Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan

Seattle's Madam Butterfly - "This Opera Hurts"

Marion Oliver McCaw Hall
Seattle's Marion Oliver McCaw Hall

At stunning Marion Oliver McCaw Hall with a gleaming glass curtain see-through wall, located near Seattle's iconic Space Needle, I watch Puccini's opera, Madama Butterfly. In Nagasaki, at the beginning of the twentieth century, a beautiful Japanese maiden renounces her religion to marry an undeserving American Naval officer, Pinkerton, and she endures loneliness and poverty for three years with their son, faithfully awaiting his return.

At the beginning of the second act, Butterfly's aria is sung hauntingly by Patricia Racette , a world class diva who describes the wait for her husband, suddenly filled with hope when she hears the harbour cannon and spots wisps of smoke from his ship, her joy surging at his imminent arrival - and the music literally takes one's breath away - it seizes your heart and your eyes run moist with emotion.

It's one of the most beautiful pieces of music, so dramatic that not a sound interferes in the large auditorium, no coughs, no restlessness, and no movement. We are frozen in our seats, immersed in profound sadness, the depths of which one associates with deep loss and mourning.

You ache and yearn for relief, but you must - like Madama Butterfly - endure with heroic faith, for as she reads the inscription on her father's dagger: "He dies with honor who cannot live with honor," the dramatic irony is so intense that we dare not break her spell, her iron will and total commitment to an ideal that can never be achieved for her unfaithful lover lacks the same courage and commitment, and this makes her tragedy all the more devastating.

Patricia Racette and Stefano Secco as Pinkerton are superb. Racette has enjoyed long-term partnerships with the San Francisco Opera, where she has been a regular performer since 1989, and with the Metropolitan Opera, where she has performed annually since 1995. Also active on the concert stage, Racette has appeared with many of the world's leading orchestras, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Secco enjoys being booed as Pinkerton for his thoughtlessness, superficiality, and cowardice at the end of the opera and says, "When I hear booing, I know I've accomplished my goal!" As a tenor he has mastered the technique the Italians call 'squillo,' using a vocal edge to slice through the sound of a large orchestra.

At the pre-performance talk, Sue Elliot, Director of Education forewarns us that "This opera hurts," and she playfully recommends 4-5 tissues are usually required. Puccini's "Big 3" includes Tosca, La Bohème and Butterfly, the latter being the opera that is most produced yearly. Sue, a Canadian with a degree from McGill University, is a great source of information and she enriches our viewing experience. I am impressed with their entire world-class operation.

Marion Oliver McCaw Hall is the region's premier performance hall. It opened in 2003, and includes a state-of-the-art 2,900-seat auditorium, 400-seat Lecture Hall, café, luminous five-story serpentine glass Grand Lobby, and a 17,800-square-foot public plaza (Kreielsheimer Promenade) that serves as an entry into McCaw Hall and the Seattle Center Campus. McCaw Hall is the home to Pacific Northwest Ballet , Seattle Opera , community festivals and guest performers from around the world. My wife fortuitously discovers that it also offers attractive jewelry.

Madam Butterfly  Madam Butterfly  Madam Butterfly   Madam Butterfly  Madam Butterfly

Sue tells us that they use the Canadian Opera Company's minimalist set and costumes for Butterfly , and that on opening night, they staged a simulcast with five thousand viewers watching the entire performance in the adjacent park.

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Madam Butterfly  Madam Butterfly   Madam Butterfly  Madam Butterfly

Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, formerly known as the Civic Auditorium and Seattle Opera House, is a performing arts hall in Seattle, Washington, United States. Located on the grounds of Seattle Center and owned by the city of Seattle. The building originally opened in 1928 as the Civic Auditorium. An expansion of the Civic Auditorium for use as a venue in the upcoming World's Fair began with construction beginning in 1959, and the auditorium reopened as the Seattle Opera House on April 21, 1962. The "most dramatic" renovation and expansion of the Opera House began in 2002.Cell phone pioneer Craig McCaw along with his three brothers donated $20 million to help fund construction and the newly renovated building was named Marion Oliver McCaw Hall.    - Wikipedia

Marion Oliver McCaw Hall
Interior - Marion Oliver McCaw Hall

Madama Butterfly - Director's Talk with Peter Kazaras

Madama Butterfly - Preview Trailer

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