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Madama Butterfly
By Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica
After the Drama by David Belasco
New York City Opera
David H. Koch Theater

Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica
Conductor, George Manahan
Production, Mark Lamos
Stage Director, David Grabarkewitz
Set Designer, Michael Yeargan
Costume Designer, Constance Hoffman
Lighting Designer, Robert Wierzel
Supertitles, Cori Ellison

Yunah Lee as Cio-Cio-San
Konstantin Stepanov as Benjamin F. Pinkerton
Krysty Swann as Suzuki
Matthew Surapine as Goro
Nicholas Pallesen as Sharpless
William Ledbetter as Imperial Commissioner
Eric Jordan as The Bonze
Jessica Klein as Kate Pinkerton
Ensemble as:
Cousin, Mother. Yakuside, Aunt, Registrar,
Yamadori, Sorrow

Chorus Master, Charles F. Prestinari
Associate Conductor, Steven Mosteller
Asst. Chorus Master, Nicholas Fox
Musical Preparation, Susan Caldwell,
Steven Mosteller, John Beeson
Assistant Directors, Beth Greenberg, Mike Philips, A. Scott Parry,
Stage Managers, Samantha Greene, Chad Zodrow,
Peggy Imbrie, Jenny Lazar

Publicity Coordinator: Shara Seigel

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 18, 2010

Today’s New York City Opera performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly was spine-tingling and elegant. I eagerly anticipated Acts II and III, during each intermission, and I didn’t want it to end. My enthusiasm was mainly due to the gorgeous performance of both Yunah Lee as Cio-Cio-San (aka Madama Butterfly) and Krysty Swann as Suzuki. I’m already anticipating future City Opera productions with these two talented soloists. George Manahan conducted Mark Lamos’ production, with David Grabarkewitz as Stage Director. Michael Yeargan’s sets include an uncluttered but elegant Japanese interior of Madama Butterfly’s home, with thousands of falling flower petals and a dramatic staircase leading to the outdoor garden and harbor.

Constance Hoffman designed the Japanese robes and headpieces, all authentically conceived, and Robert Wierzel’s lighting was significant, as Cio-Cio-San and Suzuki wait for Lieutenant Benjamin F. Pinkerton’s (Konstantin Stepanov) ship to appear in the harbor. Music, lighting, visual design, and scintillating choral effects are spellbinding, as the audience is drawn into the unfolding sorrow. In fact, Butterfly’s young son (Eddie Schweighardt) is named Sorrow.

The story concerns an arranged Japanese marriage between US Navy Lieutenant Benjamin F. Pinkerton and 15 year-old Cio-Cio-San, by Goro (Matthew Surapine), a marriage broker. The arrangement allows Pinkerton, assisted by Sharpless (Nicholas Pallesen), the American Consul and friend to Pinkerton, to cancel a lease on a home, as well as his marriage, with brief notice. It’s obvious in Act I that Pinkerton treats the marriage lightly, while Cio-Cio-San and her family plan forever. Butterfly’s uncle, a Buddhist Priest, The Bonze (Eric Jordan), tries to stop the wedding, but Pinkerton throws him and Butterfly’s guests out of the courtyard garden of his newly leased home. Pinkerton disappears for three years, while Butterfly and her maid, Suzuki, patiently watch the harbor.

Goro and Sharpless soon learn that Pinkerton wed an American, now Kate Pinkerton (Jessica Klein), and Goro tries to wed Butterfly to the persistent Prince Yamadori (Daesan No). Butterfly chooses to await her husband’s return and shows Sharpless her young son, Sorrow, as Pinkerton’s ship is announced by harbor cannon. The floral-filled wait begins, but Pinkerton arrives with Kate to take Sorrow to America, and Butterfly chooses to end her life, rather than endure it in heartbreak and solitude.

Yunah Lee, soprano, is truly an artist to watch, with striking stage presence, a powerful vocal range, and authentic dramatizations. She brought many tears to the audience, as Butterfly’s anguish built. Krysty Swann, mezzo-soprano, is another artist to watch, who expressed passion and urgency with vocal eloquence, as Suzuki. Eddie Schweighardt, as young Sorrow, a mime role, that requires persona and extensive onstage action, should have a bright future. The Chorus (with Chorus Master Charles F. Prestinari) filled Koch Theater with incandescent music, assisted by the hall’s newly improved acoustics. Eric Jordan caught my eye and ear, as The Bonze, but Konstantin Stepanov, as Pinkerton, did not seem absorbed in the role and appeared detached from the impassioned drama.

Nicholas Pallesen and Matthew Surapine, as Sharpless and Goro, as well as Jessica Klein as Kate Pinkerton, were artistically suited to their roles. I would suggest more authentic Japanese makeup for the chorus and onstage extras, as many looked decidedly too American for this Japanese scenario. Kudos to Yunah Lee, Krysty Swann, George Manahan, Mark Lamos, David Grabarkewitz, Charles F. Prestinari, Michael Yeargan, Constance Hoffman, Robert Wierzel, and kudos to Puccini.

Photos below include E. V. Day’s vintage, City Opera costume-accessory sculptures, suspended from the ceiling of David H. Koch Theater’s Promenade, in honor of the Company’s new season in the Theater’s refurbished interiors.

The Cast of New York City Opera's
"Madama Butterfly"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

The Ensemble of New York City Opera's
"Madama Butterfly"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

E. V. Day Opera Costume Sculptures
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

E. V. Day Opera Costume Sculptures
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

E. V. Day Opera Costume Sculptures
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

E. V. Day Opera Costume Sculptures
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

E. V. Day Opera Costume Sculptures
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

E. V. Day Opera Costume Sculptures
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at