Opera Review

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‘Butterfly’ gets new wings

By Juliet Schoen/Staff Writer

It takes a little getting used to, but the stripped down “Madama Butterfly” at the Music Center still manages to captivate its audience. Puccini’s passionate music holds its own, although the production thought up by Robert Wilson eliminates the scenery and goes easy on the passion.

Evoking the late 1800s in Japan is a bare bone stage, which calls upon your imagination to visualize a house with its shoji screens, a small garden and a hillside overlooking the ocean. What really makes the stylization work are the costumes, ingeniously contrived by Frida Parmeggiani. The men wear long, simple robes, cleverly pleated, while the women wear strapless gowns, with the tight fabric across the bosom giving the impression of an obi.

The backdrop is a huge screen, which uses changes of light to create mood. As director and creator of the design and lighting, Wilson has again taken the minimalist approach, with the singers using their hands and bodies to suggest feelings. This works well in a Japanese setting, where formality is the norm.

The role of Cio-Cio-San is triple-cast and we heard Angela Maria Blasi in the role. She was a marvelous Butterfly with heartbreak in her voice. Her singing and acting must have made everyone in the audience misty eyed. Pinkerton (the swine) was played by John Matz, a tall handsome young man with an excellent tenor voice. He swaggers at the beginning as he arranges a fake marriage with Butterfly, and then sounds truly remorseful when he learns of her undying devotion.

Also excellent was Alan Opie as Sharpless, the consul who senses that the charade will have a tragic ending. Susanna Poretsky is the maid, Suzuki, Greg Fedderly is Goro, the marriage broker and Gregorio Gonzales is Yamadori, the suitor. Smaller roles are well played by Michael Gallup, Kate Pinkerton, Jinyoung Jang and John Atkins. Also deserving mention is James Prival, as Butterfly’s son. He was asked to execute a complicated routine, bouncing about the stage, and he did it with elegance.

Kent Nagano, music director of the Los Angeles Opera, is a marvel and captured the luscious music by Puccini. The orchestra sounded glorious.

It you miss this “Butterfly” it will be a crying shame.