Impressions of opening night at Sarasota Opera.
By Kay Kipling
I’ve never been an opera critic, and I’m not setting myself up as one now. I’m not able to learnedly compare the Sarasota Opera’s current production of Madama Butterfly with decades of others at La Scala or the Met (i.e., how did Julie Makerov’s rendition of the famed aria “Un bel di” compare to so-and so’s, etc.). But I can give some impressions of the opening night performance, which elicited (of course) standing ovations from the audience.
For me, Act I was a bit tentative, even though I enjoyed the pleasantly Japanese setting of the “paper” house and cherry blossoms designed by David P. Gordon, and even though the singing was, throughout the evening, everything it should have been. At first I just didn’t buy Makerov as Butterfly, aka Cio-Cio-San, a delicate petal of a 15-year-old being married to American naval officer Pinkerton (Mauricio O’Reilly, whom I didn’t really buy at first, either). Mark Womack as Sharpless, the counsel, was, on the other hand, physically believable to me at the outset and a character whose side of the story developed logically.
But it would have been impossible not to get swept up in the emotions of Act II, as the long-abandoned Butterfly and her servant, Suzuki (Vanessa Cariddi), sing about their opposing expectations of Pinkerton’s eventual return. Here Puccini’s soaring music and Makerov’s vocal talents did their work, earning well-deserved and enthusiastic applause.
And Act III sustains the emotional tension, as we meet Pinkerton’s new American wife and wait for Butterfly to find out the truth—and to surrender her son with Pinkerton, appropriately named Sorrow. Here Pinkerton gets to sing a semi-redeeming aria of his remorse (it’s strange to think that in the original production, more than 100 years ago, the tenor was not given this opportunity), and as everything builds to a dramatic crescendo, it’s clear why Madama Butterfly remains, year after year, an audience favorite.
There are performances of Butterfly through March 3; for ticket info call the box office, 366-8450, or go to sarasotaopera.org.