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NZ Opera's Madam Butterfly takes flight

New Zealand Opera's production of Puccini's popular Madame Butterfly is destined to be one of the most beautiful.

John Daly-Peoples
Sat, 23 Mar 2013

New Zealand Opera
Madame Butterfly, by Giacomo Puccini
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre
April 18-28

St James Theatre
May 11-14

Puccini’s Madame Butterfly is one of the most popular of all operas, and New Zealand Opera’s forthcoming production of the work is destined to be one of the most beautiful.

NZ Opera general director Aidan Lang has put the company’s new production in the hands of award-winning Australians, director Kate Cherry and designer Christina Smith.

“Kate’s productions are always striking,” Ms Lang says. “And this one will be no exception. Kate hasn’t been tempted to meddle with the essence of Madame Butterfly or stamp her mark on it by modernising it or changing the setting.

"So Puccini’s classic will remain as the composer conceived it: a timeless tale of love and loss set in the Japanese city of Nagasaki around the turn of last century.”

Ms Cherry has worked closely with designer Christina Smith to portray the heart-rending transformation of Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) from joyous geisha to trapped butterfly.

Fascinated by the Japanese aesthetic, Ms Smith travelled to Japan to immerse herself in the world she wished to recreate on stage.

“The resulting set is unmistakably Oriental,” Ms Lang says. “It is restrained and beautifully crafted, complemented by exquisite period costumes that are themselves works of art.”

Taking the title role in Madame Butterfly is Australian soprano Antoinette Halloran, who sang Mimi in the company’s La bohème in 2008.

“Marrying divine composition with heart-breaking drama, this is a role that I feel so blessed to portray,” she says. “It is an honour to take the audience into Butterfly’s world and tell her tragic tale.”

Alongside her are Italian tenor Piero Pretti as Pinkerton, English baritone Peter Savidge as Sharpless and American/English mezzo soprano Lucy Schaufer as Suzuki.

Smaller principal roles are taken by New Zealanders Jared Holt (baritone – Prince Yamadori), James Benjamin Rodgers (tenor – Goro), Richard Green (bass – The Bonze), Bianca Andrew (mezzo soprano – Kate Pinkerton) and basses Edward Laurenson and Kieran Rayner in the shared roles of Imperial Commissioner and Official Registrar.

Featuring some of the most beautiful music in the repertoire, including the famous Humming Chorus and One Fine Day, Madame Butterfly is accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Orchestra Wellington, and features the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus.

It is conducted by Swedish conductor Tobias Ringborg and is sung in Italian with English subtitles.

John Daly-Peoples
Sat, 23 Mar 2013
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NZ Opera's Madam Butterfly takes flight