This account of the Met simulcast of Madama Butterfly comes from Upstairs Tenor, who is an usher and supernumerary at San Francicsco Opera.
* Notes *
Anthony Minghella left us too soon, but his production of Madama Butterfly is, at least, a testament to his memory. Stark and beautifully designed, with incredibly specific and insightful Personregie down to the tiny role of Butterfly's mother, the production is one of the best things the Met has done in years. The much talked about puppet portraying Butterfly's son was wonderfully realistic, though ill-served by close ups that revealed the faces of the puppeteers, usually covered by veils, in HD. Renée Fleming hosted the intermission interviews, and proved herself a competent interviewer.
The reliable Patrick Summers conducted a sensitive, well-thought-out performance, even if the woodwinds were somewhat lacking at several points. The cast was excellent, lead, as it is, by the dream-cast Cio-Cio San of Patricia Racette. Racette, who stepped in at late notice after Cristina Galldro-Domas took ill, is easily the best Butterfly singing today, and the camera caught every nuance, every quirk of the eyebrow and every smile in her expressive face. Her Pinkerton, Marcello Giordani, was a bit shaky in Act I, but much stronger after his hour's rest offstage. Maria Zifchak has been the Met's regular Suzuki for years, and examined up close, now we know why: who knew she was such an exquisite actress? Those were real tears during the Humming Chorus. Dwayne Croft, sounding like a dream, also returned to give an expert Sharpless, keen to every facet of the role. Greg Fedderly appears to have cemented his position as the reigning king of character tenors, and his snide Goro was a treat. Dean Peterson's gravelly-voiced Bonze and the surprisingly sympathetic Yamadori of David Won rounded out the principal cast.
* Tattling *
There was a small dropout in the feed right in the middle of "Un Bel Di." Thank God it only lasted about two seconds. The audience at Daly City's Century 20 Theaters was quite well-behaved save a few watch alarms, but during the opening of this production, a completely silent dance performed by a Geisha, I heard a cell phone go off...in the Met Audience. That's Technology for you.