Aria there yet?

Posted on 13 May 2010 at 11:32am
By ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Opera’s season ending ‘Madame Butterfly’ takes wing


SEEING RED | The doomed Cio-Cio San (Adina Nitescu) pines for her American lover (Brandon Jovanovich). It’s opera — the relationship doesn’t end well. (Photo courtesy Karen Almond/Dallas Opera)

MADAME BUTTERFLY
Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Through May 23. Evenings at 7:30 p.m., matinees at 2 p.m. DallasOpera.org

The Dallas Opera really hedged its bets with its two final shows of the season — a will-they-love-it -or-won’t-they world premiere (Moby-Dick) and the ever-popular slam dunk, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (second only to his La Boheme in its frequency of performance). The result has been packed houses at the Winspear.

Still, for modern, liberal-minded audiences, Butterfly is among the most problematic of stage works: The most gorgeous bit of racist claptrap ever conceived. There’s an outmoded, 19th century aspect of the story that hovers over every moment — the idea of the "mysterious Orient" and the insulting assumption that Asian women are selfless devotees to Western culture — first changing their religion to be with a man, then pining away for their white male master — even if he’s as callow and selfish as Naval officer B.F. Pinkerton. The tragedy seems superimposed. The geisha Cio-Cio San doesn’t need free will, she has blind love.

Luckily, then, we have Francesco Zamebello’s exquisitely gorgeous production, full of beauty and drama. Just looking at the tableaux is exhilarating.

Even luckier is having soprano Adina Nitescu, whose powerhouse vocal performance and sharp acting cuts through the treacle. She delivers Puccini’s lush songs, exquisitely performed under the baton of Graeme Jenkins. The opera itself is a bit slow-moving (three hours? Puh-leez) but the payoff — unlike Pinkerton himself — is worth the wait.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 14, 2010.

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