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Beautiful Butterfly at San Diego Opera

Fifth production I've seen here

When the singers moved on stage, it was for a clear reason.
When the singers moved on stage, it was for a clear reason.

I saw Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on Sunday, April 28, at the Civic Theatre. It was the fifth production of Butterfly that I have seen at San Diego Opera. 


My first experience came in 1993. Back in the 20th Century, SDO had something called “standing room”. I believe the ticket was $10. I recall that it was the only time I bought a standing-room ticket and ended up standing. Of the performance, I remember thinking that it lacked cohesion.


The next occasion, for me, was in 2003. Tenor Richard Leech and baritone Stephen Powell, in the roles of Pinkerton and Sharpless, were peerless. However, the soprano singing the title role was justifiably annihilated by my predecessor, Jonathon Saville, here at the Reader. He described her singing as, “scarcely human.” The production was also a bunch of nonsense as it was set entirely at The US Embassy in Nagasaki.


In 2009, Butterfly came around yet again. The production was the same BS as in 2003 but singing the title role was Patricia Racette. Need I say more? Racette had just sung the role in the landmark Anthony Minghella production at The Met. Her performance at The Met was broadcast in movie theaters across the US as part of the Met HD series.


It’s hard to believe that the most recent production was from eight years ago in 2016. Latonia Moore sang the title role and she was, by far, my favorite Cio-Cio San. Her voice is extraordinary and she vocally owned the role. I can’t think of another singer I would rather hear in the role.

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The 2024 edition was the most beautiful of all the productions I’ve seen. The stage direction, by Jose Maria Condemi, was absolute perfection. When the singers moved on stage, it was for a clear reason. There were no arbitrary crosses downstage. Every movement had a purpose and served the story. I can honestly say it was the best-directed opera I’ve ever seen––anywhere.


The setting was correct. We were in the house on top of the mountain overlooking the sea. The costumes were appropriate for the story that was being told. There was no misguided “re-imagining” of Butterfly


All the dramatic moments in the story hit. Thanks, in no small part, to the efforts of conductor Yves Abel and the San Diego Symphony. The “miu and piu” of the score were handled with expertise. The beauty of the score came across without spot or wrinkle.


The singing was consistent and pretty. However, that is a far cry from exciting and beautiful. Soprano Corinne Winters is a fine singer. She just isn’t a Cio-Cio San. She doesn’t have the correct voice for the role. Tenor Adam Smith also has a fine voice but I expected more from his top. He also had a habit of coming off his voice at the end of almost every phrase. That is fine for dramatic effect once or twice. Neither singer’s voice filled the theater.


To get the perfect Butterfly I’d have to select elements from three different productions that I’ve seen. I’d have to take Richard Leech as Pinkerton, Stephen Powell as Sharpless, and Latonia Moore as Cio-Cio San. I’d definitely take the staging, costumes, and direction from this most recent production along with Yves Abel’s conducting.

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When the singers moved on stage, it was for a clear reason.
When the singers moved on stage, it was for a clear reason.

I saw Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on Sunday, April 28, at the Civic Theatre. It was the fifth production of Butterfly that I have seen at San Diego Opera. 


My first experience came in 1993. Back in the 20th Century, SDO had something called “standing room”. I believe the ticket was $10. I recall that it was the only time I bought a standing-room ticket and ended up standing. Of the performance, I remember thinking that it lacked cohesion.


The next occasion, for me, was in 2003. Tenor Richard Leech and baritone Stephen Powell, in the roles of Pinkerton and Sharpless, were peerless. However, the soprano singing the title role was justifiably annihilated by my predecessor, Jonathon Saville, here at the Reader. He described her singing as, “scarcely human.” The production was also a bunch of nonsense as it was set entirely at The US Embassy in Nagasaki.


In 2009, Butterfly came around yet again. The production was the same BS as in 2003 but singing the title role was Patricia Racette. Need I say more? Racette had just sung the role in the landmark Anthony Minghella production at The Met. Her performance at The Met was broadcast in movie theaters across the US as part of the Met HD series.


It’s hard to believe that the most recent production was from eight years ago in 2016. Latonia Moore sang the title role and she was, by far, my favorite Cio-Cio San. Her voice is extraordinary and she vocally owned the role. I can’t think of another singer I would rather hear in the role.

Sponsored
Sponsored


The 2024 edition was the most beautiful of all the productions I’ve seen. The stage direction, by Jose Maria Condemi, was absolute perfection. When the singers moved on stage, it was for a clear reason. There were no arbitrary crosses downstage. Every movement had a purpose and served the story. I can honestly say it was the best-directed opera I’ve ever seen––anywhere.


The setting was correct. We were in the house on top of the mountain overlooking the sea. The costumes were appropriate for the story that was being told. There was no misguided “re-imagining” of Butterfly


All the dramatic moments in the story hit. Thanks, in no small part, to the efforts of conductor Yves Abel and the San Diego Symphony. The “miu and piu” of the score were handled with expertise. The beauty of the score came across without spot or wrinkle.


The singing was consistent and pretty. However, that is a far cry from exciting and beautiful. Soprano Corinne Winters is a fine singer. She just isn’t a Cio-Cio San. She doesn’t have the correct voice for the role. Tenor Adam Smith also has a fine voice but I expected more from his top. He also had a habit of coming off his voice at the end of almost every phrase. That is fine for dramatic effect once or twice. Neither singer’s voice filled the theater.


To get the perfect Butterfly I’d have to select elements from three different productions that I’ve seen. I’d have to take Richard Leech as Pinkerton, Stephen Powell as Sharpless, and Latonia Moore as Cio-Cio San. I’d definitely take the staging, costumes, and direction from this most recent production along with Yves Abel’s conducting.

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