Sunday, October 01, 2006

Madama Butterfly

Madama Butterfly, Puccini's masterpiece, is the most performed opera in North America and likely 2nd or 3rd in the world. It is easy to understand why. Soaring melodies, a compelling and believable story (a somewhat rare thing in opera), and exotic locale (Japan in 1904)combine to create perfect theatre.

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City had not mounted a Butterfly in a while so the new production was a welcome season opener. A traditional production, with simple unchanging sets of a small Japanese house with garden and moving soji walls, the opening night performance was met with well deserved bravos.

The plot is well known Wickipedia has a nice synopsis. MADAMA BUTTERFLY What was so outstanding was the incredible voices of the performers. Uniformly good from the imposing Bonze sung by Matthew Arnold to the incredible, world class Butterfly of Barbara Divis and Pinkerton of David Pomeroy. Not a note missed, clear ringing diction (another rarity, even with my elemental Italian, I could understand what they were singing) and excellent acting ability. The pace was excellent and even the long-ish second act breezed by.

Pinkerton was not a sympathetic character, but exposed as the uncaring, swaggering bore he is. The blame is put on him and this his last minute attempt to repent is made even more pathetic. Pomeroy looked and acted the part of Pinkerton to perfection, using glances, expressions and moods to convey his swaggering power. He hit every high note with ease, his voice never failing.

If Pomeroy was good, Divis as Butterfly was sheer operatic delight. This is what opera is all about. Communicating a role through looks, acting and singing. "Un bel di vedremo" was met with ringing bravas and show stopping applause. My friends who accompanied me to this performance have seen Butterfly all over the world, including La Scala and the Met and were profuse in the praise of this young lady. And trust me, they are usually stingy with their praise.

Lori-Kaye Miller was a strong, supportive Suzuki, and Bradley Garvin likewise as Sharpless.

The story is timeless, Butterfly is all things good, and kind and selfless. A paragon of unconditional love and loyalty, she comes across as naive and childish. Pinkerton, as power, imperialism, materialism and machismo destroys the fragile Butterfly. Simple, still powerful today.

(Pomeroy has upcoming Butterfly performances in Fort Worth and St Louis and Divis has performances scheduled with Arizona Opera and Hawaii Opera, worth watching for).

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