saturday evening, the translation projected above the proscenium at the War Memorial Opera House described the heroine of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" as a "delicate flower." A few moments later, Cio-Cio-San fluttered in, and looked like the whole greenhouse. To those who insist on visual credibility, Nikki Li Hartliep was at an obvious disadvantage.
May 27, 1989 |
A Cio-Cio-San who had to be prompted for almost every line. A vocally threadbare Pinkerton and Sharpless. An unenlightened stage director. A pit band consistently out of tune. . . . It was not exactly a triumph of operatic art when the Mukungwha Opera Company staged Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" (in Italian, no supertitles) Thursday at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. As the titular heroine of Puccini's tear-jerker, Young Sang Jung demonstrated a modest, creamy soprano, floating some nice pianissimos at the top but usually singing at one dynamic level--loud--and without sensitivity to the text.
May 5, 1989 |
The Seattle Opera has attracted considerable attention in recent years for thinking big and for thinking different. It was here that America saw its first futuristic "Ring des Nibelungen." Local audiences have long taken Janacek and Berg in stride. Just a few weeks ago, Speight Jenkins, the imaginative general director, mustered what may have been the first performance anywhere of Massenet's alternate version of "Werther"--the quirky one in which the title role is assigned to a baritone.
April 19, 1989
San Diego tenor Jonathan Welch, who made his local debut as Pinkerton in San Diego Opera's current production of "Madama Butterfly," will sing at a free concert Thursday at noon in front of Civic Theatre. Part of the company's "Opera on the Concourse" series, Welch will present highlights from "Madama Butterfly," as well as arias and duets from other operatic and light-opera favorites. Welch will be joined by cast member and mezzo-soprano Anne De Vries, and by San Diego Opera chorus master and baritone Martin Wright.
April 17, 1989 |
Traditional opera doesn't have to be careless opera. Take, for example, the revival of "Madama Butterfly" that opened Saturday night at the San Diego Opera. There were no theatrical shocks here, and few musical surprises. Everyone involved, from lofty protagonist to lowly chorister, took Puccini at his seasoned word. Luckily, no one took that word for granted. Kees Bakels of Amsterdam conducted with emotive force that respected both the light and the shade in the score yet avoided sentimental excesses.
January 6, 1989 |
With all its borrowings from the classical theater of Japan, Hal Prince's staging of "Madama Butterfly" (to be telecast tonight at 9 on PBS Channels 28, 15 and 24) is just another stodgy spectacle trying to fake its way to distinction. In an intermission interview midway through the Lyric Opera of Chicago production Prince describes his use of "watered down" Kabuki stagecraft merely as a diversionary "hook": "We don't go very far with it," he says. "We don't mean to.