Published11 Mar 2020
Opera Philadelphia closes 2019-2020 season with Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, starring Japanese soprano Eri Nakamura in her company and title role debuts
Opera Philadelphia closes a successful 2019-2020 season with five performances of Puccini’s beloved Madame Butterfly from April 24–May 3 at the historic Academy of Music, under the leadership of Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris, who celebrates 20 years with the company this season.
Having recently delighted audiences as Clorinda in La cenerentola at the Vienna State Opera, Mimì in La bohème at the Teatro Municipal de Santiago de Chile, and Liù in Turandot at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Japanese soprano Eri Nakamura – “a wonderfully characterful singer” (Gramophone) – makes her Opera Philadelphia and role debuts as Cio-Cio San.
Nakamura studied for her bachelor's and master's degrees at the Osaka College of Music, before joining the Opera Studio at the New National Theatre, Tokyo, in 2002. She first shot to prominence as a Jette Parker Young Artist when she stepped in to replace Anna Netrebko as Giulietta in I Capuleti e i Montecchi at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Since then she has made notable debuts in Europe, Asia, and North and South America, winning worldwide acclaim for her assured singing and artistic intensity.
The production she headlines comes to Philadelphia from Zurich Opera, where it premiered in late 2017. Directed by Ted Huffman, of 2019’s award-winning Denis & Katya, the story is presented from the perspective of Cio-Cio San, stripping away the spectacle and exoticism commonly associated with Madame Butterfly to focus on the emotion at the story’s heart.
“We’re used to seeing Madame Butterfly unfold through the eyes of the American sailor, Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton–entering, as if tourists, into a world of Japanese architecture, culture, and Orientalist spectacle,” Huffman explains. “When designer Michael Levine and I devised this production, we asked ourselves how we might reverse that premise and invite the audience instead to experience, visually, Pinkerton’s arrival–and later, departure–through the eyes of Butterfly.”
Opera News heralded the production as “a treasure that will provide fond memories for a long time,” adding: “Michael Levine’s luminous sets, Annemarie Woods’ glorious costumes and Franck Evin’s masterly lighting all enhanced a production that offered proof that a ‘traditional’ approach need not lack excitement, credibility, and passion.”
Starring opposite Nakamura is Academy of Vocal Arts alum Bryan Hymel, the “first-rate tenor” (The New Yorker) last seen in 2012’s La bohème, who returns to Opera Philadelphia in the role of Lt. Pinkerton.
Making their company debuts, baritone Anthony Clark Evans, a Grand Finals Winner at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, sings Sharpless, and mezzo-soprano Kristen Choi reprises her “warm and lovely Suzuki” (Washington Post).
“Outstanding” tenor Julius Ahn (Opera magazine), last seen in Opera Philadelphia’s Turandot, revisits Goro, his signature role. Wei Wu, a top prize-winner in the Taiwan Vocal Competition, portrays the Bonze, and “promising lyric baritone” Takaoki Onishi (Opera News) takes on the role of Prince Yamadori. Opera Philadelphia Emerging Artists Ethan Vincent and Kendra Broom perform the roles of the Imperial Commissioner and Kate Pinkerton respectively.
Tickets are now available at operaphila.org or by calling 215.732.8400.
Music by Giacomo Puccini; libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Production from Zurich Opera
April 24, 26 & 29, May 1 & 3, 2020
Academy of Music
Performed in Italian with English supertitles
The running time is approximately 2 hours and 32 minutes including one 20-minute intermission.
Cast & Creative Team
Cio-Cio San/ Eri Nakamura*
Lt. Pinkerton/ Bryan Hymel
Sharpless/ Anthony Clark Evans*
Suzuki/ Kristen Choi*
Goro/ Julius Ahn
The Bonze/ Wei Wu*
Prince Yamadori/ Takaoki Onishi*
The Imperial Commissioner/ Ethan Vincent*
Kate Pinkerton/ Kendra Broom
The Registrar/ John David Miles
Yakuside/ Cory O’Niell Walker*
Cousin/ Veronica Chapman-Smith
Mother/ Lauren Cook*
Aunt/ Joanna Gates
Director/ Ted Huffman
Associate Director & Movement Specialist/ Sonoko Kamimura-Ostern*
Set Design/ Michael Levine
Costume Design/ Annemarie Woods*
Lighting Design/ Franck Evin*
Revival Lighting Design/ Hans-Rudolph Kunz*
*Opera Philadelphia debut