Puccini's searing tragedy of East and West brings down the curtain on Seattle Opera's 2011/12 season. One of opera's most beloved characters, Cio-Cio-San, tests the limits of faith and choose death over dishonor at the climax of eight performances of Madama Butterfly, tonight, May 5 through May 20, 2012. The production features the Seattle Opera debuts of five exciting artists, and the opening night performance tonight, May 5 will also be the company's first-ever simulcast.
"No opera pulls at the hearts of an audience more than Puccini's Madama Butterfly," says Speight Jenkins, General Director of Seattle Opera. "The story of the geisha who loves the wrong man so fervently defines what makes audiences love Puccini and indeed opera itself. All one needs is an artist-and we have two of them-who knows musically and dramatically how to convey the joys and sorrows of the title role. Butterfly affects everyone, and we want this production to be our best yet."
On opening night, soprano Patricia Racette makes her Seattle Opera debut as the abandoned geisha. The New York Timespraised the "strength, taste, and emotional generosity" she brings to the role, which she has sung in many of the world's great opera houses. She alternates performances with Lithuanian soprano Ausrine Stundyte, who has "found in Cio-Cio-San the role of her life," according to ResMusica.com. Stundyte's "extraordinarily expressive death scene ripped tears out of more than one audience member" when she sang the title role at Oper Köln. Racette's Cio-Cio-San will be betrayed by the Lieutenant Pinkerton of Stefano Secco. The Italian tenor, who makes his Seattle Opera debut with these performances, has also sung Pinkerton in Rome, Florence, San Francisco, and at the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago. American tenorNathaniel Peake makes his Seattle Opera debut as Pinkerton in the alternate cast. Bulgarian conductor Julian Kovatchev, who has conducted this opera in Stuttgart, Cagliari, and San Francisco, makes his Seattle Opera debut leading these performances.
Both casts feature Canadian baritone Brett Polegato as Sharpless, the American Consul in Nagasaki, and 2011/12 Young Artist Sarah Larsen as Cio-Cio-San's servant, Suzuki. Polegato, who made his debut in 2005 as Henry Miles in The End of the Affair, starred as Oreste when Seattle Opera presented Iphigénie en Tauride in 2007. After making her mainstage debut as Mercédès in Carmen last fall, Larsen went on to sing Charlotte in the company's Young Artists Program touring production of Werther. The cast also features the return of tenor Doug Jones (Goro), baritone and 2011/12 Young ArtistDavid Krohn (Yamadori), and bass Michael Devlin (the Bonze). Peter Kazaras, Artistic Director of Seattle Opera's Young Artists Program, adds Madama Butterfly to his other recent mainstage directing credits, which include Tristan und Isolde and The Barber of Seville. The sets and costumes for Madama Butterfly, designed by Susan Benson and created by the Canadian Opera Company, first appeared at Seattle Opera in 1995. Lighting design is by Duane Schuler, who has recently lit Porgy and Bess and The Magic Flute at Seattle Opera.