Monterey Opera's production of Madama Butterfly is awaiting metamorphosis.
Thursday, November 9, 2000
Sufficient, if less than abundant, resources should have led to better results than were witnessed at last Saturday''s Madama Butterfly in Carmel. The cast in the Monterey Opera production, directed by Sid Cato, came up short on matters of character development, acting and blocking. Likewise, there were shortcomings by the orchestra and conductor Robert Place in laying Puccini''s musico-dramatic foundation.
In a word, the performance was underprepared. Though brave in its attempt, the orchestra (behind a scrim at the back of the stage) suffered chronically from playing out of tune and out of ensemble in equal degrees. The conductor struggled to maintain order, but at the expense of attention due the singers (who could only see him from a TV monitor in a prompter''s box). The consequent hit-and-miss phrasing stranded the principals right when they needed the conductor''s support the most.
This jerky progression undermined the entire evening, foreshortening all the major arias (and the first act love duet) into brushed-off parodies of themselves. Without another viewing, it would be hard to know if Narelle Yeo (Butterfly) and S. Jason Black (Pinkerton) are capable of creating credible characters. Notwithstanding impressive vocal allure, neither took charge of building a stage persona, much less the dynamics of dramatic purpose.
Hopefully, all of these deficiencies will be transcended to a higher plane by this weekend. Yeo and Black will reprise on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. (The alternate principals, Nancy Williams and Michael Licciardello will appear Saturday night.) Others in the cast are Audrey Howlett (Suzuki) and David Auerbach (Sharpless) whose vocal shortcomings were well parried by a keen sense of character (the best of cast, in fact). Michael Bierbaum (Goro) played the clown.
Designer Jean Francois Revon''s set was simple and serviceable; his scrim made the stage seem wider than it is, and its rolling wave motif imparted a fine impressionism. Michael Palumbo''s lighting missed an opportunity to reflect Butterfly''s state of mind during her all-night vigil. Rhonda Griffith''s costume design lingered rather long at the tawdry end, especially Suzuki''s and Goro''s. (Even in poverty, a geisha''s servants would take pains to iron out wrinkles.)
For all his laudable improvements at the Monterey Opera, Cato injected some strange bits here. For example, the American flag functions first as the child''s security blanket, then as a blindfold. (Symbolism dropped into the closing minutes of a melodrama is gratuitous at least.) And, in making her last appearance, Butterfly looks like she is getting ready to dance instead of die.
Sirena Recorder Quartet Thursday, 7:30pm. Hidden Valley Music Seminars, Carmel Valley and Ford roads, Carmel Valley. $10/general. 659-3115.
Borromeo String Quartet Friday, 8pm. Chamber Music Monterey Bay hosts rising New York ensemble in Haydn, Dvorak and Steve Mackey''s new String Quartet. Sunset Center, San Carlos and 9th, Carmel. $18/adults; $7/students (under 21 w/ ID). 625-2212.
Madama Butterfly Friday/Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 3pm. Robert Place conducts popular Puccini opera; Sid Cato directs Monterey Opera. Nancy Williams and Narelle Yeo alternate as Butterfly; Michael Licciardello and S. Jason Black alternate as Pinkerton. Golden Bough Theater, Monte Verde and 8th, Carmel. $25. 372-2721.
Santa Cruz County Symphony Saturday, 8pm. John Larry Granger conducts Brant''s Whoopee, Sibelius'' Violin Concerto, featuring Yoon-Jung Cho, Beethoven''s Symphony 7. Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, $34-17. 420-5260.
Duo Concertante Sunday, 3pm. Salinas Concert Association hosts Wolfgang Fetsch and Anita Fetsch Felix in violin/piano recital. Main Stage, Hartnell College, 156 Homestead, Salinas. $18/general, $10/students. 754-6829.
Monterey Symphony Sunday, 3pm; Monday/Tuesday, 8pm. Kate Tamarkin conducts Rautavaara''s Isle of Bliss, Tchaikovsky''s Piano Concerto 1, featuring Jose Feghali, Stravinsky''s Petrushka. Sunday/Monday: Sunset Center, San Carlos and 9th, Carmel. Tuesday: 940 N. Main, Salinas. Prices/reservations, 625-8511.