Madama Butterfly

Madama Butterfly, March 2011

Conducted by Alexander Katsman, Music Director

Directed by Brian Clay Luedloff

Set Design by Jean-Francois Revon
Lighting Design by Kevin Bautch


Cio-Cio San (Butterfly)……..Carrie Hennessey
Role is double cast                        Melody King
B.F. Pinkerton…………Christopher Bengochea
Suzuki……………………………….Michele Detwiler
Sharpless…………………………….Nicolai Janitzky
Goro…………………………….….Alexander Taite
Kate Pinkerton………………………..Jennie Litster
Prince Yamadori……………….Emmanuel Franco
The Bonze……………………………..Carlos Aguilar
Imperial Commissioner………………….Joel Sutliff

Carrie Hennessey as Cio-Cio San

Known for her ability to bring great musical and theatrical depth to her performances, lyric soprano Carrie Hennessey recently made a triumphant debut with Cinnabar Theater as Emmeline, in the West Coast Premiere of Tobias Pickerʼs opera of the same name. She sang the role of Mimì in La Bohème with West Bay Opera, and with only one dayʼs notice, Ms. Hennessey made her debut as soprano soloist at the Modesto Symphony Orchestra with great acclaim in Mahlerʼs Symphony No. 4. In the 2010/2011 season, Ms. Hennessey appears as soprano soloist with Grand Rapids Symphony in Carl Orffʼs Carmina Burana, with the Pacific Symphony in Handelʼs Messiah and with the Oakland East Bay Symphony in the Brahms Requiem. She has also appeared with Townsend Opera Players as Hanna (The Merry Widow), and with Sacramento Opera as Giannetta (LʼElisir dʼAmore), and as soprano soloist in Stravinskyʼs ballet Pulcinella at the Mendocino Music Festival. Ms. Hennessey has also performed with members of the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra in Heitor Villa-Lobosʼ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for Voice and Eight Cellos.

Michele Detwiler as Suzuki

Michele Detwiler - Career highlights have included roles with Mission City Opera and Opera Idaho. She has sung 15 operas with Opera San Jose, including the title role in La Cenerentola. She sang as Echo in Ariadne auf Naxos with San Francisco Lyric Opera; and both Shining One and Madame By-Ends in the West Coast premiere of Vaughan Williams’s The Pilgrim’s Progress with Trinity Lyric Opera. Concert highlights have included Messiah with the Auburn Symphony; the Mozart Requiem with Symphony Silicon Valley; Einhorn’s Voices of Light with the Boise Philharmonic; Mahler’s Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen with the Sacramento State Symphony; and Saint-Saëns’s Christmas Oratorio with the Jackson Community Symphony.

Conducted by Alexander Katsman

Alexander Katsman - Musical Director and Board Member

Stage Direction by Brian Luedloff

Melody King as Cio-Cio San

Melody Tachibana King made her LVO debut in the challenging dramatic role of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. She also made her main stage debut with Opera San José in the role of Yvette in La Rondine. On the concert stage, Ms. King has appeared as soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah, and Vivaldi’s Gloria with Chorus Boston, and also appeared as a soprano soloist for the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Centennial Celebration, and Massachusetts-Hokkaido Sister State Anniversary Celebration. Ms. King was selected as a 2007 semi-finalist of the NATS Boston Chapter Song and Aria Competition. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Sonoma State University, and her Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from New England Conservatory of Music. Ms. King currently continues her vocal studies with Mr. David Rohrbaugh.

Christopher Bengochea as B.F. Pinkerton

Basque-American tenor Christopher began his career as a resident artist with Opera San José where he was heard in a variety of roles. Mr. Bengochea debuted at Carnegie Hall in the role of Vasco da Gama from Meyberbeer’s. Christopher Bengochea has performed with Atlanta Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Opera Canada – Saskatoon, Opera Idaho, Opera San Jose, da Corneto Opera, Center City Opera, Opera Company Brooklyn, Opera Idaho, Jarvis Conservatory, Intermountain Opera, Townsend Opera, Rimrock Opera, Pacific Repertory Opera, Livermore Valley Opera, West Bay Opera, Teatro Felice, Caramoor Opera, and the Tigulio Festival Opera.

Interview with Director Brian Clay Luedloff

Synopsis, courtesy of Opera News

ACT I.  Japan, early twentieth century. On a flowering terrace above Nagasaki harbor, U.S. Navy Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton inspects the house he has leased from a marriage broker, Goro, who has just procured him three servants and a geisha wife, Cio-Cio-San, known as Madama Butterfly. To the American consul, Sharpless, who arrives breathless from climbing the hill, Pinkerton describes the carefree philosophy of a sailor roaming the world in search of pleasure. At the moment, he is enchanted with the fragile Cio-Cio-San, but his 999-year marriage contract contains a monthly renewal option. When Sharpless warns that the girl may not take her vows so lightly, Pinkerton brushes aside such scruples, saying he will one day marry a “real” American wife. Cio-Cio-San is heard in the distance joyously singing of her wedding. Entering surrounded by friends, she tells Pinkerton how, when her family fell on hard times, she had to earn her living as a geisha. Her relatives bustle in, noisily expressing their opinions on the marriage. In a quiet moment, Cio-Cio-San shows her bridegroom her few earthly treasures and tells him of her intention to embrace his Christian faith. The Imperial Commissioner performs the wedding ceremony, and the guests toast the couple. The celebration is interrupted by Cio-Cio-San’s uncle, a Buddhist priest, who bursts in, cursing the girl for having renounced her ancestors’ religion. Pinkerton angrily sends the guests away. Alone with Cio-Cio-San in the moonlit garden, he dries her tears, and she joins him in singing of their love.

ACT II.  Three years later, Cio-Cio-San waits for her husband’s return. As Suzuki prays to her gods for aid, her mistress stands by the doorway with her eyes fixed on the harbor. When the maid shows her how little money is left, Cio-Cio-San urges her to have faith: one fine day Pinkerton’s ship will appear on the horizon. Sharpless brings a letter from the lieutenant, but before he can read it to Cio-Cio-San, Goro comes with a suitor, the wealthy Prince Yamadori. The girl dismisses both marriage broker and prince, insisting her American husband has not deserted her. When they are alone, Sharpless again starts to read the letter and suggests Pinkerton may not return. Cio-Cio-San proudly carries forth her child, Dolore (Trouble), saying that as soon as Pinkerton knows he has a son he surely will come back; if he does not, she would rather die than return to her former life. Moved by her devotion, Sharpless leaves, without having revealed the full contents of the letter. Cio-Cio-San, on the point of despair, hears a cannon report; seizing a spyglass, she discovers Pinkerton’s ship entering the harbor. Now delirious with joy, she orders Suzuki to help her fill the house with flowers. As night falls, Cio-Cio-San, Suzuki and the child begin their vigil.

ACT III.  As dawn breaks, Suzuki insists that Cio-Cio-San rest. Humming a lullaby to her child, she carries him to another room. Before long, Sharpless enters with Pinkerton, followed by Kate, his new wife. When Suzuki realizes who the American woman is, she collapses in despair but agrees to aid in breaking the news to her mistress. Pinkerton, seized with remorse, bids an anguished farewell to the scene of his former happiness, then rushes away. When Cio-Cio-San comes forth expecting to find him, she finds Kate instead. Guessing the truth, the shattered Cio-Cio-San agrees to give up her child if his father will return for him. Then, sending even Suzuki away, she takes out the dagger with which her father committed suicide and bows before a statue of Buddha, choosing to die with honor rather than live in disgrace. As she raises the blade, Suzuki pushes the child into the room. Sobbing farewell, Cio-Cio-San sends him into the garden to play, then stabs herself. As she dies, Pinkerton is heard calling her name.