By Nino Pantano
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BENSONHURST â€” On Nov. 19, Brooklynâ€™s Regina Opera began its 42nd year with a visually compelling and vocally impressive performance of this heartbreaking masterpiece composed in 1904 by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924).
The part of the geisha Cio-Cio San (Madama Butterfly) was brilliantly sung by soprano Christina Rohm. Rohmâ€™s entrance aria â€śAncora Una Passo or Viaâ€ť caught our ears with its shimmering pure sound. Her ardent vocalism in â€śBimba Dagli Occhiâ€ť her love duet with Pinkerton, was thrilling.
In fact, it was more â€śsoloâ€ť than duet since her Pinkerton, tenor Michael Boley, was recovering from the flu and sang very cautiously, transposing downward at times. During Rohmâ€™s powerful, passionate singing of the popular â€śUn Bel Diâ€ť in the second act, her voice soared to the heavens.
When Sharpless, the American consul, asks Butterfly â€śWhat if Pinkerton does not return?â€ť Butterfly sings an aria â€śSai Cosâ€™ Ebbe Cuoreâ€ť that she would end up begging in the streets as a geisha. The music at this point and Rohmâ€™s poignant outpourings had many reaching for the Kleenex. Her final aria â€śTu, Tu Piccolo Iddioâ€ť sung to her child, â€śSorrowâ€ť, just before her suicide, was riveting. When those crashing frenzied chords signaled her demise, the level of tension was seismic.
B.F. Pinkerton was played by tenor Michael Boley, who had to withdraw after the first act due to illness. In his â€śAmore o Grilloâ€ť he revealed a pleasing plangent tenor. His replacement in the final act was the tenor from the alternate cast, Deryl Godshall. Godshall excelled in the trio with Sharpless and Suzuki, and his â€śAddio Fiorito Asilâ€ť was sung with passion and power. His final cries of â€śButterflyâ€ť from offstage added greatly to the dramas tragic end.
Rachael Binaco was a wonderful Suzuki, her mellow mezzo blending beautifully with Cio-Cio San in the Flower Duet. Who can forget her singing the phrase â€śPovera Butterfly?â€ť
Ricardo Rosa was a splendid Sharpless, his warm round baritone and compassionate demeanor added greatly in its contrast to Pinkertonâ€™s indifference. Rosaâ€™s artful singing of â€śDiavolo Pinkertonâ€ť made its mark.
Gregory Couba used his expressive tenor and great comedic skills and gave a scene stealing exhibition of â€ścomic reliefâ€ť as Goro, the marriage broker. Julian Whitley was a strong Prince Yamadori, a wealthy suitor to Cio-Cio San. His fine baritone and acting skills made him a sympathetic, long-suffering admirer. Bass Isaac Grier was a powerful threatening Bonze, uncle to Butterfly who denounces her at her wedding to Pinkerton, for insulting their ancestors by converting to Pinkertonâ€™s religion.
Kate Pinkerton has only a few lines but Heather Roberts warm sympathetic mezzo revealed her character to be an innocent part of a chain of events that she was not responsible for.
Steven Fasano impressed as the Imperial Commissioner, his mellifluous baritone always reliable. Daniel Kerr impressed as the registrar, his commanding bass gave credence to his authority. Nomi Joel Barkan was adorable as â€śSorrow,â€ť Butterflyâ€™s child. She is 3 years old and is a natural on the stage.
The Regina Orchestra of 35 musicians under the baton of conductor Scott Jackson Wiley had us mesmerized. Maestro Wiley made us hear all the tone poem richness and glory of this musical masterpiece! The chorus singing of the â€śHumming Chorusâ€ť was never lovelier.
The magnificent stage directing of Linda Lehr, with the use of three Kuroko figures in black, supposedly invisible, was inspired by the Bunraku Theater of Osaka. It led much of the action, which was superbly mimed by Alexis Thomason, Nicole Leone and Christina Hourihan.
The colorful and authentic costumes were the work of Julia Cornely. The effective lighting of Tyler Learned cast its spell. The excellent makeup was designed by Andrea Calabrese and Wayne Olsen, who also did the program and publicity graphics.
All of the performers and team earned the bravos that resounded in Regina Hall.
Thank you all at the Regina Opera! For info: www.regina opera.org
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