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Monday, April 04, 2011

Madama Butterfly... A flawless performance...

Opera is an acquired taste and it is not for everyones palate, therefore I will not attempt to convince you of its beauty but rather leave that to your own recognizance. In my case, I have grown fond of the art form over the ensuing years of my life and have become quite a fan of the indispensable opera composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924). In 2010 I had the pleasure of sitting through Puccini's La Boheme by the Nevada Opera Theater, a performance that was so amazing it left me speechless and of course in tears. Just this past Sunday I sat down yet again with Puccini as the UNLV Opera Theater performed his classic work Madama Butterfly.

The performance could not have been more perfect and this rendition left me with a smile and of course a few tears trickling down my face. Like all of Puccini's works, and Madama Butterfly is no exception, they make you laugh and sadly all end in tragedy. This is the essence of a true Italian opera, one that lifts your spirits and then demonstrates unapologetically how fragile we are as humans.

Madama Butterfly is set in Nagasaki Japan during the early part of the 20th Century. At a time when the United States was still tinkering with its imperialistic tendencies, a young naval officer named B.F. Pinkerton travels the world to seek out its earthly pleasures with one of his ports-of-call being Japan. After consulting with a marriage broker Pinkerton is introduced to a young geisha named Cio-Cio-San or Butterfly and falls intoxicatedly in love with her. He buys a home and decides to marry her to the great chagrin of her family. But love hath no boundaries and she becomes a faithful servant to the American. Though three years have passed since she has seen him Butterfly is convinced he will come back to take care of her and their son.

The UNLV Opera Theater's performance demonstrated to me and the audience respectively, the absolute power of passionate artists. The performance by Martha Banks as Madama Butterfly was stunning, her powerful voice singing Ancora un Passo left the theater buzzing. As I walked out of the Judy Bayley Theater I over heard one audience member state "she has a future," referring to Banks. But of course Martha was not the only cast member and with powerful performances by Michael Smith as Lieutenant Pinkerton, La Toya Lain as Suzuki, Jonathan Napier-Morales as the US Consul and even a cameo by Carnell Johnson as Butterfly's Uncle only added to the drama.

The entire cast and of course the orchestra left all of us standing, clapping and hollering in approval for what seemed an eternity. Sadly the only thing that was missing were the flowers being thrown on stage by the audience.


To make a donation and support the UNLV Opera Theater please contact
Dr. Alfonse Anderson
Friends of the UNLV Opera Theater
University of Nevada Las Vegas
Department of Music
4505 Maryland Parkway Box 455025
Las Vegas, Nevada 89154

Brian Paco Alvarez enculturating Las Vegas into the millennium...

posted by Brian Paco Alvarez, Curator and Chronicler of Culture at


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