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.