[Met Performance] CID:272070

Madama Butterfly
Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, March 26, 1983

Madama Butterfly (630)
Giacomo Puccini | Luigi Illica/ Giuseppe Giacosa
Leona Mitchell

Ermanno Mauro

Ariel Bybee

David Holloway

Charles Anthony

Morley Meredith

John Darrenkamp

Joel Chaiken

Kate Pinkerton
Therese Brandson

Norman Andersson

Kun Yul Yoo

Eugene Kohn

Review 1:

Review of Harriett Johnson in the Post

Many years ago, before Japan became an industrial superpower, David Belasco wrote a play about a little 15-year-old Japanese girl called Butterfly and, at the Metropolitan Opera, soprano Leona Mitchell has brought her to exquisite life.

As if her soul had taken on an Oriental libido of its own, Miss Mitchell identified with the special qualities which made composer Puccini weep when he first saw Belaseo's play in London during the early years of the 20th Century. For Cio-Cio-San, an innocent figurine of a creature better known by her title role in "Madama Butterfly," Puccini created a special vocabulary, blending simple, non-Western techniques with the melodic warmth of his Italian genius.

And Puccini probably would have wept again, as many did Saturday night when Miss Mitchell sang her heart out in sorrow and in death at the agony of her betrayal by the cavalier American Navy Lieutenant Pinkerton. For the latter, those pretty words of love had sprung only from impulses of the moment to gain his immediate ends. Ironically, the tragedy of Butterfly's undeviating faith in Pinkerton, until faced with the awful truth, brings out the dimension and depth of her nature. In turn, Miss Mitchell's conception persuasively realized both the nuances the intense passion of the youthful heroine's feelings.

The soprano's first Butterfly at the Met became a wedding of her beautiful, lyric voice to a part made to order for her by nature and made magnetic by her art. She was fortunate to have the young American maestro Eugene Kohn conducting the opera. He obviously not only knew the score by heart, but understood its special wayward style rhythmic give and take. He was sensitive and strong. He always propelled the rhythm forward so that melodic freedom never became license, as Pinkerton's freedom did in life.

Baritone David Holloway, in his first Met Sharpless, sang convincingly, while Ariel Bybee was most sympathetic as Suzuki, Butterfly's servant-companion. When tenor Ermanno Mauro, as Pinkerton, sang the love duet with Butterfly in Act I, he tempered his volume and phrasing with excellent results. Why can't Mauro make love to his gorgeous voice when he is not making love to girls? I should think that this would help him to stop bellowing. The authentically Japanese production has evocative sets and costumes by Motohiro Nagasaka, new in 1958.

Photograph of Leona Michell as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly by Winnie Klotz/Metropolitan Opera.

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