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Subject: WNO's beautiful BUTTERFLY opens tomorrow, not to be missed (short critique of Act I tech on 5/2/17)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 5 May 2017 10:33:38 -0400
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On Tuesday afternoon a small group of Washington National Opera patrons were invited to the KenCen Opera House for the annual Clarice Smith Lecture which is always a treat. I had the pleasure of sitting next to the superb Ms. Smith, a great artist in her own right and true patron of the arts in the area (witness the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at her alma mater, the University of Maryland).

Andrew Jorgenson of the WNO led a discussion of the upcoming production of Madame Butterfly which opens tomorrow with director Leslile Swackhamer and designer Jun Kaneko.  The production is a joint one from opera Omaha and San Francisco, where the two worked together as well. It was a wonderful insight into the work and concept of this brilliant artists and designer whose Magic Flute production was a revelation here 3 years ago.

After a quick dinner we were invited to the tech rehearsal and I was able to see about 3/4 of Act I as I was headed next door at 8pm for the amazing Ariodante!  Butterfly is always a treat and we are lucky enough to have four different ones during the run just over 2 weeks (see casts below). Add to it the truly gorgeous production which uses lights, brilliant colors, shapes and more to truly evoke the Japanese setting, yet without really setting it anywhere or anytime. The unit set has a series of concentric black circles on the floor surrounding a small raised disc to the right which the team explained as an almost vortex taking Butterfly down as the work progresses. A ramp runs from the floor at the rear left up higher on the rear right and on the disk is a shoji screen which evokes the house on the hill over Nagasaki. Goro wear an Americn hat and striped angular clothing that is Japanese in feel, but yet somewhat modern as well; this is one of Mr. Kaneko's signatures. Pinkerton wears white pants and jacket, but the slevves are vibrant red on one side and black on the other. The three servants wear less vibrant costumes. While the singers did not sing full vice at all times, I got a taste for tenor Brian Jagde's amazing voice in several seconds of "Dovunque il mondo" and am so excited for this debut tomorrow night as I think he will be a truly superb Pinkerton.  Mr. Cook's Sharpless had a striped jacket also with mismatched lapels and one black sleeve. It's also a treat as he will surely be a stalwart Sharpless.

The geishas enter down the ramp each in a completely different costume and hairdo, with different parasols that are sticks with a brightly colored and patterned disk atop. Strips of colored paper drop from the ceiling to cover the stage and Butterfly enters all in white with long black hair and a butterfly tiara in her hair. The costumes for the officials are out of this world and so much fun as well and so original and inventive.

As the superb bonze of Timothy Bruno entered I had to leave, but I must say he really made a presence and his backup "crew" had white hoods with holes cut for the eyes giving a quasi-KKK feel....

Tomorrow is surely to be a memorable night at the opera and I hope those of you in our region will catch this great production!

CAST
~~~~~~~~~~~
Cio-Cio-San:
Ermonela Jaho * (5/6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 18 & 20)
Sae-Kyung Rim * (5/7, 11, 14, 17 & 21)
Yunah Lee * (5/9)
Raquel González ‡ (5/19)
Pinkerton:
Brian Jagde * (5/6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 18 & 20)
Dimitri Pittas * (5/7, 9, 11, 14, 17 & 21)
Chaz’men Williams-Ali * (5/19)
Sharpless:
Troy Cook * (5/6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 18 & 20)
Trevor Scheunemann ± (5/7, 9, 11, 14, 17 & 21)
Hunter Enoch ‡ (5/19)
Suzuki:
Kristen Choi * (all but 5/19)
Daryl Freedman ‡ (5/19)
Goro: Ian McEuen
The Bonze: Timothy J. Bruno ‡
Yamadori: Michael Adams ‡
Kate Pinkerton: Allegra De Vita ‡
Commissioner: Andrew Bogard ‡
Registrar: James Shaffran
[4/3 casting update: Hei-Kyung Hong, who was originally announced for the role of Cio-Cio-San, has withdrawn from the production.]
~~~~~~~~~~~
CREATIVE TEAM
~~~~~~~~~~~
Conductor: Philippe Auguin
Director: Leslie Swackhamer *
Production Designer: Jun Kaneko
Lighting Designer: Gary Marder *
Choreographer: Adam Noble *
Hair and Makeup Designer: Anne Ford-Coates for Elsen Associates
Assistant Director: Cindy C. Oxberry
Stage Manager: Lynn Krynicki

*WNO debut
‡ Current Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist
± Former Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist



If you get to the performance (and you should) be sure to catch the amazing exhibition of Mr. Kaneko's work which is in the Hall of Nations (between the Concert hall & Opera House).

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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