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La Scala and Madama Butterfly

So, sorry for those who were waiting for a Madama Butterfly review, sorry to be so late, but I was swallowed up by La Scala buzz. I’m sure you can understand.

So, Don Giovanni started right after my lunch. Thanks school, for your great opera sensitive scheduling. So, I had my IPod pressed against my ear as I walked to English class. Today, we had some Shakespeare presenters. I turned my IPod off as soon as we arrived in class. Maybe I did it wrong, but I heard rapturous applause right before they started their presentation. Whoops. My bad.

I arrived home and immediately turned on RAI and listened. I was able to hear about the last 45 minutes. This was a spectacular performance. I didn’t see any videos or production pictures until a little bit later. As I have said, I’m not a minimalistic scenery person but this production looked interesting. Definitely something I would spend money on. The singing was immaculate. Barbara Frittoli is an actress like nobody’s business (I saw a video) and Peter Mattei gave everything he had at the Met, and I couldn’t have asked for more. And Netrebko, is Netrebko… I don’t quite know how to put it. She just sounded beautiful. Her Scala debut seems like a success for me and I loved it. Bravi a tutti! Bryn Terfel also had a wonderful performance, but there isn’t as much Leporello at the end as I wished. I was wishing I was there drinking in the opening of a new season, and the Feast of St. Ambrose in Milan.

It’s always been a dream of mine to attend opening night at La Scala… I hope it comes true someday.

Milan is a wonderful place. I was there in February and I want to go back. For a lover of the arts, like myself, Milan is the place to be. New york too, but that’s a little easier for me to get to. I feel like I’m a part of the world when I listen to these Scala broadcasts, or any opera broadcast. If only opera got the respect in this country that it did there. As opera lovers, we have to unite. We must stamp out the stereotypes of fat women in helmets with horns… For opera to survive, we need to keep it alive, but it’s foing alright on it’s own, with the advent of the media.

Opera isn’t a dying art form. Many opera fans keep saying that opera is a dying art form, it’s having trouble evolving, it’s popularity is dying etc. That’s like a pet store saying, “Well, yes we sell dogs, they are very sick though. You will have to take care of them and feed them seven times a day. They might die so be careful of what you are taking on. Only a few people know how to care for these animals. Good luck!”

Opera should be appetizing. We can’t keep telling people that opera is on the brink, which it isn’t. This would turn off any newcomer. Opera stereotypes run ramped today… Let’s make sure those are a thing of the past soon.

Sorry about that totally unrelated rant. I hope you agree with me. Let’s “save” opera from being “saved”. Let’s take a look at La Scala season.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart-Don Giovanni

Jacques Offenbach-Les contes d’Hoffmann

Giuseppe Verdi-Aida

Richard Strauss-Die Frau ohne Schatten

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart-Le nozze di Figaro

Giacomo Puccini-Tosca

Benjamin Britten-Peter Grimes

Giuseppe VerdiLuisa Miller

Jules Massenet-Manon

Gaetano Donizetti-Don Pasquale

Giacomo Puccini-La bohème

Richard Wagner-Siegfried (Der Ring des Nibelungen)

Giuseppe Verdi-Rigoletto

All in all, I think this is a very good season. It’s varied but filled with classics as well. Even though I most likely won’t be going to Milan, I still love to hear about everything and I’m looking into when the radio broadcasts are so I can bring Milan here.
     Same with the ROH (Royal Opera House) I’m on their queue right now to find out the next braodcasts. I’m number four in line… Not to be confused with I Am Number Four, a movie I heard about. Oh, I got through… La Traviata on December 31st at 1:00 PM, eastern time, 6:00 PM London time. Expect a review… I’m excited already!
Back to La Scala. I really like this season. We have the classics like La Boheme, Aida, Tosca, Rigoletto. Then we have some more “eclectic” ones thrown into the mix, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Manon (Same production as the Met…) Luisa Miller. Now the operas I just listed aren’t really “eclectic” they just aren’t operas produced more frequently by bigger opera houses, but we still stay within that same Romantic period. I love that. This season should be tops for any opera lover who loves The time from Mozart, up to Puccini. There is a Britten work, Peter Grimes, and that is about it for the modern opera this season. I hope anybody attending this season has a wonderful time.
Now… To Madama Butterfly. Two nights ago, I was blown away by the Metopera Radio broadcast of Madama Butterfly. I regard this as one of the highlights of the season so far. To summary the performance, before I go in depth, the performance was amazing and every singer shone through like a ray of light.
The highlight for me was Liping Zhang in the title role. I had never heard of her before and I was so pleasantly surprised by her rendition. She was an innocent victim, almost unable to feel anger. Take for example, the scene in Act II, when Prince Yamadori is thrust before her. After he leaves, the women realize that Goro has been gossiping, saying that nobody knows who the father of Butterfly’s child is. The wonderful Maria Zifchak as Suzuki exposes Goro and a short fight ensues. We can hear here, very pure expression in a role. Zhang played Butterfly as an “ignorance is bliss” type of person, who when she hears that rumors are circulating, she doesn’t get as angry as much as she is saddened even more. Patricia Racette played Butterfly as angry and almost bitter, as she beat Goro with her fists during this scene. Goro departs with what I believe is a important line, theatrically, “Va via!” yelled by Butterfly. Racette said this with a “Get the heck out of my house” flare. On the other hand, Zhang said this in an almost sad way. More of an “Please go away or I will go insane”. Such different portrayals are interesting to listen to. That’s what makes opera come alive. The different representations which vary from artist to artist.

The Butterfly of Patricia Racette "assaults" the Goro of Gred Fedderly

The character Goro goes through an ark. In the beginning, he is relatively likeable. He’s a man about town but he doesn’t seem like he could do much harm. By the end, he is totally unlikeable and hurtful to Butterfly, who is a very congenial.

Robert Dean Smith was somewhat of a disappointment. While this role may fit his voice, his voice is almost nasal sounding. It was a disappointment to hear but he his most of his high notes relatively well. Luca Salsi was a truly talented Sharpless. Sharpless is a man with conflicting morals. He can’t decide whether to tell Butterfly and break her heart, or withhold the information and let her find out on her own. He struggles with this right through the end of the opera.
The cast was great and I hope I can se this in the theater sometime soon.
I apologize for this review coming so late.

Many thanks and happy listening.

Opera Teen


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