Even before Admiral Perry "opened Japan" there has been an occidental fascination with the orient. One of the fruits of this is Puccini's opera "Madama Butterfly," currently at the IU Opera Theatre in a nicely put together production with a all around good cast.
As with fruits, the opera, has quite an extensive root system. In the 1890s the French author Pierre Loti wrote the story of a bored middle aged naval officer in Japan who takes an indifferent comfort wife, "Madame Chrysanthemum." American writer John Luther Long took the story, added a child and a suicide attempt by the heroine. Playwright David Belasco liked the idea of the child but went for the full tragic ending. Giacomo Puccini saw the play and used all the elements for his opera. As the story was retold both the naval officer and the Japanese geisha got younger, more vulnerable and more appealing and Madame Chrysanthemum became Madama Butterfly.
At the Musical Arts Center, Tenor Yoonsoo Shin was opening night's naval officer, Lt. Pinkerton. Shin sang with real power and control and did reflect the sorrow that his casual marriage causes. Maya Hoover was his geisha, Cio-Cio San, Madama Butterfly. Hoover sang the demanding role with real skill and care. A highlight of the evening for me was a flower duet with her maid, Suzuki. Hyoun-soo Sohn was outstanding in that lower voice role.
Another special feature of the production was Jeffrey Monette's performance as Sharpless, the U.S. Consul. Monette had the difficult task of playing an older, wiser man who knows that his wisdom will be ignored. He did well.
Imre Pallo led a nicely balanced and paced performance. Stage direction was by Mark Clark.