Monday, July 16, 2018

Composer Seabourne Not Afraid to Speak his Mind



INTERVIEW: Peter Seabourne

London
ERICA MINER

British composer Peter Seabourne’s accomplishments are so many and so varied that one can only speculate when he has found time for so-called “normal” pursuits such as eating and sleeping. Small wonder that he felt obligated to take a 12-year hiatus in the late 1980s in the midst of his flurry of compositional activity. 

Since then the UK-based Seabourne has doubled his compositional efforts, garnering numerous commissions and awards in international competitions for his solo, chamber and orchestral works and song cycles. His compositions show a combination of late 20th century lyricism and Bergian dissonance: at times melodic, at times opening a window into the angst of a composer of our time. I recently caught up with him to find out more about his background and works. 

Erica Miner: What events in your childhood led to your passion for music and desire to compose? 

Peter Seabourne: I was born in 1960. At the age of ten I moved to a large farmhouse to live with my grandmother. Both the isolation and her support fostered my love of music and a passion for composing. In 1980 I won a place at Clare College, Cambridge, studying composition with Robin Holloway, an inspirational figure, who tragically seems to have been ignored and forgotten. This is quite shocking as he has been commissioned multiple times by the proms, English National Opera, San Francisco Symphony, LSO, CBSO with Rattle and more. He is also a journalist, writing a music column for The Spectator for 22 years, has written three books on music, and taught a whole generation of leading British composers as professor at Cambridge—Weir, Adès, Watkins, Benjamin and others. He is woefully under-recorded for a composer of his stature. 

EM: It sounds as if he was an enormous influence for you. 

PS: I owe him a huge amount, both compositionally and philosophically. Though initially there was little stylistic common ground, some of his idiosyncratic single-mindedness was already reflected in the student pieces I produced. Jabberwocky (1984) was the first success, given by the group Endymion at the Camden Festival. 

EM: What was your next step? 

PS: Completing my degree in Music, I took a DPhil in Composition at York University with David Blake. A great number of works, varied in style and approach, were produced. Imber Song was a joint winner of the RVW Composition Prize and Nocturnes was awarded 2nd place in the Britten Prize in 1986. Performances followed on London's South Bank, with many more in festivals across the country. Fragilitá, one of five pieces selected by the Society for the Promotion of New Music, was performed at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London in 1993. 

EM: How would you describe your compositional style and other influences? 

PS: I would say my work has roots in the neo-Romantic tradition. Among my major compositional influences are, first and foremost the works of Janáček, then Mahler, Ravel, Prokofiev, Sibelius, and of course Robin Holloway. There is some kinship with other living composers such as Fabian Müller, Ståle Kleiberg, Judith Weir and David Matthews. 

EM: That is quite a variety. I definitely can hear the influence of Janáček in your 3rd Symphony. But there are certain uniquely distinctive characteristics in your music as well. 

PS: Yes, especially rhythmically. In particular the piano is very dear to me. It was my route back into composing after I had fallen silent for 12 years—and indeed disowned everything written before that time. Since 2001 I have worked with many incredible pianists, which has been one of life’s great joys, and I have learnt so much from it, and them! Starting to write these little piano pieces back in 2001 helped me to find my musical persona and refine my way of thinking. 

EM: What is your take on composition vis-à-vis the avant garde

PS: Overall, I have a feeling of increasing disconnection from much of the mid-late 20th century avant garde. Though many composers have now emerged to find another way, this black hole still frames the mindsets of promoters and broadcasters. Do not misunderstand me: I am not arguing for either populism or stagnant ultra-conservativism. But the legacy of much of the 20th century has been terrible for present day composers, indeed serious music as a whole. A generation of performers and audiences has been totally disengaged from the music of its own age because of it; perhaps the first time in musical history that this has been so. Much of the arts establishment of my own country seems to demand that composers jump though politically correct hoops to write works that are doomed to a cycle of première and oblivion. Thank goodness there are still parts of Europe where culture runs deeper! In Finland, for example, one can still “just” write a symphony…and be paid for it! 

EM: Are you comfortable with acknowledging your admiration for composers that preceded you who are not part of the so-called contemporary scene? 

PS: I embrace my musical heritage, even bits that I am not supposed to like (try mentioning Poulenc or Rachmaninov in new music circles and still witness the same reaction!). For me, warmth and communication are not signs of “cowardice in the face of the enemy.” Ultimately, if any serious music is to survive, we are in the hands of future performers who will want to play it, and future audience members who will pay to hear it. I could go on…but beware of composers who talk too much! 

EM: I admire your commitment to your beliefs. 

PS: The great French painter Toulouse-Lautrec once said, “In our time there are many artists who do something because it is new…they see their value and their justification in this newness. They are deceiving themselves…novelty is seldom the essential. (My work) has to do with one thing only…making a subject better from its intrinsic nature.” 

EM: Can you describe your work process, your composer’s world? 

PS: I think Mozart expressed it best: “When I am completely myself, entirely alone, it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how these come I know not.” I could not have described it better. 

EM: As a writer, I totally relate to that. What are some of your most recent works that you feel deserve mention? 

PS: My solo piano series Steps, which consists of six large volumes. Five are cycles, the other a collection. All except the new 6th are on CD with many excellent reviews in leading journals like Gramophone, Piano News, and International Piano and have been quite widely performed. The six Steps sets are a sort of backbone to my musical output. I call them my “traveling companion” and I see the project as having a long way yet to run. It has also seeded the rest of my output: five concerti, four symphonies, many chamber works and song sets. Symphony of Roses (inspired by Yeats poems) has been broadcast twice in Switzerland and also Estonia and Portugal. Also my Violin Concerto below and the shorter work Tu Sospiri? 

EM: What is coming up next for you? 

PS: Volume 6 of Steps will be recorded next year by the great Konstantin Lifschitz, for whom it was written, along with the Bach Toccatas. Prior to that my new horn/piano rhapsody, The Black Pegasus, will be premiered in Osaka by my great friend and champion Ondrej Vrabec. I have been commissioned to write a short viola/piano work by a concert society in Germany for premiere next year, and I believe I am about to be asked for a double concerto for cello, piano and strings, also in Germany. Also underway are a piano for Avant Trio, and my 3rd Piano Concerto. I have also “mentally begun” the next Steps cycle, No.7. My longer-term plan is to continue my symphony cycle, so I am pining to get on and write the 5th if somebody would like to commission it! I feel my voice and musical landscape is now quite settled. It’s a matter of finding the time to complete the long list of pieces I still have in me.

EM: I see the wheels continue to turn! Thanks so very much, Peter, for sharing your insights with us.



A list of Peter Seabourne’s works can be found on Wikipedia and videos on his website

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Photo credits: courtesy of the artist
Erica Miner can be reached at: eminer5472@gmail.com

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

More Gifted Young iPalpiti Soloists at Rolling Hills


Duo de Ascaniis: Davide and Sara de Ascaniis.

REVIEW

Duo de Ascaniis, Second Sundays at Two, Rolling Hills United Methodist Church
DAVID J BROWN

It is a paradox that, in a life as short and as crowded with compositional activity as was that of Franz Schubert, so many of the works produced in those few years, particularly the last two of them, are not only exceptionally spacious but also convey, in their harmonic and melodic processes, a sense of revealing potentially limitless expressive possibilities. 

This is certainly true of the opening Andante molto section of Schubert’s Fantasie in C major D.934, Op.159, written at the end of 1827 and notably headed “for pianoforte and violin” (rather than the other way around) when it was posthumously published. The complex tremolando-laden accompaniment to the almost static, hovering pianissimo violin line above certainly justifies this primacy, as does the piano part’s ongoing elaboration, both independently and when partnering the violin, throughout the work’s 20+ minutes’ duration. 

Schubert in 1825: Portrait by Wilhelm August Rieder.
Both elements in that opening were projected with the proper sense of suspended animation but quiet portent by siblings Davide and Sara de Ascaniis, two Italian members of this year's intake by iPalpiti of highly gifted young performers from many countries. Their performance of the work was the main item in the final “Second Sundays at Two” concert of RHUMC's 2017-2018 season.

Paradoxically again, though, this introduction for all its breadth is actually quite short, and after only 36 measures Schubert sideslips into the allegretto second section. This usually comes across as a lighthearted, almost teasing follow-on, but the Duo made its sprightliness unusually vehement, even angry, in tone, with some sacrifice of light and shade in its later stages. 

Again Schubert comes to a halt, more questioning this time, and then the third, Andantino, section arrives as a set of variations on the song Sei mir gegrüßt ("I greet you!") D.741, Op.20 No.1, dating from some six years earlier. Though only four in number, the variations are lengthy and include several repeats, which regrettably the Duo did not observe. For me this threw Schubert’s carefully weighted structure out of balance, and marred what continued otherwise to be a fine performance through the remaining three sections. 

Leos Janáček. 
Contrary to what was on the program leaflet, the Schubert was played second, not first, and with the change of order unannounced this made the abrupt violin sforzando from Signor de Ascaniis that opens the Con moto first movement of Janáček’s Violin Sonata JW.7/7, composed in 1914, even more of a shock than it would have been to an audience not expecting instead Schubert’s gentle piano oscillations.

This was also a fine performance – indeed I wonder whether Janáček’s unique, shrilly ecstatic, sound-world, in the hands of these fine performers sounding particularly spontaneous and improvisatory, did not suit them rather more than that of late Schubert – but even in a work as concise as this they did not see fit to observe the structurally important repeat in the first movement. Even with it the movement lasts less than five minutes, and the whole four-movement sonata not much more than 15, so its omission was simply inexplicable.

Igor Frolov.
Due partly to the loss of these repeats, the given program of just the two works was over inside of 40 minutes, so that after an on-stage interview by RHUMC Director of Music Charles Dickerson with Laura Schmieder, wife of iPalpiti founder Eduard Schmieder, the Duo still had time for a substantial encore.

Unfortunately, the Concert Fantasy on Themes from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, Op.19, composed in 1991 by the Russian Igor Frolov (1937-2013), was for me not so much substantial as interminable. Highly virtuosic and demanding for both performers, it distorts and distends the familiar tunes unmercifully, and certainly did nothing to help my general aversion to Gershwin. However, judging by the enthusiastic applause this highly gifted duo received when the piece was finally over, no-one else in the audience felt the same about it. 

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Rolling Hills United Methodist Church, Sunday, July 10 2018, 7.30 p.m.
Images: Duo de Ascaniis: Courtesy Fondazione Gioventù Musicale d’Italia; Schubert: Wikimedia CommonsJanáček: Robert Greenberg Music; Frolov: Classical Music Online.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

P.O.P. does West Coast Premiere of Rossini's La gazzetta


Members of the cast of Pacific Opera Project’s production of Rossini’s ‘La gazzetta’ take a swig.
(Photos by Martha Benedict)
OPERA (First published in Classical Voice North America
Pacific Opera Project, Los Angeles 
RODNEY PUNT

What happens to you if you’re a Rossini opera that receives its premiere in between Il barbiere di Siviglia and La Cenerentola, both of which become smash hits? If your title is La gazzetta (The Newspaper), you languish in obscurity for two centuries. Adding insult to injury, your overture gets appropriated for a Cinderella story. But if you wait long enough, there is a happy ending.

Scott Ziemann, Jessie Shulman, and Kyle Paterson read all about it.
Call it a retro-chic revival.  In 2001, just as newspapers began to die out, this Neapolitan confection was suddenly rediscovered, and it enjoyed productions in major European cities and in Boston, spurred by a new critical edition by Stefano Scipioni and Philip Gossett. On June 28, that version of La gazzetta, with one augmentation, received its West Coast premiere in a production by Pacific Opera Project, enchanting its capacity audience at the Highland Park Ebell Club. Remaining performances are scheduled for July 6 and 7.
The added feature, not in the work from its 1816 premiere until the current decade, was the restoration of a lost quintet that ends the first of the work’s two acts, discovered as recently as 2011. (Gossett was able to authenticate it before he died last year, a final flourish to a storied musicological career.) The quintet is a highlight, partly because some of its tunes are familiar from Il barbiere di Siviglia but mostly because its vocal accelerando works itself into a frenzy, becoming the biggest single rouser in an evening full of them.
(See the rest of the review at Classical Voice North America.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Transfigured Night in Mount Wilson’s Great Dome



REVIEW

Brahms, Babcock, and Schoenberg, Mount Wilson Observatory
DAVID J BROWN

The 100-inch mirror, crated and standing vertically in the
back, being driven up the Mount Wilson Toll Road in 1917.
On its lofty, clear-aired, pine-clad eyrie in the San Gabriel Mountains, thousands of feet above the smog of Los Angeles, the Mount Wilson Observatory is in the midst of a golden celebratory period. Last November saw the centenary of first light for the 100-inch Hooker telescope, and now in 2018 the sesquicentenary of the birth of George Ellery Hale (1868-1938), founder and first Director of the Observatory, is being celebrated with open days including tours, astronomy lectures, viewings through the 100-inch and 60-inch telescopes, and general enhancement of the Observatory’s public face. 

Most importantly (it could be argued), for these last two years Mount Wilson’s enlightened management has also added music to the mix, with chamber concerts programmed under the Artistic Directorship of the ‘cellist Cécilia Tsan and performed on the first Sunday afternoons of each month from May through October in the marvelous acoustic of the 100-inch telescope dome, some of which have already been reviewed on LA Opus here, here, and here.

The weekend of 30 June/July 1, being the closest to Hale’s 150th birthday, was the climax of the celebrations, and on the Sunday afternoon it fittingly brought what was to my ears the finest concert yet (this was the 3 p.m. performance – as is customary in this series, the program was repeated again at 5 p.m. after a wine-and-cheese reception included in the ticket price). 


l-r: Tereza Stanislav, Alma Fernandez, Bruce Babcock, Cécilia Tsan, Jessica Guideri,
Rob Brophy, Eric Byers.
Not to begin with a downer, but I’m still uncomfortable about extracting single movements from multi-movement pieces, even though Brahms himself transcribed just the second movement of his String Sextet No.1 in B-flat major Op. 18 as a birthday present for Clara Schumann. If anything might sway opinion, though, it would be a performance of the movement in its original form as eloquent as the one by Ms. Tsan and her colleagues Tereza Stanislav and Jessica Guideri (violins), Rob Brophy and Alma Fernandez (violas), and Eric Byers (‘cello), which opened the concert.  

Marked Allegro ma Moderato, this movement takes the form of a theme and six variations; the first three and the fifth of them are all in two eight-measure halves both marked to be repeated, and it was immediately indicative of the thoughtfulness of this performance that the second-half repeat of the first variation was distinguished by an unmarked drop to pianissimo by the first violin, lending extra tenderness and dynamic range to what can become a rather obviously formulaic structural device in less skilled hands. 

Following this, the rushing up-and-down forte scales from the two ‘cellos in the fourth variation were particularly rich and sonorous, enhanced as they were by Hale’s great steel dome, and the long dying fall of the sixth and final variation only made it the more regrettable that the performance had not been preceded by and was not proceeding to the subsequent movements. Maybe in a future concert we can hear the full radiant expanse of this work, or its companion String Sextet No.2 in G major

Bruce Babcock.
As a Brit immigrant still finding my musical way around here, I had not previously encountered any music by the LA-born and based composer Bruce Babcock, but I am glad that I now have. His string quartet Watcher of the Sky was commissioned to mark the Hale anniversary, and to introduce the performance, Mr. Babcock outlined his family’s connection with the astronomer, beginning in 1893 when at the Chicago World’s Fair his grandfather as a child saw the then world’s largest telescope, the 40-inch refractor built by Hale and still in operation at Yerkes Observatory (the rest of the story can be read here). 

George Ellery Hale
in his 20s.
The quartet is in four movements, titled “In 1903” (when grandfather Harold Delos Babcock wrote a poem based on Hale’s first trip up the mountain on horseback), “Night of the First Light” (November 2, 1917, for the 100-inch), “1938” (the year of Hale’s death), and “Palomar” (the other mountain location of Hale’s last and greatest telescope, his 200-inch reflector).

All four are brief (around three minutes each), medium-paced, and opening with bold, clear melodic statements rather Coplandesque in their wide-spanning gait, though I am sure greater familiarity would reveal more clearly the work’s own individuality, as well as, perhaps, other American antecedents. The total effect is rather more that of a short suite of easy-going meditations than a cumulative, developmental work, but saved from any feeling of sameness by finely calculated textural shifts within each movement, such as the agitated rhythmic interchanges suddenly introduced into the first. 

The string quartet as a compositional medium is often described as “challenging” or ‘difficult”, but here Mr. Babcock seemed thoroughly comfortable with it, balancing and exploiting with apparent ease the individual and collective resources of the four instruments. One’s only regret is that a long and fruitful career in TV and movie music seems not to have allowed time for the creation of many concert works… let's hope there are more to come. 

“Blue” self-portrait by
Arnold Schoenberg, 1910.
I’m sure both Mr. Babcock and the shade of Brahms will forgive me for saying that their items were just starters to the concert's main course, Schoenberg’s fin de siècle first masterpiece, Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) for string sextet, composed in 1899 at the age of 25. Expansive in scale at nearly 30 minutes’ unbroken duration and already starting to push the boundaries of tonality (an early comment was that it was “as though someone had smeared the score to Tristan und Isolde when the ink was still wet”), it drives all six instruments to extremes of expressivity and technique in the service of a hyper-romantic and sensual program (the note generously printed the whole poem by Richard Dehmel on which it is based, though in a rather lumpen translation – “He grasps her around her ample hips”, anyone?). 

These marvelous players were fully equal to the score’s exceptional demands, articulating clearly the intricate contrapuntal layering woven through the work for much of its length, and projecting wave upon wave of increasingly tumultuous climaxes until the resolution was at last attained. Could that final plateau of calm, where the first violin floats above hushed oscillating sextuplets on the second violin against soft harmonies from the other four strings, have been taken even more spaciously? Perhaps, but the final effect of exhaustive, even exhausting, emotional catharsis (Schoenberg’s first private pupil, the distinguished composer Egon Wellesz, confessed that for him Verklärte Nacht suffers from “an excess of climax”) stayed with this listener, and I know for more than one other, long after the performance ended.

"Verklärte Nacht", 1975: Silver gelatin print, by Rolf Koppel.

This was a wonderful continuation of Mount Wilson’s current season: still to come are works for string quartet on 5 August, jazz on 2 September, and to conclude, more string quartets (two of the greatest, by Schubert and Debussy) on 7 October: details at the concert web page or by emailing concerts@mtwilson.edu. 

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100-Inch Telescope Dome, Mount Wilson Observatory, Sunday 1 July 2018, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Photos: Mount Wilson from the air: Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis, courtesy Los Angeles Magazine; Transporting the 100-inch mirror: Carnegie/Huntington Library; The performers: Courtesy Cécilia Tsan; George Ellery Hale: University of Chicago Photographic Archive; Bruce Babcock: Mount Wilson Observatory; “Verklärte Nacht”: Courtesy the artist; Schoenberg: Arnold Schönberg Center.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Santa Fe’s ‘Butterfly’ Portrays Land of the Setting Sun

Kelly Kaduce as Cio-Cio San

REVIEW: Santa Fe Opera

John Crosby Theatre
ERICA MINER

When Madame Butterfly premiered in Milan 1904, Puccini was at the height of his compositional powers. This perennial masterpiece may be seen in contemporary terms as sexist, racist and sordidly insensitive, with its theme of a young, vulnerable woman being sold to an American naval officer. Indeed, on its opening night the opera was greeted with widespread audience discontent. The character of Pinkerton was considered so nasty and distasteful, the role had to be expanded to make sure tenors would be willing to play it. But the music remains timeless.

Told from the point of view of an Asian woman, the work was adapted from a short story by American John Luther Long (who bore an uncanny physical resemblance to Puccini), which was inspired by the famous French novelist Pierre Loti’s semi-autobiographical Madame Chrysanthème. (Loti was also a naval officer - perhaps even a gentleman - and an almost exact contemporary of Puccini.) Legendary American playwright and stage director David Belasco then adapted Long’s story into a play, Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan, which formed the basis for Puccini’s opera. 

The opera’s 1904 premiere was a disaster for many reasons, not least of which was public outrage at star soprano Storchio’s affair with the conductor, Toscanini. But such occurrences do not necessarily portend catastrophe for an operatic oeuvre (witness Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, which bombed at its first performance and went on to become the composer’s most popular work). Puccini ignored the shocked, discontented reactions of his opening night audience as he went back to the drawing board to work with librettists Giacosa and Illica, and the second version was performed to great success. Three subsequent renderings were made, until the final, “standard” version most often performed today was completed in 1907. In all of the later representations, the composer refused to tone down the harsh realities of the story.

Kaduce
The most compelling reason why Madame Butterfly has become one of the most popular operas of all time, even in our current era of social awareness, is that despite its often cringeworthy character portrayals and plot developments, the music transcends all. One overcomes one’s distaste for the exploitation depicted, simply because the music’s radiance obliterates any dramatic negativity. This Santa Fe production proved worthy of the music’s luminosity.

No matter how we view her plight in contemporary terms, we identify with Butterfly; not only her vulnerability but her fierce determination to protect her child against all odds. In addition to a lovely stage presence, soprano Kelly Kaduce projected a convincing dramatic attachment to the character of Cio-Cio San. Kaduce, who has proved herself equally at home in traditional and contemporary repertoire, was mesmerizing to watch. She demonstrated a deep understanding of the gamut of Butterfly’s emotions, transforming from the artless, inexperienced teenager with a naively expectant view of the world into the bitter, more mature woman; yet somehow maintaining a modicum of childlike innocence, up until the moment when she comprehends the extent of Pinkerton’s betrayal. 

Vocally, however, Kaduce was uneven. A wide vibrato detracted from the beauty of her phrasing, and though some of her high notes came across with conviction, she was unable to sustain them effectively.

In his Santa Fe Opera debut, former SFeO apprentice A.J. Glueckert made a valuable contribution as Pinkerton. Vocally, he was admirably consistent from top to bottom. In the first act, his voice sounded overly aggressive and forced, especially in the love scene; but in the last act, the beautiful aspects of his voice came through, and he was a pleasure to hear.  Nicholas Pallesen’s SFeO debut as Sharpless was excellent. Another former apprentice, Pallesen is also a motivational speaker, and it showed. He brought dramatic urgency to a role that is often underplayed, and his top notes projected well.
A. J. Glueckert as Pinkerton

Even from his short span onstage as the Bonze, American bass Soloman Howard made a lasting impression with depth of his low notes and the enormity of his voice. Tenor Matthew Dibattista gave a sensitive portrayal of the marriage broker Goro: not as gritty as is often done.

Also a former SFeO apprentice, Megan Marino made a noteworthy debut as Suzuki. Her voice was not opulent but it had a lovely quality: neither too heavy nor too light, it sounded effortless and she showed herself capable of capturing the subtleties in what is largely a thankless role. Marino's portrayal of the unconditionally devoted servant was heartbreaking. Her angst was palpable, and she made the contrast between her own grasp on reality versus that of her mistress painfully clear without being too obvious.

In this production, originally conceived by the late Lee Blakeley, director Matthew Ozawa, in his SFeO debut, kept the action flowing, and there were nice touches here and there in the interaction between the characters. At issue was his decision to have the child handle the knife after Butterfly’s suicide; it was inappropriate, and more than a bit jarring.

Megan Marino as Suzuki
Conductor John Fiore did a creditable job of keeping a consistent flow in Puccini’s score. His tempi were effective, and he kept a good volume balance between pit and stage, so that the singers for the most part were easily heard.

Jean-Marc Puissant’s bold set designs were the star of the production. He combined the minimalist lines of Butterfly’s traditional-styled house, framed by a hint of cherry blossoms, and set them against a sky with a large, golden globe symbolizing the “rising sun” that has played such an important role in Japanese mythology and religion (the Japanese Emperor is thought to be the direct descendant of sun goddess). The disappearance of sun and the appearance of the full moon portend Cio-Cio San’s undoing. The glowing background and exquisite appearance of the Shoji screens of Butterfly’s abode in the first act provides a stark and effective contrast to the glaringly contemporary electric lights adjoining her downtrodden house in the second and third acts.

Rick Fisher’s nuanced lighting complemented the sets beautifully, combining with the subtle changes of the theatre’s natural background of sky, clouds and mountains to create stunning visuals. Especially effective was the first act entrance of the Japanese women, silhouetted against the glowing sun in the background. Belasco would have approved of the striking sunsets set against the dramatic backdrop of the Santa Fe mountain ranges.

Kaduce
Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s costumes, which debuted in Santa Fe’s 2010 Madame Butterfly, were fittingly traditional and pleasing to the eye.

What was puzzling in this production was the use of a variant of Puccini’s score that resulted in added characters, music and texts beyond what is traditionally performed in this opera. These additions detracted from the flow of the action,  especially in the first act scene with Butterfly’s relatives, and made the performance unnecessarily long.

Santa Fe Opera's Madame Butterfly is performed through Aug. 24.






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All photos by Ken Howard, courtesy of Santa Fe Opera.

Erica Miner can be reached at: eminer5472@gmail.com