Set in 1904 Japan, MADAM BUTTERFLY tells the story of Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton (Dominick Chenes) an American naval officer who buys a home in Nagasaki and arranges for a wife for the duration of his stay in Japan. Due to the loose divorce laws, Pinkerton fully intends to rid himself of his Japanese wife when he finds a 'proper wife' at home. Cio-Cio-San (Yunah Lee), his fifteen year old bride falls helplessly in love with the handsome Lieutenant and ends up being renounced by her family for her devotion to him. As the second Act opens, we find that three years have passed and Cio-coi-san has been awaiting her husband's return from his homeland. She is devoted and confident that he will return to her when the American consul, Sharpless (Michael Chioldi) arrives to inform her that Pinkerton is returning to Japan with his new American wife Kate (Kathryn Grumley). She stops him from revealing the truth because she cannot foresee a life without her her husband. When Sharpless learns that there is a three year old boy, Pinkerton's son, living with his mother, he rushes to give the officer news of his son. Cio-cio-san (which means butterfly in Japanese) encourages her servant Suzuki to shower the love nest with flowers. While waiting for her lover to return she vacillates between hope and despair. The Lieutenant arrives at his former home to meet his offspring Trouble (Adi Dhall), Cio-cio-san instinctively knows she will be abandoned after her child has been taken from her. She cannot bare to lose the love in her life and go back to being a geisha, entertaining strangers. She tragically decides to end her life rather than live without love.
Director Garnett Bruce has put together a truly world class experience, from the first moments until the final heartrending notes, every breathless second holds the audience in rapt awe. The entire cast is magnificent, every note is perfection, a study in beauty and passion. The chorus is enchanting, dressed in jewel toned traditional kimono at the wedding and showcasing Bruce's staging to great effect. Michael Chioldi as Sharpless, gives a heartfelt performance as a man caught between the two lovers. As Pinkerton, Dominick Chenes is a villain in a world not of his making. Chenes manages to make the audience love him and hate him simultaneously. Mika Shigematsu is stellar as Suzuki, Butterfly's faithful maid, endearing in her devotion to her mistress. The youngest cast member, Adi Dhall shows outstanding maturity and admirable stage presence as Trouble, Pinkerton's son. But it is Yunah Lee in the title role that gives the audience chills and brings forth sobs with her glorious portrayal of the iconic character. The set designed by John Gunter is brilliant, capturing the dazzling beauty of Japan and it's simplicity. James Sale's lighting design is perfection, his use of color to mark the passage of time is masterful. The orchestra, and show under the conduction of Richard Buckley, is powerful and soul searing bringing Puccini's music to glowing life. The entire production is exquisite in every way, a jewel studded masterpiece.
I give my highest recommendation to Austin Opera's MADAME BUTTERFLY as an absolute work of art. I hope you too have the chance to experience world class opera right here in Austin.
May 4 at 7:30 PM
May 7 at 3:00 PM
Running Time: 3 hours with one 25 minute intermission
Tickets: $25 - $199 austinopera.org