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In Review > North America

Madama Butterfly

MIAMI
Florida Grand Opera
11/20/14

2014-15 will be a critical season for the Florida Grand Opera. The company, which has serious budgetary problems, is embarking on an ambitious three-year fund-raising plan. As a good omen, the season opened with an enthusiastically received Madama Butterfly, the first of two productions scheduled to be imported from Sarasota Opera — the company where Susan T. Danis, FGO’s current general director and CEO, was executive director for twelve years before moving south to Miami (seen in Miami, Nov. 20). 

It is not easy to reinvent Butterfly and remove it from the clichés of Japanese “exoticism,” but David P. Gordon did elegant and architecturally very accurate work for the sets. Director Mark Astafan, a newcomer in Miami, has made his name on relatively small stages; his Butterfly at Anchorage Opera in 2006 was evidently stylized and somewhat political, but his staging here was straightforward, a good and professional job, with a felicitous sense of economy and timing. 

Conductor Ramón Tebar confirmed the strong impression that he made in last season’s Tosca: his rather symphonic interpretation of Puccini’s music is devoid of sentimentality. Particularly beautiful was the long intermezzo between acts II and III, a moment of intense poetry underlined by the beautiful lights of Kenneth Yunker.

Butterfly is one of soprano Kelly Kaduce’s signature roles: she inhabits the character. Her voice has an almost childish softness that makes her appear at first as a frail, very naïve, young woman, until life and destiny catch up with her. Kaduce’s Cio-Cio-San sets to die with great honor, singing a tender but dispassionate “Tu, tu, piccolo iddio.” Todd Thomas was an excellent Sharpless, building on his success earlier this year as Scarpia.  Martin Nusspaumer made a very good Pinkerton — a bit rigid in his solos or among other male characters, he outdid himself in the presence of Butterfly. Caitlin McKechney (Suzuki), Daniel Bates (Goro), and Jeffrey Beruan (The Bonze) acted and sang with great poise and skill. spacer 

JEAN-FRANÇOIS LEJEUNE

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