Magazine article Opera Canada

Madama Butterfly. (Opera in Review: Toronto)

Magazine article Opera Canada

Madama Butterfly. (Opera in Review: Toronto)

Article excerpt

The Canadian Opera Company has staged nothing in the standard repertory more frequently than Madama Butterfly. For its last four outings at Toronto's Hummingbird Centre, the company has turned to the same Brian Macdonald-directed production, which designer Susan Benson sets up with an elegantly simple array of shoji screens assembled before the eyes of the audience into a Japanese house.

In its March-April revival, the popular production boasted an almost completely new cast. The exception was the slimmed-down, Stratford-born baritone, James Westman, who reprised his sympathetic Sharpless of 1998. The new cast was headed by the debuting Chinese-born soprano Xiu Wei Sun, who looked completely convincing in the title role and used a prominent vibrato to especially good effect in conveying her character's heightened emotions.

A sometime Miami policeman, the beefy debuting tenor Jorge Antonio Pita, made a rather stolid Pinkerton, while mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy was a compassionate Suzuki. John Kriter's marriage-broker, Goro, headed a list of convincingly etched supporting characters, including Bruce Schaef as the Imperial Commis-sioner, T. Stephen Smith as the Bouze and Frederique Vezina as Kate Pinkerton.

Because Macdonald staged the opera's three acts in two, with Butterfly's all-night vigil gliding seamlessly into the morning of her suicide, there was a nice flow to the action, further facilitated by the supportive conducting of the debuting Elio Boncompagni, music director of la Monnaie in Brussels. …

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