Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In a nutshell...

Maria Kanyova as Cio-Cio-San. (Credit: Jamie Young)

...the wonder and simple beauty of Jun Kaneko's production of Madama Butterfly. I'll be posting more next week, but in the meantime, you should take a look at these photos of the production by Joyce DiDonato.

Scenes from Sunday

A crowd gathers to watch the koto player Satoko Someya before Sunday's performance of Madama Butterfly.

The crowds turned up at the box-office on Sunday, including many students, who made up 12% of the weekend's audience.

After the performance was "A Taste of Puccini" on the Capitol Theater stage, a celebration of our opening weekend, Puccini's 150th birthday, and our guest of honor Dr. James F. Crow.

Happy Birthday, Giacomo!

Roth Judd, President of the Board of Trustees, welcomes guests to "A Taste of Puccini" (in Japanese and Italian).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Scenes from Friday

Madama Butterfly designer and renowned artist Jun Kaneko speaks to art students at Madison West High School

Koto player Satoko Someya performs in the Overture Center lobby before the opera against a backdrop of butterflies created by local children for the Community Butterfly Drive

Lobby at intermission

Post-opera party and reception; General Director Allan Naplan calls up the cast

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Van Eyck (Kate Pinkerton), mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson (Suzuki), Maestro Leonardo Vordoni, pianist Yasuko Oura, and Maestro Vordoni's wife, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, at the post-opera reception

Madison Opera administrative staff at the reception

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A thrilling opening

Wow...what a night! Madama Butterfly opened last night at Overture Hall to a capacity crowd that simply loved it. The audience was with Butterfly for every note, every joy, and every heartache, and the spontaneous and prolonged ovation that came with Maria Kanyova's bow only confirmed this. Jun Kaneko's designs drew "oohs" and "ahhs" throughout the night and set the stage for truly magical music making.

Don't just take my word for it. The reviews are in, and here's what the critics are saying:

"This story lives and dies in the body of Cio-Cio-San, played marvelously by soprano Maria Kanyova."

"Kaneko's costume and set design is unavoidably stunning...At times seeing the set change is like watching an abstract painting being made."

"...there is no doubt Rawls has the tenor chops for the role [of Pinkerton]. Even while carrying Kanyova, he hits massive high notes that spin and soar into the hall."

"Baritone Grant Youngblood is a fine Sharpless, Pinkerton's older and wiser friend, infusing the role with believability and gravitas. As Suzuki, mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson is also a pleasure, notably in her gorgeous second act duet with Kanyova."

"Maestro Leonardo Vordoni's conducting is expressive and responsive..."

"Leslie Swackhamer's direction creates an image of the East that is no longer exoticized, but instead, a kind of imagined place where moons drip blood and silent, black-clad dancers move in stylized patterns across the stage."

-Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times

"Friday night's Madison Opera performance in Overture Hall had that outstanding singer--and actress--in Maria Kanyova...Her "Un bel di" was striking."

"...the gorgeously colored, geometrically inspired, minimalist set had a striking impact, as did the colorful costuming and computerized special effects...The set design by Jun Kaneko...was beautiful."

"...Arnold Rawls was consistently strong, with a sure, strong top of the range."

"Grant Youngblood's Sharpless...had vocal warmth."

"Heather Johnson was fine as Suzuki..."

"...musicians of the Madison Symphony Orchestra were nearly faultless."

-John Aehl, Wisconsin State Journal

There's only one more performance of Madison Opera's Madama Butterfly: tomorrow, Nov. 23 at 2:30 pm!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More press

Madison is eagerly awaiting Madison Opera's opening weekend! Here are two more previews of Madama Butterfly printed today:

Sandy Rucker-Tabachnick, The Isthmus, "Tragedy Looms in Madison Opera's Madama Butterfly"

Victoria Pietrus, The Badger Herald, "Madama Butterfly to Spread its Wings at Overture"

Opera Up Close, now online!

Click here to watch General Director Allan Naplan's Madama Butterfly preview, filmed at Opera Up Close on Nov. 16 in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. (Scroll down the linked page to find the video). This is a great way to enhance your operatic experience, with fascinating history on Puccini's life and works, hints on what to listen for in the opera, a detailed exploration of designer Jun Kaneko's aesthetic, and discussions with our conductor Leonardo Vordoni and director Leslie Swackhamer. You can also watch Opera Up Close on Madison City Channel 12 (analog basic channel 98 and digital channel 994) the following dates and times:
  • Sunday, Nov. 23 at 10 pm
  • Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 2 pm
  • Friday, December 5 at 8 pm
Opera Up Close: The Cosi fan Tutte Preview will take place on Sunday, March 1, 2009 from 4-6 p.m. in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Butterfly speaks!

Soprano Maria Kanyova is singing Cio-Cio-San in the Madison Opera production of Madama Butterfly this weekend. I caught up with her before last night's rehearsal to hear what she thinks of the opera, the role, and what it means to her now that real-life daughter Elisabeth Kania is playing Cio-Cio-San's son in Friday night's performance.

A Conversation with Butterfly from Madison Opera on Vimeo.

Some props

Parasols, Jun Kaneko style

Carafes for Pinkerton's whiskey, amongst other servant/cook platters

This is a really cool looking book that I'm sure there is a story behind. It's used in the wedding scene. (Apologies the photo isn't rotated, Blogger won't let it!)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Soprano featured in State Journal

Soprano Maria Kanyova, Madison Opera's Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly next weekend, is featured in an article by Gayle Worland in today's Wisconsin State Journal. Click to read!

New behind-the-scenes video!

A few of our guest artists sat down with me yesterday to discuss their roles in Madama Butterfly. Watch the video to hear them explain why this production is unique and what makes Butterfly a great first opera. Be warned: you may also have a few laughs along the way!

Madama Butterfly: Behind the Scenes from Madison Opera on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

77 Square: "Japanese sculptor reimagines Madama Butterfly"

Madison Opera's production of Madama Butterfly is featured in today's 77 Square, the arts weekly in the Wisconsin State Journal: click to read! The article includes an extensive interview with our stage and costume designer Jun Kaneko.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Week 2 of Butterfly

Our 3-week rehearsal period for Madama Butterfly is fairly short, though by industry standards it's about normal. So what exactly is happening at this point, half-way through those precious 3 weeks? Well, in a nutshell, the singers, dancers, and chorus members are finishing up their staging rehearsals with director Leslie Swackhamer, and starting tomorrow they'll be running different sections. Tonight is also the first time the orchestra meets with Maestro Vordoni for a reading. This Saturday is the sitzprobe, which is a fancy German way of saying "let's all sit down and sing with the orchestra." It's the first rehearsal where the singers and orchestra get to work together, and it's a crucial period for pinpointing timing issues and making interpretive decisions.

That's the rehearsal report for now, but on another note, don't forget that this Sunday is OPERA UP CLOSE: The Madama Butterfly Preview, 4-6 p.m. in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Don't miss Allan Naplan's engaging, multimdeia presentation on the opera with special guests Leslie Swackhamer and Leonardo Vordoni. Tickets are $20; call the office at 238-8085 for reservations.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Oprah Endorses Puccini

With weightier endorsements behind her, Oprah has now voiced her support for Puccini. In the December 2008 issue of O: The Oprah Magazine, the "The O List" of must-haves includes a new release of Puccini's Complete Operas, a 20 disc set that's going for just $79 on Amazon.com. The magazine says, "Puccini's music can break hearts and stun with its sheer drama. Mark the composer's 150th birthday with a gift of the complete operas...". Oprah also endorses polka-dot piggy banks, pomegranate vinegar, and monorgrammed soap this month.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Butterfly Rehearsals, Day 4

Last night was the first meeting of the Madison Opera High School Apprenticeship Program. The apprentices were treated to a rehearsal of the opening section of Madama Butterfly:

Three of Madison Opera's High School Apprentices at rehearsal

Goro (Jason Ferrante) presents the maid Suzuki (Heather Johnson), a cook, and a servant to Lt. Pinkerton to go along with the house he will rent in Nagasaki

These dancer/actors practice the Suzuki method in preparation for their job as "kurogo" in Madama Butterfly. In traditional Japaense Kabuki theater, "kurogo" means "onstage assistant." Click here for a more detailed explanation.

Madison Opera on the radio

Listen to Outside the Box with Mitch Henck this morning at 10 a.m. on WIBA-AM 1310 News/Talk radio for a discussion of our upcoming production with General Director Allan Naplan and Maestro Leonardo Vordoni!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sorrow gets fitted

Sorrow, Cio-Cio-San's son in Madama Butterfly (sometimes called Trouble), will be played by Simon Jenks in our upcoming production, and he had his costume fitting Tuesday night. The pictures will give you an idea of Jun Kaneko's whimsical costumes, and they're really cute to boot!

Simon, in Sorrow's Act II costume

Simon with tenor Arnold Rawls (Lt. Pinkerton, Sorrow's father)

Getting fitted for the Act III costume

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Butterfly Rehearsals, Day 2

The artists are here! Rehearsals for Madama Butterfly got underway yesterday, and I swung by day 2 this morning. The principal singers were reading through the score with conductor Leonardo Vordoni and pianist Yasuko Oura. Though many of our guest artists know each other and have worked together before, this is the first time they really get a sense of the conductor's interpretation of the score and how they will need to work to blend their voices. Here are some photos:

L-R: Jason Ferrante (Goro), Grant Youngblood (Sharpless), Arnold Rawls (Pinkerton), Maria Kanyova (Cio-Cio-San), and Heather Johnson (Suzuki)

General Director Allan Naplan, Stage Manager Jill Krynicki, and Maestro Leonardo Vordoni all wrapped up in the score

Arnold belting it out

Maria's first notes

Monday, November 3, 2008

Butterfly Drive a Success!

Everyone involved with the Community Butterfly Drive at Kids in the Rotunda on Saturday had a great time! We collected well over 200 butterflies to go on display in the Overture Center lobby during performances of Madama Butterfly, and it was a ton of fun to see all of the kids in costume stopping to make art with Madison Opera. A big thank you is due to the Monroe Street Fine Arts Center, our co-sponsor for the event, and to the Overture Center staff as well for being so accommodating and getting out those few stray scribbles left on the wall (sorry about that!). For now, I'll let the pictures do the talking: