* Notes *
A revival of Madama Butterfly closes San Diego Opera's 2009 season. Musically, the opening last night was very strong. Edoardo Müller roused a vigorous performance from the orchestra, the tempi were never sluggish, but never overly taxing either. The chorus was together and created a straightforwardly lucid sound.
The principals were also quite even. Tenor Joseph Hu had just the right amount of simpering and unctuousness to suit the role of Goro. Suzanna Guzmán rushed in her vocal entrance as Suzuki, but was impressively ferocious later on. Malcolm MacKenzie had warmth and heft in his sympathetic portrayal of Sharpless, but did not overwhelm Carlo Ventre as Pinkerton. Ventre is not exactly the brash embodiment of an American naval officer circa 1904, but he sang well. There was some constriction in his higher register, but his appealingly reedy voice did cut through the orchestration and even sparkled at times. His duet, with Patricia Racette in the title role, at the end of Act I was particularly lovely. Racette's performance was consistent, though she started off with much vibrato, is occasionally shrill. Her pianissimo can be sublime and her "Un bel dì" was magnificent.
On the other hand, Francesca Zambello's production, directed here by Garnett Bruce, was fairly incoherent. Often scenes were set in the American consulate, rather than the "casetta" of the libretto. Even with my poor Italian, it was surreal to hear text so at odds with the scenery. This was especially strange for the first scene of Act II, when Sharpless is dismissed by Butterfly, but it is she that has come to the consulate. However, there was never a dull moment and Michael Yeargan's airy set was attractive. Anita Yavich's costumes suited the production, the turquoise haori worn by Butterfly over her Western dress in Act II was rather eye-catching. In the end, Alan Burrett's lighting did unify the production, and the last scene is striking.
* Tattling *
At least 3 watch alarms were heard at 9pm, though no cellular phones rang. There was very little talking, and this was restricted to the instrumental segments.
The hall looked quite full, and there seemed to be a few issues at the box office, as far as tickets purchased online not showing up at will call.