Music by Giacomo Puccini
An exquisite, haunting Puccini love story
|Lyric Opera of Chicago presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
Based on the short story by John Luther Long and the play by David Belasco, Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is an opera warhouse. Since its world premiere in 1905, it has become a favorite of opera goers for its searing emotion. This current production actualizes the bittersweet passion led by the fierce Amanda Echalaz (Cio-Cio-San). Playing a naïve 15 year, Echalaz enchants in her opening duet with the dashing James Valenti (Pinkerton). Later, she dominates the theatre with the renowned “Un bel di vedremo.” Her unwavering devotion to her husband is sung with anguish perfection. Echalaz crushes it! She fully connects the audience to the depths of her love and despair.
Echalaz also effectively convinces the stalwart MaryAnn McCormick (Suzuki) to embrace her delirium. They scatter petals and sing the joyful duet “Scuoti quella fronda de ciliegio.” Their hopeful singing is the prelude to one of two stunning dramatic visuals: Designer Christopher Oram’s revolving stage. Echalaz, McCormick and the adorable Tye Oren Pauley (Sorrow) sit vigil for Valenti’s return. As Conductor Marco Armiliato leads the spirited interlude, a statuesque Echalaz slowly circles into the dawn. The scene captivates. Despite Echalaz’s appearance of conviction, the music showcases her shift into reality. Armiliato’s orchestra poignantly reveals the truth.
When a Valenti and the dignified Christopher Purves (Sharpless) finally arrive, a miserable McCormick collapses under her burden. The trio harmonize their individual anguish in “Io so che alle sue pene.” This leads us to a masterful end scene that is scorched into my memory banks…forever. Trying not to spoil the experience, I’ll just say the most vivid part of the imagery is Pauley playing with a boat.
I’ve seen Madama Butterfly three times. I’m always blown away by Puccini’s haunting composition that is the epitome of every break up song ever written. He has captured the misery of loving deeply and tragically. For diehard and wannabe opera lovers, this Madama Butterfly is especially exquisite.
Madama Butterfly continues through January 26th at Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker (map). Tickets are $64-$264, and are available by phone (312-322-2244) or online through their website (Half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at LyricOpera.org. (Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes, includes an intermission)
Photos by Dan Rest
Amanda Echalaz (Cio-Cio-San, Oct 15-30), Patricia Racette (Cio-Cio-San, Jan 11-26), James Valenti (Pinkerton, Oct 15-30), Stefano Secco (Pinkerton, Jan 11–26), MaryAnn McCormick (Suzuki), Christopher Purves (Sharpless), David Cangelosi (Goro), David Govertsen (Bonze), Laura Wilde (Kate Pinkerton), Anthony Clark Evans (Yamadori), Richard Ollarsaba (Commissioner), Will Liverman (Registrar)
behind the scenes
Marco Armiliato (conductor), Michael Grandage (original director), Louisa Muller (revival director), Christopher Oram (designer), Neil Austin (original light design), Michael Black (chorus master), Nicole Tongue (choreography), Dan Rest (photos)