On Feb. 19 Puccini’s beloved “Madama Butterfly” will premiere in Anthony Minghella’s beloved production with acclaimed soprano Kristine Opolais.

The Music

The music for Madama Butterfly is among the most popular in the repertoire as Puccini was able to create a score filled with subtle colorings and sonorities throughout that emulate the Asian culture. One of the most memorable and inventive moments in the opera is a humming chorus.

However, the opera’s most iconic music is that of the title character Cio-Cio-San. Her music develops from that of a teenager with whimsical instances to that of a dramatic soprano who must have the skills to grip the audience at the tragic ending. The challenge for the singer is to have stamina that will allow for the two hour second act; more importantly she must be able to convey an array of emotions and characteristics.

The History

“Madama Butterfly” had its Met premiere in 1907 with Geraldine Farrar in the title role and Enrico Caruso in the role of Pinkerton. Arturo Vigna conducted the Met orchestra and chorus. That season the work was performed six times and then went on to remain in the repertoire, and Farrar went on to perform the role 139 times with the company and holds the record. Since its premiere the opera has been performed 856 time.

Among the most famed Cio Cio San’s to have performed with the company include Florence Easton, Licia Albanese in her Met debut, Dorothy Kirsten, Antonietta Stella, Gabriella Tucci, Martina Arroyo, Teresa Stratas, Leona Mitchell, Diana Soviero, Galina Gorchakova, Veronica Villaroel and Catherine Malfitano.

Among the most esteemed Pinkerton’s are James Melton, Giovanni Martinelli, Carlo Bergonzi, Gianni Raimondi, John Alexander, Richard Leech and Marco Berti.

Diva Renata Scotto made her Met debut in the role and also performed the role for her last performance with the company.

The Production

On Sept. 25 the Met opened its 2006-2007 season with “Madama Butterfly” in a new production by Academy Award winner Anthony Minghella. The cast was led by Cristina Gallardo-Domas and Marcello Giordani.

For his production Minghella employs Japanese theater including a Bunraku puppet to play Butterfly’s child. The puppet in many ways has been revered for being so real and playing better in many ways than a real-life child actor. Overall the staging is minimal, but it serves as a means to play on Liu’s imagination and dreams.

Since the production premiered many sopranos have performed the role to great acclaim, including Patricia Racette, who was featured on the Met live in HD broadcast, Liping Zhang in a rare Met appearance, Amanda Echalaz in her Met debut and Kristine Opolais.

Tenors James Valenti, Bryan Hymel, Robert Dean Smith and Roberto Alagna have all been featured in the production.

The Cast

Kristine Opolais will reprise her acclaimed interpretation of Cio Cio San. Latin Post raved about her performance and said her interpretation is “arguably one of the best of modern times.” The soprano has made an extraordinary career in works by Puccini and has performed “La Rondine” and “La Boheme” to great acclaim at the Met.

Read the entire feature here.