Francesca Zambello, who has conceptualized and directed many brilliant opera productions brought her well-considered ideas about how to stage Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” to the Glimmerglass Festival stage.
I had reported on her innovative production, which originally debuted at Houston Grand Opera in 1999 on the most recent of its three mountings in San Diego [See Racette, Ventre Impress in Zambello-Inspired “Butterfly” at San Diego Opera- May 20, 2009.]
[Below: a scene from the Francesca Zambello production of “Madama Butterfly” reinvented for the 2014 Glimmerglass Festival; edited image of a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
Although the production at Glimmerglass Festival is new, in the sense that Michael Yeargan’s set designs have been replicated in a way that accommodates the stage at the the Festival’s 900+ seat Alice Busch Theater, all of Zambello’s dramatic ideas that make her “Butterfly” a vividly theatrical experience are there.
The four principal singers were all world-class.
Yunah Lee’s Butterfly
South Korean soprano Yunah Lee has all the requisites to gain recognition as one of the great Cio-Cio Sans of our day.
[Below: Cio-Cio San arrives for her wedding at the American consulate; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
She possesses a voice with the power and vocal flexibility to convey the range of emotions that Puccini wrote into this part, and the stamina to sustain the physically demanding role, with few opportunities to leave the stage during a long evening of singing.
She also has the dramatic skills that reinforce an ideal physical presence for the role.
[Below: Cio-Cio San (Yunah Lee, in silhouette) awaits the arrival of the warship Abraham Lincoln into Nagasaki Harbor; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
Dinyar Vania’s Pinkerton, Aleksey Bogdanov’s Sharpless and Kristen Choi’s Suzuki
New York tenor Dinyar Vania, whose family’s roots are in Calcutta, India, possesses a spinto voice and good looks that presage an important career, not only in the demanding Puccini tenor roles, but in a wide range of dramatic tenor assignments.
[Below: Dinyar Vania as Lieutenant Pinkerton; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival. ]
California mezzo-soprano Kristen Choi is a 2014 Glimmerglass Festival Apprentice Artist.
That an Apprentice Artist is is cast in this demanding role speaks to the high quality of the international talent pool that competes for these coveted Young Artist spots.
She performed brilliantly in what is likely to become a signature role for her warm, expressive mezzo voice.
[Below: Kristen Choi as Suzuki; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
Ukrainian baritone Aleksey Bogdanov made a strong impression as Sharpless, a principal character with lusciously melodic music to sing and much to do dramatically, especially in Zambello’s production in which the beginnings of both the first and second acts take place in Sharpless’ American consulate.
Himself a 2011 Glimmerglass Young artist who appeared in that season in Tesori’s “Blizzard on Marblehead Neck” his versatility in different operatic styles is evident. [See my report on a Mozart role at the Kennedy Center: Ildar Abdrazakov is Don Giovanni in the Pascoe Production’s Revival – Washington National Opera, October 7, 2012.]
[Below: the American Counsel Sharpless (Aleksey Bogdanov, center) conducts business in his consulate; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
Principal cast members include District of Columbia tenor Ian McEuen as Goro, New York mezzo-soprano Erica Schoelkopf as Kate Pinkerton, Minnesota bass-baritone Thomas Richards as the Bonze, Kansas baritone Sean Michael Plumb as Prince Yamadori, New Jersey baritone Chris Carr as the Imperial Commissioner and Ohio bass-baritone Adam Cioffari as the Official Registrar.
Special recognition is deserved for four and a half year old Louis McKinny, whose portrayal of Sorrow (Cio-Cio San’s child by Pinkerton) in Zambello’s choreographed staging is as complex a dramatic assignment as any I can imagine for an actor that young.
[Below: Sorrow (Louis McKinny, right) consoles his mother, Cio-Cio San (Yunah Lee, prostrate on floor); edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
Son of the dramatic baritone Ryan McKinny (who sings Billy Bigelow in the 2014 Glimmerglass Festival production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel”), Louis McKinny was charming and thoroughly believable.
Joseph Colaneri, who is both Music Director the Glimmerglass Festivals and Artistic Director of the West Australian Opera in Perth, conducted with authority.
Garnett Bruce, who has supervised revivals of the previous version of this production, was Associate Director. Anita Yavich designed the costumes, Robert Wierzel the lighting.
[Below: Sorrow (Louis McKinny) carries a toy ship; edited image, based on a Karli Cadel photograph, courtesy of the Glimmerglass Festival.]
I enthusiastically recommend this production and cast, for veteran opera-goers, as well as far persons new to opera.
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