On March 5-8, the Val A. Browning Center for Performing Arts will be filled with Italian and Japanese culture as the Weber State University’s music department will perform Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly.”
Set in turn-of-the-century Nagasaki, Japan, audience members will watch as Chio-Chio san, nicknamed Butterfly, falls in love with American naval officer Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton. Butterfly is so in love with Pinkerton she converts to Christianity for him. Because of this decision, Butterfly is disowned by her Buddhist family, leaving her completely alone once Pinkerton has to return to sea. Three years later, Butterfly has borne and raised Pinkerton’s son while she pines for her lost husband. Pinkerton returns, but this time with his American wife. Distraught, Butterfly commits jigaki, ceremonial suicide.
Karen Bruestle, head of the vocal department and opera director, has wanted to perform “Madam Butterfly” for the past several years. Finally, this year she felt she had the right group of students to perform Pucinni’s Opera.
“I wanted to do something very dramatic, very passionate, something that emphasizes the tragedy of human nature and this was just the right time to do it,” Bruestle said.
The preparation for “Madame Butterfly” has taken months worth of hard work. “Auditions were in October 2014 and rehearsal began by late October,” Bruestle said. “About two weeks after auditions, rehearsals began so they really have been working on this musically since last semester.”
According to Bruestle, the most challenging part for actors wasn’t grasping the Italian language of the show but accurately portraying the emotions and passion needed for this opera.
“The music of Puccini it is very challenging for the singers and it is very dramatic,” Bruestle said. “There is a lot of give and take within the music itself. You have to know when to give and moving ahead with the music and when to pull back.”
For Christine Warren, senior and vocal pedagogy major, the excitement to perform in “Madame Butterfly” is evident in her voice. Warren has prepared for her two roles of geisha and Kate Pinkerton by watching YouTube videos of others who have performed her roles as well as asking her director for direction on how to correctly portray her character.
Catie Omer, WSU alumni and assistant vocal director, wanted to be involved with “Madame Butterfly” because it is one of her favorite operas. Omer’s role was to fine-tune the actors’ voices and give the opera the right sound. She felt her job was rather easy because of the actors’ talent.
“There are a few things here and there, such as you need to be more intense or you need to be more angry, but they are right on point,” Omer said.
While the Italian singing can be a turn-off for some beginning opera-goers, this is one that will be easy for beginners to follow. “I think for first-time opera seers, this one is a good one to see. I remember when I was younger and hadn’t been exposed to opera, I thought ‘that is such an intense sound,’ but again, this one is the story and the way the story flows really well. I think with the supertitles you’ll get it really fast,” Omer said.