In a nutshell…

Maria Kanyova as Cio-Cio-San. (Credit: Jamie Young)

…the wonder and simple beauty of Jun Kaneko’s production of Madama Butterfly. I’ll be posting more next week, but in the meantime, you should take a look at these photos of the production by Joyce DiDonato.

Scenes from Sunday

A crowd gathers to watch the koto player Satoko Someya before Sunday’s performance of Madama Butterfly.

The crowds turned up at the box-office on Sunday, including many students, who made up 12% of the weekend’s audience.

After the performance was “A Taste of Puccini” on the Capitol Theater stage, a celebration of our opening weekend, Puccini’s 150th birthday, and our guest of honor Dr. James F. Crow.

Happy Birthday, Giacomo!

Roth Judd, President of the Board of Trustees, welcomes guests to “A Taste of Puccini” (in Japanese and Italian).

Scenes from Friday

Madama Butterfly designer and renowned artist Jun Kaneko speaks to art students at Madison West High School

Koto player Satoko Someya performs in the Overture Center lobby before the opera against a backdrop of butterflies created by local children for the Community Butterfly Drive

Lobby at intermission

Post-opera party and reception; General Director Allan Naplan calls up the cast

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Van Eyck (Kate Pinkerton), mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson (Suzuki), Maestro Leonardo Vordoni, pianist Yasuko Oura, and Maestro Vordoni’s wife, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, at the post-opera reception

Madison Opera administrative staff at the reception

A thrilling opening

Wow…what a night! Madama Butterfly opened last night at Overture Hall to a capacity crowd that simply loved it. The audience was with Butterfly for every note, every joy, and every heartache, and the spontaneous and prolonged ovation that came with Maria Kanyova’s bow only confirmed this. Jun Kaneko’s designs drew “oohs” and “ahhs” throughout the night and set the stage for truly magical music making.

Don’t just take my word for it. The reviews are in, and here’s what the critics are saying:

“This story lives and dies in the body of Cio-Cio-San, played marvelously by soprano Maria Kanyova.”

“Kaneko’s costume and set design is unavoidably stunning…At times seeing the set change is like watching an abstract painting being made.”

“…there is no doubt Rawls has the tenor chops for the role [of Pinkerton]. Even while carrying Kanyova, he hits massive high notes that spin and soar into the hall.”

“Baritone Grant Youngblood is a fine Sharpless, Pinkerton’s older and wiser friend, infusing the role with believability and gravitas. As Suzuki, mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson is also a pleasure, notably in her gorgeous second act duet with Kanyova.”

“Maestro Leonardo Vordoni’s conducting is expressive and responsive…”

“Leslie Swackhamer’s direction creates an image of the East that is no longer exoticized, but instead, a kind of imagined place where moons drip blood and silent, black-clad dancers move in stylized patterns across the stage.

-Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times

“Friday night’s Madison Opera performance in Overture Hall had that outstanding singer–and actress–in Maria Kanyova…Her “Un bel di” was striking.”

“…the gorgeously colored, geometrically inspired, minimalist set had a striking impact, as did the colorful costuming and computerized special effects…The set design by Jun Kaneko…was beautiful.”

“…Arnold Rawls was consistently strong, with a sure, strong top of the range.”

“Grant Youngblood’s Sharpless…had vocal warmth.”

“Heather Johnson was fine as Suzuki…”

“…musicians of the Madison Symphony Orchestra were nearly faultless.”

-John Aehl, Wisconsin State Journal

There’s only one more performance of Madison Opera’s Madama Butterfly: tomorrow, Nov. 23 at 2:30 pm!