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Gerald Carpenter: Opera Santa Barbara to Open with ‘Madame Butterfly’

Mihoko Kinoshita plays the doomed Cio-Cio-San in Opera Santa Barbara's Madame Butterfly.
Mihoko Kinoshita plays the doomed Cio-Cio-San in Opera Santa Barbara’s Madame Butterfly.

Opera Santa Barbara will open its 2012-13 season with a new production, in the Granada Theatre, of Giacomo Puccini’s beloved Madame Butterfly, with a libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.

It is based mainly on David Belasco’s dramatization of the short story Madame Butterfly (1898) by John Luther Long, but also, some say, on the novel Madame Chrysanthème (1887) by Pierre Loti.

The music will be conducted by Sara Jobin, the stage action directed by Keturah Stickann, with sets by Wally Coberg, lighting by Lucas Benjaminh Krech and costumes by Susan Allred. The production stars Mihoko Kinoshita as Cio-Cio-San, Alexey Sayapin as B.F. Pinkerton, Nina Yoshida Nelsen as Suzuki and Krassen Karagiozov as Sharpless.

The latest polls rank Madame Butterfly as No. 7 among the “most-performed” operas in the current repertory. That is one way of gauging its popularity. I suspect, however, that if you could poll the people who don’t normally go in for opera, but who have somehow gotten to a performance of Butterfly, it would rank No. 1.

Puccini’s gift for direct contact with the listener’s emotional core is unequaled by any other composer. It is a gift so powerful and irresistible that in earlier centuries it would have gotten him burned at the stake.

Opera is not my main thing — except for those of Wolfgang Mozart, Christoph Gluck, Claudio Monteverdi and Alban Berg — but even I choke up at an aria from Tosca, La Boheme or Madame Butterfly.

My late brother, who listened almost exclusively to jazz and folk music, found his way into a performance of Butterfly and was overwhelmed. He bought the album and tried to play it for me. At a climactic moment, he jumped up. “This is where the cowardly son-of-a-b**** is giving her the kiss-off!” he said, huskily, and walked out of the room. The line between tragedy and melodrama is always blurry; with Puccini at his best, there is no line at all.

Madame Butterfly will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $28 to $188, and are available at the Granada Theatre box office, 1214 State St., by phone at 805.899.2222 or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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