The Jun. 12 performance of Madama Butterfly in Annapolis Royal was the first of four around Nova Scotia in Maritime Concert Opera’s seventh annual opera festival. This production surpassed MCO’s prior successes on many levels. The entire cast, principal singers and chorus in later performances, were magnificently costumed and offered a spectacular visual treat rare in concert opera. The final act was simply but effectively staged with a single kimono hanging on a stand.
The well-cast principals sang completely in character. Natalie Donnelly, as Cio-Cio San, is a lovely, powerful soprano with a tremendous range, effectively portraying a joyful innocence that flowed inevitably to convincing heartbreak. She sang mostly off-book and her stunning kimonos served her performance perfectly.
Lenard Whiting was a complete Pinkerton — simpering, oblivious and exceedingly easy to dislike as he initially lusts after and then destroys Butterfly. Edward Franko (Goro) was also convincing as the mainly unscrupulous, but somewhat amusing, marriage broker. He also looked the part in his kimono. Towering above the Japanese was Andrew Tees’ Sharpless. He presented the more pleasant face of Western interests in voice and aspect as he tried to persuade Pinkerton to do the right thing. Nina Scott-Stoddart was Suzuki and chorus in the first two performances of the opera. She projected both sympathy for and devotion to Butterfly, and their duet was amonth the most moving highlights of the production. Robert Milne was a convincingly angry uncle in his brief time on stage.
Tara Scott’s piano accompaniment was, as usual, of the highest order, and Anne Morison contributed the magnificent costuming.
– Daphna Levit
Opera Canada, Fall 2011