Madama Butterfly

Puccini's Madama Butterfly

Friday, October 2, 2015 at 7:30pm & Sunday, October 4, 2015 at 2pm

Pre-Opera Talk with Dr. Eftychia Papanikolaou begins one hour before curtain time for each performance

Student Night at the Opera Performance on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 at 7pm

The Historic Valentine Theatre - Conducted by Sara Jobin - Brescia Version

Scenery originally designed by Ron Kadri for Chautauqua Opera

Refined and Powerful

Beautiful And Passionate

Butterfly captivates

Butterfly is hard to resist.  This classic is the sixth most frequently performed opera worldwide, and for good reason.  We will perform the Brescia version, which portrays cultural tensions, including Pinkerton's arrogance, more vividly.  This lush production by Chautauqua’s own Jay Lesenger will feature Yunah Lee, "one of the world's leading interpreters of the role" (Salt Lake Tribune) as Butterfly, Toledo's Shawn Mathey as Pinkerton, and new Associate Conductor Sara Jobin in her first production with Toledo Opera.  Don't miss it!

Don't Miss the Free TUESDAY TALK!

Butterfly, A Century Later

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 5:30pm

Secor Gallery at Registry Bistro

144 N. Superior Street, Toledo, Ohio 43604

Is Butterfly lush Romanticism or Japanese kitsch? Why does the woman always have to die in opera? And what's up with the Brescia version?

Dr. Joseph Hara, Coordinator of the Japanese Program at the University of Toledo, Jay Lesenger, Director of Madama Butterfly, and Sara Jobin, Conductor for Madama Butterfly will be the three panelists for this exciting and provocative talk.

Pre-Opera Talk with Dr. Eftychia Papanikolaou for Madama Butterfly

The allure of the East had captivated opera audiences for the better part of the nineteenth century—tales of the Other constructed through European lens offered boundless opportunities for visual splendor and aural opulence. Written at the dawn of the new century, Madama Butterfly (1904) constitutes Giacomo Puccini’s answer to japonisme, the overwhelming fascination with everything Japanese that thrilled Europeans and Americans alike after 1860.

The opera transports us to the exotic world of nineteenth-century Japan and the ill-fated love between a 15-year-old geisha and an American naval officer. The innocent but passionate Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) marries the conceited Lieutenant Pinkerton, only to be abandoned when he returns to the US. The stereotypical portrayal of the two protagonists gives us a glimpse into the uneasy historical context that surrounded the encounter between East and West. Puccini’s score, peppered with traditional Japanese music he studied while composing the opera, leaves no doubt about the irresistible power of the music to move, surprise and seduce us. It invites us to leave behind our present-day post-colonial anxieties and rather indulge in the emotional cornucopia and dramatic finesse of one of the composer’s finest creations.

Toledo Opera’s Madama Butterfly is a production of the so-called “Brescia version” of May 1904, the revision that Puccini fashioned three months after the disastrous premiere at La Scala. The opera would undergo several more revisions, until its standard version was established in the Paris production of 1906.

Eftychia Papanikolaou, Ph.D.

Bowling Green State University


Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini

Grand Opera in 3 Acts

Approximate running time: 2 hours 50 minutes with one intermission

Brescia Version (Puccini’s first revision with new music)

ACT I (Nagasaki, Japan, 1904)

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton is inspecting a house he is leasing from Goro, a marriage broker. The property comes with a geisha wife named Cio-Cio-San, known as Butterfly. Pinkerton tells the American Consul Sharpless that he has leased the house for 999 years, but it and the marriage can be terminated at any time. Cio-Cio-San and the geishas, followed by her family, arrive and the wedding takes place. The ceremony is interrupted when Butterfly’s uncle, the priest Bonze, accuses her of renouncing the religion of her heritage in order to marry the American. At this news, Bonze and all her relatives disown her. Her only comfort is the tenderness of her new husband.


Three years have passed, and Cio-Cio-San waits for Pinkerton to return. Her family has rejected her, and her only companion is her faithful maid, Suzuki. Sharpless appears with a letter from Pinkerton but before he can deliver it, Goro attempts to arrange another marriage to Prince Yamadori for Butterfly. She refuses, saying she is already married. The rejected Yamadori leaves as Sharpless asks what she would do if Pinkerton were never to return. At this, Butterfly shows the Consul her blond haired three-year old son; who was born after Pinkerton left. Sharpless leaves, and promises to tell Pinkerton about his son. A cannon shot is heard in the harbor announcing a ship’s arrival; it is the Abraham Lincoln -- Pinkerton’s ship. Night falls while Butterfly, Suzuki, and the child watch the harbor.


At dawn, Cio-Cio-San still waits for Pinkerton, who has not come to see her. Exhausted, she takes the boy inside, and rests. Sharpless enters with Pinkerton and Kate, Pinkerton’s new American wife. Sharpless asks for Suzuki’s help in telling Butterfly that she should give up her child, so he can have a better future with his father in America. She agrees as Pinkerton runs from the scene with guilt. Butterfly rushes in, looking for Pinkerton, but sees Kate instead. Devastated, she agrees to give up her child but only to Pinkerton himself. Sending everyone away, she takes out her father’s Hari Kari dagger and stabs herself as Pinkerton cries out her name.

Yunah Lee, soprano (Cio-Cio San)

Lyric Soprano Yunah Lee is thrilling audiences in the U.S., Europe and Asia with her “handsomely colored full lyric sound” (Opera News) and “picture perfect” acting (Berkshire Fine Arts). In the past two seasons, Ms. Lee made her company debuts as Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly with Utah Opera, Tampa Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, and Opera Quebec; and as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin with Seoul Philharmonic. Other notable roles in her repertoire include: Mimi in La bohème (New York City Opera, Cleveland Opera, and more), Liu in Turandot (Minnesota Opera and Orlando Opera), Marguerite in Faust (Minnesota Opera, El Pazo Opera, and Natchez Opera), and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (Opera Carolina). She has also performed as soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, Haydn’s The Creation and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the New York Oratorio Society at Carnegie Hall, and in Verdi’s Requiem with the National Chorale at Avery Fisher Hall.

Shawn Mathey, tenor (Pinkerton)

Shawn Mathey performs in opera companies and music festivals throughout the world including the Paris Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, the Opernhaus Zurich, the Salzburg Festival, Aix-en-Provence Festival, and the Frankfurt Opera. In 2014-2015, he returned to Cincinnati Opera in the role of Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and also made company debuts as Tamino (Die Zauberflöte) at L’Opéra de Vichy and Opéra

Lausanne. He has performed Tamino, one of his signature roles, with English National Opera, Dallas Opera, Opera Carolina and Kansas City Opera. Other recent credits include Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with San Francisco Opera, Ferrando in Così fan tutte with Lisbon Opera and Lysander in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome. A Bowling Green, OH native, Mr. Mathey performed in Toledo Opera’s 2013 Opera Gala concert and sung the title role in its 2014 production of Gounod’s Faust, a role he then went on to perform with Opera Hong Kong.


Reginald Smith, Jr., baritone (Sharpless)

Baritone Reginald Smith is a native of Atlanta, GA, and is currently a Studio Artist with Houston Grand Opera where he has been seen in productions of Carmen (Le Dancaïre), Rigoletto (Marullo), Die Zauberflöte (Sprecher), Madama Butterfly (The Bonze), and Die Fledermaus (Dr. Falke). He has performed for audiences around the world including France, the Bahamas, England, Austria, Ireland, Germany, Australia, and many cities in the United States. Recently, Mr. Smith’s engagements have included The Bonze in Madama Butterfly for Cincinnati Opera and the role of the Count in The Marriage of Figaro at Wolf Trap Opera. Future engagements include the bass soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for the Columbus (GA) Symphony Orchestra, guest soloist for The Houston Symphony’s “Very Merry Pops” concert and the bass soloist in Handel’s Messiah for the Nashville Symphony. Mr. Smith is a winner of many competitions including The George London Vocal competition and the 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.


Renée Tatum, mezzo-soprano (Suzuki)

Noted for her “commanding and dramatic presence” (Opera News), mezzo-soprano Renée Tatum is rapidly gaining critical acclaim on the most prestigious opera stages in the United States. Ms. Tatum opened last season with a return to the Metropolitan Opera as the Second Lady in Julie Taymor’s production of Die Zauberflöte and returned to Houston Grand Opera both as Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte and as Grimgerde in a new production of Die Walküre. Ms. Tatum joined an international cast in Japan as Flora in Verdi’s La Traviata, performed as mezzo-soprano in Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony and Mozart’s Requiem with The Eastern Music Festival, and then finished the season as mezzo soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with The Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Music Festival. A recent alumna of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and a Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Ms. Tatum is a winner of the 2011 Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition and the 2010 Grand Prize Winner of The Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation Competition.


Joel Sorensen, tenor (Goro)

Joel Sorensen is recognized as one of the finest tenors to specialize in character repertoire, regularly praised for the clarion quality of his voice and a superlative vocal technique that supports his consummate musicality and impeccable diction. In recent seasons, he has excelled in German repertoire in performances worldwide as Andres in Wozzeck, Herod in Salome, and Loge and Mime in Der Ring des Nibelungen. The Independent (London) said, “Joel Sorensen, well known to both New York City and Metropolitan Opera audiences, is a beautifully expressive tenor, gifted at characterization, who made Mime rise above caricature to emerge as a surprisingly lyrical, put-upon creature.” A seasoned Metropolitan Opera artist, he returned in recent seasons to perform Goro in Madama Butterfly and Spoletta in their new production of Tosca. This season, Mr. Sorensen returns to San Francisco opera to sing La Ciociara in Scortino and Balthasar Zorn in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, in San Diego Opera to sing Spoletta in Tosca, and Manitoba Opera to sing Curley in Of Mice and Men.


LeTara Lee, soprano (Cio-Cio San Cover)

LeTara Lee has appeared in Toledo Opera productions of Faust and Aida and, as a Resident Artist, sang the Greek Chorus role in the company’s 2014-2015 Opera on Wheels production, Orpheus and Eurydice. She played Paula Deen in Krispy Kremes and Butter Queens in 2014 and Skylar in We’re on the Air in 2013 with Bowling Green State University Chamber Opera. In 2013 she appeared as Sylviane in The Merry Widow and Melissa in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida at BGSU’s Opera Theatre. Ms. Lee has degrees in Vocal Performance from Tennessee Technological University (BM) and Bowling Green State University (MM).

Jay Lesenger, Stage Director

With a career spanning more than 25 years and 200 productions, Jay Lesenger’s productions have been seen on stages across the country and in Europe. Recent engagements include Salome and the world premiere of Musgrave’s The Baroness for New Orleans Opera, as well as Porgy and Bess and Macbeth for Opera Carolina, Luisa Miller and The Crucible for Opera Boston, and La bohème, Stiffelio, Faust, Don Giovanni, Madama Butterfly, The Crucible, A Little Night Music, The Music Man and The Ballad

of Baby Doe, among many others, at the Chautauqua Institution, where he has served as Artistic and General Director of Chautauqua Opera since 1995. Mr. Lesenger recently made his European debut directing Puccini's La bohème for Opera Nordfjord in Eid, Norway and has returned to Norway to direct The Marriage of Figaro and Eugene Onegin. He recently debuted in Germany with a new production of Madama Butterfly for Volkstheater Rostock. A renowned teacher of acting for singers, Mr. Lesenger has taught at the University of Michigan where he directed the School of Music’s Opera Theatre, and at Northwestern University where, as Director of Opera, he produced an acclaimed revival of The Ghosts of Versailles.

Sara Jobin, conductor

Grammy-nominated conductor Sara Jobin has a passion for opera, new and American repertoire, and sacred music. In 2004 she had the honor of making history as the first woman to conduct mainstage subscription performances at San Francisco Opera, and has returned to their podium for 17 performances of five different productions since then. She is Chief Conductor of the Center for Contemporary Opera in New York, Interim Resident Conductor of the Toledo Symphony, Associate Conductor of the Toledo Opera, has guest conducted in Pittsburgh, Arizona, Anchorage, Tacoma, and Idaho, and brought American opera to Europe and China. Her first full-length recording, the hilarious American opera Volpone by John Musto, was nominated for a 2010 Grammy for Best Opera Recording. Also in her discography is a Chris Brubeck premiere with legendary mezzo Frederica von Stade. Tired of operas where the women die victimized by society, Ms. Jobin founded the Different Voice Opera Project in collaboration with Carol Gilligan.

Opera on Wheels
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