‘I gave my tears into the earth, now it must give me back flowers.’
This is just a hint of Puccini’s masterful lyrics that encapsulates profound love and loss in Puccini’s epic classic 1904 Italian libretto Madama Butterfly presented live and in person at Emerson Colonial Theatre through Sunday, September 24. This expansive production was 2 hours and 25 minutes with one 20-minute intermission after Act 1. Click here for more information and more about Boston Lyric Opera’s season.
With heartrending direction by Phil Chan and stirring choreography by Michael Sakamoto, Madama Butterfly was delivered with an altered setting and contemporary flair over a period of time from 1941 to 1983. Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is a searing and brilliant love story and the source material for the Tony award-winning Broadway musical, Miss Saigon. This time, Madama Butterfly’s settings ranged from Hawaii to San Francisco to Arizona. Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew’s multifaceted lighting not only reflected the shadows and watercolor reflection in a lively nightclub but the rich purple and rose of the horizon at daybreak as moving set pieces transported the audience to contrasting settings. Featuring multicolor fans, contemporary yellow crowns, and regal military uniforms, Sara Ryung Clement’s distinctive, silky, and shimmering costumes in bursting color embellished the festivities of the Club Shangri-La in Chinatown in San Francisco, where Navy officer B. F. Pinkerton, depicted with enigmatic sweetness by tenor Dominick Chenes and soprano Karen Chia-Ling Ho as naïve, proud, bubbly and devoted Butterfly or Cio-Cio San meet in 1941. It will be a night they never forget.
Boston Lyric Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly had the audience gripped in a full range of emotions as the eye level live orchestra led by Annie Rabbat articulated Puccini’s moving array of arias punctuated by magnificent drums. Boasting angelic vocals, Chia- Ling Ho blossomed as Madama Butterfly, her coy yet fragile depiction poignant and buoyant as she navigated through a plethora of challenges during World War II and Pearl Harbor. Chenes and Chia-Ling had captivating chemistry only enriched by powerful vocals and enthralling dialogue. Mezzo soprano Alice Chung at first offered an understated performance as steadfast and loyal Suzuki, but Chung’s depiction gradually culminated into one of the most endearing characters of the production alongside Troy Cook as compassionate and protective Sharpless. Baritone Junhan Choi had a reduced role as Commissioner/Registrar in Madama Butterfly compared to the engineer’s meaty role in Miss Saigon, but Choi left his mark during each of his memorable scenes in a charismatic portrayal of dark humor and dastardly wit.
Michael Sakamoto’s dynamic choreography ranged from delicate to fitful, most notably as Butterfly took the stage in a traditional dance with the Club Shangri-La performers and later in a stirring dance featuring Cassie Wang. Wang’s symbolic performance was peculiar, heartfelt, foreboding and so riveting that it may remain ingrained into the psyche long after the performance has ended.
Boston Lyric Opera’s Madama Butterfly took some liberties from the classic libretto that dealt in immigration, bigotry, and patriotism in a surprising array of twists and turns and proved to be a production that will not soon be forgotten.
Boston Lyric Opera presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly through Sunday, September 24 live and in person at Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts. This expansive production was 2 hours and 25 minutes with one 20-minute intermission after Act 1. Click here for more information and more about Boston Lyric Opera’s season.