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Subject: WNO Young Artists' BUTTERFLY is bellissima (5-19-56)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 21 May 2017 13:23:57 -0400
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As I write this WNO is gearing up for the final performance of 14 of Madame Butterfly which will end the production season for 2016-17, although the opera Gala is still next month! Our entire family attended the Young Artists performance this past Friday night and came away knowing that the Doming-Cafritz Young Artists program is totally amazing, produces amazing talent and can give us the performers of the future. Kudos to director Robert Ainsley, who took over less than a year ago, and his super team who gave us one of the most stellar performances of this entire program's existence. My remarks are below and since I reviewed the production two weeks ago, I will refrain from discussing the actual set, costumes and production. On another wonderful note, I was thrilled to see tenor great Neil Shicoff in the audience with his lovely wife, soprano Dawn Kotoski Shicoff, who apparently just moved to the area and will actually be working with our talented young artists; how lucky are we and they?!


> 
> 
> 
>     CAST
>     ~~~~~~~~~~~
>     Cio-Cio-San:Raquel Gonzalez
>     Pinkerton:Chaz'men Williams-Ali 
>     Sharpless:Hunter Enoch
>     Suzuki:Daryl Freedman
>     Goro: Ian McEuen
>     The Bonze: Timothy J. Bruno 
>     Yamadori: Michael Adams 
>     Kate Pinkerton: Allegra De Vita ‡
>     Commissioner: Andrew Boagrd
>     Registrar: James Shaffran
> 
>     ~~~~~~~~~~~
>     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
> 
>     While our Butterfly, Pinkerton and Sharpless were making role debuts, Ms. Freedman was in her fourth performance in two weeks as she was the Suzuki cover and went on three times last week.
> 
>     Mr. Williams-Ali strutted his stuff in "Dovunque al mondo," and Mr. Enoch matched him in baritonal beauty; I have to say, he was an impressive Sharpless, a role that is so pivotal. Unquestionably, the star of the night was Raquel Gonzalez, who has been studying for this role debut for two years and was making her farewell performance at WNO as a Young Artist; it was truly bittersweet. From her entrance, we could believe she was a young girl, maybe not 15, but surely young and definitely innocent, almost childish and cute. When she sang of an oak falling, she got on her toes to mimic the tree.
> 
>     While Mr. McEuen is not a member of the program here, he has been in several other programs prior (Ft. Worth/Glimmerglass/etc) and now having seen him do this role several times over several years, it just keeps getting better and better. I loved the way he has a slightly "Jewish" take on Goro as if he were going "oy vey, this Pinkerton is such a case!"
> 
>     The orgasmic climax to the act had the audience in a frenzy. Oh--the audience. We can't forget to mention that the WNO tries to bring in a much younger crowd for these shows with lower prices and even had school groups on Friday. The teens (including our son and his friend), as well as twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings see opera differently because it is often new to them and their responses are so genuine, especially to the funny elements in the libretto as they read them in the surtitles! Such as with Sharpless discussion of the robins and ornithology, and with Goro's antics as well.
> 
> 
>     Ms. Freedman opened the second act with her prayer in such a full deep mezzo that moved us all. When Butterfly demands she repeat, "Tornera" I was completely  taken by Suzuki's response; it was genuinely disturbing. Did she believe her words or not? I have heard this hundreds of times, but never thought so much about it as I did the other night. "Un bel di" is always a crowd pleaser and here was no exception, indeed the applause began after she finished while the audience was still playing (the music continues for some time), but I could not resist to scream "brava" the second the maestro dropped his baton and the frenzy was repeated by all. Ms. Gonzalez painted a picture for us that I cannot recall having for many years perhaps back to Soviero and Scotto.
> 
>     Mr. Adam's Yamadori is honestly the first believable and serious take on this role. He usually come on and goes off and we forget him; not in this production. Mr. Enoch is the voice of reason as Sharpless and yet he is so frustrated that I thought he was going to loose it.
> 
>     "Addio fiorito asul" had great restraint and a forte swell that made us almost believe that Pinkerton felt sorry, and hence we began to feel sorry for him. Alas, you don't leave the theater feeling that after what follows.
> 
>     Ms. Gonzalez looked amazing against the giant white projection screen with the two black Noh characters on either side of her. All I can say is MOLTO DRAMMATICO!  Again when she stabs herself and the blood flows from the red circle above her that resembles the Japanese flag, we all can't help but get choked up. We are so lucky to have this gorgeous Jun Kaneko production, beautifully directed by Leslie Swackhamer, who did coach the YA's as well, but this was the night for the Young Artists to shine and boy did they shed new light on this age old piece. Bravi tutti and a special brava diva to Ms. Gonzalez who shall be sorely missed here at WNO!
> 
> 
> 
> 
>     ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC
> 

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