Minghella Directed 'Madama Butterfly' Returns to the Stage Starting 10/24

The Met’s acclaimed production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, directed by the late Academy Award-winning film director Anthony Minghella, returns to the stage for twelve performances beginning Friday, October 24, 2008.  Reprising their portrayals in the production this season are sopranos Patricia Racette and Cristina Gallardo-Domâs in the title role, tenors Roberto Aronica and Marcello Giordani as Pinkerton, and baritone Dwayne Croft as Sharpless.  Patrick Summers conducts the opera for the first time at Met.

This season’s final performance of Madama Butterfly on Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. will be seen in hundreds of movie theaters across the country and around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series.

When Minghella’s highly theatrical production opened the Met’s 2006-07 season, it was hailed by Alex Ross of The New Yorker, who wrote that “it offers several of the most piercingly beautiful images I’ve seen in an opera house.” With a creative team of assistant director and choreographer Carolyn Choa (who is directing the staging this season), costume designer Han Feng, set designer Michael Levine, lighting designer Peter Mumford, and puppetry by Blind Summit Theatre, Madama Butterfly was the first new production to premiere at the Met on opening night in twenty years. The performance marked the company’s first live transmission in Times Square and ushered in General Manager Peter Gelb’s inaugural season at the Met.

Patricia Racette, whose 2007 Met role debut as Cio-Cio-San (the title role of Madama Butterfly) was hailed by The New York Times as a performance sung “with strength, taste and emotional generosity,” is known as one of America’s finest singing actresses. She is also recognized for creating roles in new works by today’s leading composers, including Roberta in the Met’s world premiere of Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy.  She sang Ellen Orford in the Met’s new production of Britten’s Peter Grimes last season, which was also transmitted globally as part of The Met: Live in HD series. Cio-Cio-San is prominent in Racette’s repertory; she has performed the role at San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Munich’s Bavarian State Opera. The American soprano has performed numerous roles at the Met since her 1995 company debut as Musetta in La Bohème, including Violetta in La Traviata (at the premiere of Franco Zeffirelli’s new production in 1998), Elizabeth of Valois in Don Carlo, Antonia/Stella in Les Contes d'Hoffmann, and Alice Ford in Falstaff.

The Associated Press notes that Chilean soprano Cristina Gallardo-Domâs “has made ‘Butterfly’ her calling-card role.”  In addition to the Met, her critically-acclaimed interpretation of the tragic title heroine has been seen at the Vienna State Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Barcelona’s Liceu and at the Royal Opera Covent Garden, where it won her the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera in 2004.  Her previous Met appearances include Mimì for her 1996 debut, Violetta in La Traviata, and Liù in Turandot.

Italian tenor Roberto Aronica made his Met debut in 1998 as Alfredo in La Traviata and has since returned to sing Rodolfo in La Bohème and the Duke in Rigoletto.  Recent engagements include Rodolfo at the Royal Opera Covent Garden and in Munich, Riccardo in Un Ballo in Maschera with the Netherlands Opera, and Pinkerton in Berlin.

Internationally renowned tenor Marcello Giordani has sung 17 roles with the Met since his 1995 company debut including four new production premieres. These include his admired portrayals of the dauntingly high roles of Cellini in Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini and Gualtiero in Bellini’s Il Pirata, and the season-opening premieres for the last two seasons, Pinkerton in this Minghella production of Madama Butterfly (2006), and Edgardo in Mary Zimmerman’s new staging of Lucia di Lammermoor (2007). Giordani adds yet another new production to his credit this season when he sings the title role in Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust in Robert Lepage’s debut staging at the Met, premiering on November 7.

A graduate of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Dwayne Croft has performed more than 350 performances of 27 roles at the Met including Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Silvio in Pagliacci, Marcello in La Bohème, Ernesto in Il Pirata, Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Fiorello in Il Barbiere di Siviglia (debut, 1990), Billy Budd, Eugene Onegin, Pelléas, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, and Valentin in Faust.  He appeared in the Met’s recent opening night gala as Lescaut in Act III of Massenet’s Manon. Last year he sang Robert E. Lee in the world premiere of Glass’s Appomattox with San Francisco Opera.

Live broadcasts to be seen and heard around the world

Madama Butterfly will be seen and heard by millions of people around the world this season in movie theaters, on the radio, and via the internet, through distribution platforms the Met has established with various media partners. The Saturday matinee performance on March 7, in addition to being transmitted into movie theaters as part of the The Met: Live in HD series, will be broadcast live over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.

Metropolitan Opera on SIRIUS Satellite Radio channel 78 will air the October 24, 29, November 4, 11, 19, March 3, and 7 performances of Madama Butterfly.

The opening night performance on October 24 will also be available via RealNetworks internet streaming at the Met’s web site, www.metopera.org.

About the Met

Under the leadership of General Manager Peter Gelb and Music Director James Levine, the Met has a series of bold initiatives underway that are designed to broaden its audience and revitalize the company’s repertory.  The Met has made a commitment to presenting modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, with highly theatrical productions featuring the greatest opera stars in the world.

The Metropolitan Opera’s 2008-09 season pays tribute to the company’s extraordinary history on the occasion of its 125th anniversary, while also emphasizing the Met’s renewed commitment to advancing the art form. The season features six new productions, 18 revivals, the final performances of Otto Schenk’s production of Wagner’s Ring cycle conducted by Levine, and two gala celebrations; the galas include the season-opening performance featuring Renée Fleming as well as a 125th anniversary celebration on March 15.  New productions include the company premiere of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic as well as the Met’s first staged production of Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust since 1906, Massenet’s Thaïs, Puccini’s La Rondine, Verdi’s Il Trovatore, and Bellini’s La Sonnambula.  Future seasons include new presentations of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles (2009-10) and Thomas Adès’s The Tempest (2011-12).

Building on its 77-year-old radio broadcast history - currently heard over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network - the Met now uses advanced media distribution platforms and state-of-the-art technology to attract new audiences and reach millions of opera fans around the world.

The Met: Live in HD series reached more than 935,000 people in the 2007-08 season, more than the number of people who saw performances in the opera house.  These performances began airing on PBS in March 2008, and eight of these HD performances are now available on DVD, on the EMI and Universal labels.  In the 2008-09 season, the HD series expands to feature 11 live transmissions, starting with the Met’s Opening Night Gala and spanning the entire season. The HD productions are seen this season in over 850 theaters in 28 countries around the world. Five new productions are featured, including the Met premiere of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic. The Opening Night transmission was seen in the Americas only; the remaining ten high-definition productions are shown live worldwide on Saturdays through May 9 with encores scheduled at various times.

Live in HD in Schools, the Met’s new program offering free opera transmissions to New York City schools in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and the Metropolitan Opera Guild, reached more than 7,000 public school students and teachers during the 2007-08 season. This season, Live in HD in Schools expands to reach schools in 18 cities and communities nationwide.

Continuing its innovative use of electronic media to reach a global audience, the Metropolitan Opera introduces Met Player, a new subscription service that will make its extensive video and audio catalog of full-length performances available to the public for the first time online, and in exceptional, state-of-the-art quality. Beginning on October 22, 2008, 120 historic audio recordings and 50 full-length opera videos will be available during the first month of the new service, including over a dozen of the company’s acclaimed The Met: Live in HD transmissions, known for their extraordinary sound and picture quality.  New content, including HD productions and archival broadcasts, will be added monthly.

Metropolitan Opera Radio on SIRIUS channel 78 is a subscription-based audio entertainment service broadcasting both an unprecedented number of live performances each week throughout the Met’s entire season, as well as rare historical performances, newly restored and remastered, spanning the Met’s 77-year broadcast history.

In addition to providing audio recordings through the new Met on Rhapsody on-demand service, the Met also presents free live audio streaming of performances on its website once every week during the opera season with support from RealNetworks.

The company’s groundbreaking commissioning program in partnership with New York’s Lincoln Center Theater (LCT), provides renowned composers and playwrights with the resources to create and develop new works at the Met and at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater.  The Met’s partnership with LCT is part of the company’s larger initiative to commission new operas from contemporary composers, present modern masterpieces alongside the classic repertory, and provide a venue for artists to nurture their work.

The Met has launched several audience development initiatives such as the company’s Open House Dress Rehearsals, which are free and open to the public; two are planned for the 2008-09 season with operas and dates to be announced.  Just prior to beginning the current season, the Met presented a free performance of the Verdi Requiem on September 18, in tribute to the late Luciano Pavarotti.  Other company initiatives include the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Gallery Met which exhibits contemporary visual art; the immensely successful Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rush Ticket program which provides deeply discounted orchestra seats two hours before curtain time; and an annual Holiday Series presentation for families.  This season’s special Holiday Presentation is Julie Taymor’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, an abridged, English-language version of the opera which is given four special matinee performances and one holiday evening performance as a way for families to celebrate the holiday season.