Play: Madame Butterfly
Group: Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Venue: Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
Dates: June 4, 7, 11, 13, 18, 22, 24, 28
Tickets: From $25 to $110; contact 314-961-0444 or www.experienceopera.org
Story: Sub-titled “A Japanese tragedy in two acts,” this world-renowned opera by Giocomo Puccini features a libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa based on a story by John Luther Long and a play by David Belasco. Based on a shameful time in history when 19th century American sailors routinely took Japanese brides while they were stationed in the Land of the Rising Sun, only to abandon them when they returned to The States, the title character is a young geisha who gives up everything for the man she loves, only to live out her short life in exile while futilely awaiting his return.
Highlights: Opera Theatre’s production is of the “Brescia” version of the opera that was favored by Puccini himself, with an English translation by Maggie Stearns and Colin Graham, and is a co-production with Minnesota Opera and Kentucky Opera. It features a stellar performance by soprano Kelly Kaduce as Cio-cio-san, known as Madame Butterfly. Her beautiful and haunting voice carries the briskly played first act and consumes nearly all of the interminably long second act, never wavering neither in her singing nor in her superb acting of the tragic heroine.
She’s suitably complemented by Lester Lynch as Sharpless, whose deep baritone resonates throughout the theater, crisply enunciating his lines and carrying considerable conviction as the American consul deeply troubled by his countryman Pinkerton’s cavalier treatment of the latter’s Japanese bride. Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton delivers another powerful performance as Cio-Cio-san’s loyal servant, while David Pomeroy lends support with his pleasant tenor while vainly trying to imbue what little decency he can into the villainous role of Pinkerton.
Other Info: Neil Patel’s set is a simple amalgam of Japanese elements of kabuki theater, on which Graham based his production, featuring soft colors and highly polished floors. David Woolard’s costumes accentuate the Japanese flavor and Robert Denton’s lighting is soft and luminescent throughout. Timothy Long conducts the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in a loving and gentle tribute to Puccini’s languid score. For all of the fine efforts, however, this Butterfly soars most brilliantly in the first act and merely flutters and stalls thereafter.
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.