Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” arrives on local screens Live in HD from The Met

A scene from Puccini's "Madama Butterfly." Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

A scene from Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.”
Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

Kristine Opolais brings her heartbreaking interpretation of the title role of Madama Butterfly to Live in HD screens for the first time, in Anthony Minghella’s critically acclaimed 2006 production. Roberto Alagna sings Lieutenant Pinkerton, the callous officer who crushes Butterfly’s dreams of love. Debuting conductor Karel Mark Chichon leads a cast that also includes Maria Zifchak as Suzuki and Dwayne Croft as Sharpless.

With a running time of approximately 3 hours, 30 minutes, the classic Puccini opera will arrive on local screens on Saturday, April 2, 2016 at 12:55 p.m. In the Berkshires the opera is transmitted to the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington and the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield. For other locations across the US and worldwide, go to the Met Opera theatre site.

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This jewel of understated direction and sleekly minimal design ennobles the familiar narrative, elevating the melodramatic story of a Japanese child bride abandoned by her American husband to a poignant tragedy… Kristine Opolais is the most compelling Met Cio-Cio-San since Diana Soviero last sang the role here nearly 20 years ago… Ms. Opolais is what is called a “singing actor”: In her performance, vocal and dramatic expression are tightly entwined… Even considered narrowly as a vocalist, Ms. Opolais is a fine artist. In the middle register especially she sings with an easy, instinctive-sounding use of portamento, the gentle gliding between notes that invests Italian music with warmth and intimacy… She is a bold artist, the kind of singer who makes attending the opera a transformative pleasure.” –The New York Observer

World premiere: Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 1904.
Met premiere: February 11, 1907.

The title character of Madama Butterfly—a young Japanese geisha who clings to the belief that her arrangement with a visiting American naval officer is a loving and permanent marriage—is one of the defining roles in opera. The story triggers ideas about cultural and sexual imperialism for people far removed from the opera house, and film, Broadway, and popular culture in general have riffed endlessly on it. The lyric beauty of Puccini’s score, especially the music for the thoroughly believable lead role, has made Butterfly timeless.

Kristine Opolais as Cio-Cio-San and Roberto Alagna as Pinkerton in Puccini's "Madama Butterfly." Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

Kristine Opolais as Cio-Cio-San and Roberto Alagna as Pinkerton in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.”
Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

SYNOPSIS

ACT I

Japan, early 20th century. Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton of the U.S. Navy inspects a house overlooking Nagasaki harbor that he is leasing from Goro, a marriage broker, who has also arranged his union with a young geisha named Cio-Cio-San, known as Madame Butterfly. The American consul Sharpless arrives for the wedding ceremony and Pinkerton describes to him his philosophy of the fearless Yankee roaming the world in search of experience and pleasure. He is not sure whether his feelings for the young girl are love or a whim, but he intends to go through with the wedding. Sharpless warns him that the girl may view the marriage more seriously, but Pinkerton brushes off his concerns and declares that someday he will take a real, American wife.

Butterfly is heard climbing the hill with her friends. In casual conversation after the formal introduction, Butterfly admits her age, 15, and explains that her family was once prominent but lost its position, and she has had to earn her living as a geisha. Her relatives arrive and chatter about the marriage. Cio-Cio-San shows Pinkerton her few possessions and quietly tells him she has been to the Christian mission to convert to her husband’s religion. The Imperial Commissioner reads the marriage agreement, and the relatives congratulate the couple. Suddenly, a threatening voice is heard from afar—it is the Bonze, Butterfly’s uncle, a priest. He curses the girl for rejecting her ancestral religion. Pinkerton orders everyone to leave, and as they go the Bonze and the shocked relatives denounce Cio-Cio-San. Pinkerton tries to console Butterfly with sweet words. She is helped by Suzuki into her wedding kimono, and joins Pinkerton in the garden, where they make love.

ACT II—PART 1

Three years have passed, and Cio-Cio-San awaits her husband’s return. Suzuki prays for help, but Butterfly berates her for believing in Japanese gods rather than in Pinkerton’s promise to return one day. Sharpless appears with a letter from Pinkerton, but before he can read it to Butterfly, Goro arrives with the latest potential husband for Butterfly, the wealthy Prince Yamadori. Butterfly politely serves the guests tea but insists she is not available for marriage—her American husband has not deserted her. She dismisses Goro and Yamadori. Sharpless attempts to read Pinkerton’s letter but is repeatedly interrupted by Butterfly in her excitement to hear from her husband. Finally giving up, he asks her what she would do if Pinkerton never returned. The shocked Butterfly replies she would either become a geisha again, or better die. Sharpless, resigned, suggests that perhaps she should reconsider Yamadori’s offer. Butterfly is outraged and runs out, returning with her small son. Sharpless, too upset to tell her more of the letter’s contents, leaves, promising to tell Pinkerton of the child. A cannon shot is heard in the harbor announcing the arrival of a ship. Butterfly and Suzuki take a telescope to the terrace and read the name of Pinkerton’s ship. Overjoyed, Butterfly joins Suzuki in strewing the house with flowers. As night falls, Butterfly, Suzuki, and the child settle into a vigil watching over the harbor.

ACT II—PART 2

Dawn breaks, and Suzuki insists that Butterfly get some sleep. Butterfly carries the child into another room. Sharpless appears with Pinkerton and Kate, Pinkerton’s new wife. Suzuki realizes who the American woman is and agrees to help break the news to Butterfly. Pinkerton is overcome with guilt as he remembers his days in the house and runs from the scene. Cio-Cio-San rushes in hoping to find Pinkerton, but sees Kate instead. After a moment, she grasps the situation. Now left without hope, she agrees to give up the child but insists Pinkerton return for him. She dismisses everyone and takes out the dagger with which her father committed suicide, choosing to die with honor rather than live in shame. She is interrupted momentarily when her son comes running in. After saying an emotional goodbye she blindfolds the child. Then she stabs herself as Pinkerton is heard from outside calling her name.
– See more at: http://www.metopera.org/Discover/Synopses/Madama-Butterfly/#sthash.JfzDrVwm.dpuf

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