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Dramatic 'Butterfly' Is Dallas Opera's Latest


by Olin Chism 8 May 2010

This is a weekend for high drama at the Dallas Opera. On Saturday night the company will present for the fourth time its potent production of Moby-Dick. On Friday night (with a repetition coming up Sunday afternoon) an exceptional Madame Butterfly went on the stage of the Winspear Opera House. This is a Butterfly of […]

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This is a weekend for high drama at the Dallas Opera. On Saturday night the company will present for the fourth time its potent production of Moby-Dick. On Friday night (with a repetition coming up Sunday afternoon) an exceptional Madame Butterfly went on the stage of the Winspear Opera House. This is a Butterfly of great dramatic force. I’ll go beyond that: The last scene Friday was the most powerful I’ve ever seen in Puccini’s opera. It was musical theater of a high order.

Credit must go to soprano Adina Nitescu, who sang the title role with both beauty and force and brought a formidable dramatic talent to bear on the part. Her performance was greatly enhanced by Garnett Bruce’s stage direction, Michael Yeargan’s scenic designs and Alan Burrett’s lighting. (This is a revival of a Francesca Zambello production.)

This Butterfly takes place mainly in the waiting room of the American consulate in Nagasaki rather than at Butterfly’s and Pinkerton’s house — though long papery panels and lanterns hint at the latter. Brilliantly colored flowing curtains and an abrupt appearance of Asian statuary provide surprises. The Americanness of the setting and its time period (early 20th century) are established by period costumes by Anita Yavich, an old version of the Pledge of Allegiance affixed to a wall and an early Stars and Stripes (as well as Puccini’s use of The Star-Spangled Banner, of course).

Staging, lighting, scenery and musical performance blend throughout, most notably for that masterful final scene.

Nitescu is supported by an excellent cast, including Brandon Jovanovich as Pinkerton, Maria Zifchak as Suzuki, James Westman as Sharpless and Daniel Cangelosi as Goro. A few of the orchestral soloists sounded as if they might be a little tired after all those Moby-Dicks, though nothing was seriously amiss. Graeme Jenkins conducted with his usual sensitivity and the overall orchestral sound was lush.

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  • Steve

    Although the review of the performance were on, it is inexcusable to point out the period costumes, pledge to the flag and miss that both the set flags had 50 stars (wall and scrims). Any historically minded person would know that there were only 48 states at the supposed timeframe that would be consistent with the pledge – not modified until February 1954. Of course Hawaii and Alaska were not added as states until 1959. Therefore to be consistent, one or the other should have been different. If specifically commenting on it, I would have expected more from you Mr. Chism.

    • Olin Chism

      I counted 45 stars. Forty-eight would definitely have been wrong. In 1904, when Butterfly was premiered, there were 45 states in the Union. The count didn’t reach 48 until 1912. It would be amazing if Michael Yeargan, the scenic designer and a highly professional artist, had taken the trouble to find out what the Pledge of Allegiance was in 1904 and then neglected to get the number of stars in the flag right. John Gage, the Dallas Opera’s director of production, confirms that both pledge and flag(s) are historically accurate.

  • John

    Also, please give the fine cast the respect of getting their names right. Goro is sung by David – not Daniel – Cangelosi. There’s no excuse for sloppy reporting like this. You should be ashamed.