Music by Giacomo Puccini, Libretto by L. Illica and G. Giacosa
New arrangement by Daniel Schlosberg
Adapted by Ethan Heard and Jacob Ashworth
Heartbeat Opera at Baruch Performing Arts Center, May 2017
Music Direction by Jacob Ashworth, Movement Direction by Emma Crane Jaster, Set by Reid Thompson, Costumes by Valérie Thérèse Bart, Lighting by Oliver Wason, Sound by Ian Scot, Hair and Make Up by Jon Carter, Stage Managed by Jakob W. Plummer, Dramaturgy by Peregrine Heard
Cio Cio San // Banlingyu Ban
Suzuki // Siobahn Sung
Sharpless // Matthew Singer
Pinkerton // Mackenzie Whitney
Goro // Jordan Pitts
Boy // Noah Spagnola
Photos by Russ Rowland and Vincent Tullo
"Bold and vivid. This small, adventurous company strives to make opera a visceral, intimate and immediate “encounter,” as they have said. Their alterations to masterpieces aim to get past dated elements that can mute the raw emotions and the timeless issues coursing within the original works. Puccini’s opera indulges in an uncomfortable racial stereotype: the obedient, long-suffering Japanese geisha. The soprano Banlingyu Ban conveys the inner resilience of this tragic heroine through the bright tones and strong delivery of the vocal lines. Excerpts from Act I — especially crucial scenes when we see the beer-swilling Pinkerton (the vibrant tenor Mackenzie Whitney) before his wedding and some melting strands of the love duet — are intriguingly presented as dreamlike recollections. The most affecting element was the presentation of their child, a silent character (played by Noah Spagnola). The devotion of the company to Puccini’s music was evident in the sensitive arrangement of the score (by the co-music director Daniel Schlosberg and conducted by Mr. Ashworth) for five strings and harp, a richly detailed yet delicate rendering that enhanced the drama’s intimacy."
-Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times
"In a program note, Heartbeat’s young leaders express their desire “to birth productions that tackle urgent questions confronting our society today—questions of otherness, misogyny, cultural appropriation, and crossing borders both literal and metaphysical.” In an interview with the Times, however, the director, Ethan Heard, touched on another important point: “This opera is a masterpiece. We want to honor the beautiful writing and score, but inject some questioning into it, and bring people in closer proximity to it.” The first of these sentiments makes Heartbeat Opera’s production relevant. The second, however, makes it worthwhile. ...What’s so pleasing about Heartbeat Opera’s “Butterfly” is how well its artistic intentions dovetail with its limited means. (I fully agree with Anthony Tommasini’s positive review of the production.) The orchestra is cut down, but to an arrangement for harp and string quintet that recalls the mellifluous elegance of the original. The cast members are young but promising enough that you wouldn’t mind hearing them in a grander production and a bigger space. And while the set is little more than a raised platform with yellow banners on the front and sides, it suits the production’s preoccupation with the fluidity of borders."
-Russell Platt, The New Yorker
"Directed by the company’s co-founder, Ethan Heard, who wrote the adaptation with its co-music director Jacob Ashworth, this “Butterfly” frames the action with a young Asian-American boy watching the events of the plot unfold — reminding the audience, Mr. Heard said, 'that we start absorbing these stories, culture and images before we can even understand them. This opera is a masterpiece. We want to honor the beautiful writing and score, but inject some questioning into it, and bring people in closer proximity to it.'"
-Mary Von Aue, "A Radical Redo for "Madama Butterfly" - to Save It?", The New York Times