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Madama Butterfly Mercury News

Tragedy sung gloriously! Madama Butterfly plays Pacifica Performances

Pacifica Times Website

By Jean Bartlett
Pacifica Tribune correspondent
Posted:   07/31/2012 05:01:03 PM PDT
Updated:   07/31/2012 05:01:03 PM PDT



Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., Verismo Opera Company is arriving on the stage of Pacifica Performances to present one of the greatest opera tragedies of all time, "Madama Butterfly." Adapted from the book by John L. Long, (drama by David Belasco, Italian libretto by L. Illica and G. Giacosa, English version by R. H. Elkin), and with music by Giacomo Puccini, Madama Butterfly takes place in late 19th century in a lovely Japanese villa on the outskirts of Nagasaki. It is here that the young Japanese geisha, Cio-Cio-San, known as Madama Butterfly, falls in love with U.S. Navy Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton. Their meeting, arranged by the local marriage broker, Goro, is a real dream of happiness for Cio-Cio-San, for she immediately falls deeply in love with the Lieutenant. For Pinkerton, however, his marriage to Cio-Cio-San is essentially, the deal of the century. For the marriage broker has explained to Pinkerton, that during the Lieutenant's term of service in Japan, he can rent the villa and his wife. Both are cancelable with 30 days notice. And while two such different interpretations of marriage can only end in a final curtain of heartache — the music that underscores the thrill and the agony of love found and then lost is riveting.
"When one hears Puccini's superb melodies, one's heart is swept away by the feelings of the characters in the opera," said dramatic mezzo-soprano MaryAnne Stanislaw, co-director of Verismo Opera Company (along with tenor Frederick Winthrop who is also the company's founder). "In Madama Butterfly those feelings are of love, loneliness, joy and despair." Stanislaw went on to say, that this type of story, a young foreign woman marrying a man from America, continues to set the stage for many romances, even today.

"With each war, soldiers have fallen in love overseas," Stanislaw said. "Some married their sweethearts and returned home with them. Others simply remained abroad. Some, like Lt. Pinkerton, left their foreign wives and families to return to the U.S. alone. Puccini evokes feelings so well, that his melodies are familiar to most people, even if they aren't opera fans. He is the master of the love story. Though in most of his operas, sadly, the love turns to tragedy." In his own life Puccini knew scandal and tragedy. He met and fell in love with Elvira, the wife of a friend. She and her two children moved in with Puccini. When her husband died 19 years later, she and Puccini married. Elvira and Puccini also had a son the year after she moved in, and all of this not only sent the local tongues wagging, but made international headlines. But it was when Elvira, now married to Puccini, accused a young, innocent servant girl of having an affair with her husband — and followed this young woman all over town shouting obscenities and accusations at her, that true tragedy happened. The young woman, unable to deal with the constant humiliation, committed suicide. An autopsy proved the young woman was a virgin. And while Puccini's reputation was exonerated, the young woman's suicide forever haunted the composer, so much so, that several of his operatic heroines mirror this same sorrow.


"As one listens to Puccini's poignant music, one can't help but be moved by it," Stanislaw said. "Puccini's operas have inspired several modern musicals. 'Rent' is based on La Boheme and 'Miss Saigon' is based on Madama Butterfly." Saturday night's presentation is fully costumed, has movable sets, and supertitles will be provided. The conductor is Michael Shahani. Galina Umanskaya is pianist. The cast features Shelly Welch (Cio-Cio-San), Fred Winthrop (Pinkerton), Chris Wells (Sharpless), Marsha Sims (Suzuki), Rick Bogart (Goro), Andrew Ross (Yamadori), Joe Kinyon (The Bonze), and Joanne Bogart (Kate). The Verismo production will be in three acts with an intermission between the first two acts only. Stage director is Fred Winthrop and assistant stage director is Cristina Arriola.
This is Verismo Opera's fifth season. They began as a traveling company and are now settled at the Bay Terrace Theater in Vallejo. The company's performers are professional opera singers and many perform with Verismo on a regular basis. Additionally, a number of their artists are young singers just gaining experience and on their way to a career. Auditions are held at various times throughout the year. (http://www.verismoopera.org/.) Initially sponsored by the Mira Theater Guild, Verismo Opera is in the process of receiving its nonprofit status.
"This year we performed our first Wagner opera, Das Rheingold, and will perform Un Ballo in Maschera (Verdi) in November," Stanislaw said. "We have settled into a season of four operas a year with multiple performances and casts of each opera. With the anniversaries of Wagner and Verdi coming up, our 2013 season will be — Il Trovatore, La Traviata. Rigoletto and Die Walküre." What will the audience love about Madama Butterfly? "Puccini's music soars!" Stanislaw said. "Madama Butterfly transports listeners to another land and another time with fabulous music as their guide."


If you go:
What: Puccini's Madama Butterfly presented by Verismo Opera Company Where: Pacifica Performances Mildred Owen Concert Hall, 1220 Linda Mar Blvd.
When: Saturday, Aug. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Additional: Due to the serious nature of the opera, it is not appropriate for young children Tickets: $20 general. $17 seniors (62+) and students with current ID. $15 members. $12 senior/student members. Under 18 FREE. Available at door 30 minutes before show or in advance online at www.pacificaperformances.org by Friday, noon.

Reserved seats: Available by phone. Minimum purchase 6 tickets.

Contact: call 650-355-1882 or email info@pacificaperformances.org.

Glossary

Citation

Sims, M. (2017). Madama Butterfly Writeup Mercury News. Retrieved from http://www.verismoopera.org/view/article/51cbf4067896bb431f6aec46

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