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'He's just not that into you'

October 26, 2006

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    October 26, 2006
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    Opera Carolina News

'He's just not that into you'

Opera Carolina opens its 2006-07 season in Charlotte tonight with a perennial favorite, Puccini's "Madama Butterfly."

This tragic tale of a young Japanese woman's non-reciprocated devotion to a callous American lieutenant has been striking a chord with audiences for over a century. According to "Opera America,'' "Madama Butterfly" is the most performed opera in North America, and the aria "Un bel di," which arises out of Butterfly's agony, is one of the most recognized in opera literature.

Two sopranos are sharing the lead role in Charlotte. Cynthia Lawrence appears as Cho Cho San in the Thursday and Saturday performances, and Kallen Esperian will portray the tragic heroine on Friday and Sunday. Since Butterfly is on stage for almost the entire performance, and because of the physical and emotional demands of the role, double casting of the part is common to give the singer an opportunity to recover before the next performance. Lawrence and Esperian also shared the part for New York's Metropolitan Opera.

Tenor William Joyner, who in the past has sung lead roles in Opera Carolina's productions of "Carmen" and "Tosca" returns as the insensitive Lt. Pinkerton.

Salisbury High School music teacher Michael Brooks is a member of the Opera Carolina Chorus. He made arrangements for the students in his AP Music Theory class to attend the Tuesday dress rehearsal of the opera. They provided observations following the experience.

Eric DiMarzio, Jared Cassels and Andrew Dandison found the orchestra to be their favorite aspect of the performance. They all commented on the appeal of hearing a live orchestra of such high calibre, and noted how the orchestration heightened the emotions.

Sean Cobb agreed that the orchestra greatly contributed to the work's drama, combining with the voices to convey the tone of the scene. He says, "Even though you can't understand the words, you still get the meaning."

Sarah Canup admits to not being an opera fan, but she was impressed by the sets. She appreciated the comic relief provided by the little boy and the character Goro.

Jenna Wilson loved the voice of the soprano soloist. But she and Elisabeth Hall both pointed out how in traditional opera things can sometimes be drawn out way too long for modern tastes. They were both critical of the "spreading of the flowers" scene, which felt interminable.

Patrick Reaves was struck by the overall beauty of the piece. He and DiMarzio both stated that they would have preferred to hear more from the chorus because that would provide more fullness of sound to the predominantly solo work.

The opera is performed in Italian, with the English translation projected above the stage. While most of the students appreciated the supertitles as an aid to following the plot, Sam Shores found them to be a distraction. He felt the acting and music were evocative enough for him to follow the story without the supertitles.

Danny Resner expressed his appreciation for having the opportunity to hear a live performance of an art form he had previously only heard on recordings and on the radio. He pointed out that "in this post-modern age, it is still possible to find some relevance in the libretto Puccini used at the beginning of the 20th century."

When asked if they would attend another opera, only one student said no. There were some conditions added though: Next time, some would prefer a work that was shorter, or in English. And Shores replied, "Yes, but only one with Mr. Brooks in it!"


Madama Butterfly performances are 7:30 p.m. tonight, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, 130 N. Tryon St., Charlotte. For ticket information call 704-372-1000.

By Sarah Hall, Salisbury Post