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Madame Butterfly under falling cherry blossoms. Image courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.

Puccini’s Madame Butterfly returns to The Kennedy Center as presented by the Washington National Opera.
By Sheila Mulhern

Madame Butterfly under falling cherry blossoms. Image courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.

Madame Butterfly under falling cherry blossoms. Image courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.

The Washington National Opera (WNO) will present Puccini’s masterpiece Madame Butterfly at the Kennedy Center Opera House in thirteen performances running from February 26th to March 19th under the musical direction of WNO General Director Placido Domingo with Music Director Phillippe Auguin for the WNO Orchestra and Chorus.

The perpetually popular opera will star American sopranos Catherine Naglstad and Grammy award-winning lyric soprano, Ana Maria Martinez as Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) in a tale of passion and ill-fated tragedy.  The opera tells the story of Butterfly and her marriage to the brash American Naval officer Lieutenant Pinkerton played by Russian tenor Alexey Dolgov and Italian-Brazilian tenor Thiago Arancam.  While Butterfly enters the marriage completely committed, Pinkerton only sees it as a distraction while he is stationed overseas, and as an agreement that he can easily break.  Pinkerton is initially bewitched by Butterfly but sees the marriage as a farce and only as a short-term arrangement despite leading her to believe otherwise and revealing in her declarations of her love for him.  His return to Japan years later with his new American wife sets the stage for Butterfly’s heartbreak and misfortune.

WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program will have a special performance featuring up-and-coming professional opera singers. Image courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.

WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program had a special performance that featured up-and-coming professional opera singers. Image courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.

Rounding out the casting will be mezzo-sopranos Margaret Thompson and Ning Liang in her WNO debut as Butterfly’s faithful maid Suzuki and baritones Michael Chioldi and Hyung Yun as Sharpless.  American tenor, Robert Baker will sing the role of Goro, the marriage broker.

Set design of the lavishly reconstructed Nagasaki, Japan backdrop is under the production of Ron Daniels with costumes by Tony award-winning designer Michael Yeargan.  Japanese choreographer Shizumi Shigeto Manale will serve as movement coordinator and Stephen Strawbridge for the staging of lighting.  The production will be performed in Italian and include English supertitles.

WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program also offered a special performance on Tuesday, March 15th in the Kennedy Center Opera House which featured professional opera singers from the training program including Jennifer Lynn Waters (Butterfly), Jose Ortega (Lt. Pinkerton), Sarah Mesko (Suzuki) and Aleksey Bogdanov (Sharpless).

Tickets range from $25 to $300 for main cast performances.  Additional information and ticket purchases are available through WNO Audience Services, 202.295.2400/800.US.OPERA, or online and through the  Kennedy Center at 202.467.4600.

Hyung Yun

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