Madama Butterfly at the Lyric Opera of Chicago: A spectacular production

Madama Butterfly at the Lyric Opera of Chicago: A spectacular production
Lyric Opera Chicago Madama Butterfly Giacomo Puccini Ana María Martínez Brian Jagde © Todd Rosenberg 2020

It’s little surprise that the Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting Giacomo Puccini’s popular 1904 opera, “Madama Butterfly” for the sixteenth time. ‘Madama Butterfly” is one of the world’s most beloved operas and the Lyric’s newest production is near perfection in its execution from its outstanding cast, powerful arias and Humming Chorus.

The Story

In Nagasaki, a captivating geisha marries an American naval lieutenant. Her love for him is tested repeatedly — as her family disowns her, as he leaves Japan while promising to return eventually, and when his true intentions are finally revealed, with tragic consequences.

Here’s a glimpse:

The Artists

Ana María Martínez

as Japanese geisha, Cio-Cio-San February 6 – 29, Mar. 5 & 8butterflymartinez_ana_maria_260x325
Earlier this season the internationally renowned Puerto Rican-born soprano Ana María Martínez portrayed Puccini’s geisha at the Opéra National de Paris. She reprises the role in April at the Metropolitan Opera, where she triumphed as Cio-Cio-San in 2016. Her interpretation has also been hailed in Vienna, London, Houston, Washington, Munich, Los Angeles, and Santa Fe. Martínez’s exceptionally varied repertoire extends stylistically from Pamina/The Magic Flute (San Francisco, Vienna, Bonn, Stuttgart) to Carmen (Houston, Los Angeles, Santa Fe), Rusalka (Lyric, Glyndebourne, Houston, Buenos Aires), and Mélisande (Florence). Recent new roles include Paolina/Poliuto (Glyndebourne), Elisabetta/Don Carlo (Los Angeles, San Francisco) and Alice Ford/Falstaff (London’s Royal Opera). Last season Martínez returned to Spanish-language repertoire onstage with Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas (Miami, Houston) and Manuel Penella’s El Gato Montés (Los Angeles). She received great acclaim for the 2019 world premiere of Jimmy López’s oratorio Dreamers (Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting). The soprano serves as a Lyric cultural ambassador and Houston Grand Opera’s first-ever artistic advisor.

Lianna Haroutounian

as Japanese geisha, Cio-Cio-San, Lyric debut, March 4 & 7

butterflyharoutounian_lianna_260x325Puccini’s geisha has been a great success for the Armenian soprano in San Francisco, Seattle, Vienna, Hamburg, and Barcelona. Earlier this season she starred in Manon Lescaut (San Francisco Opera, having previously opened SFO’s 2018|19 season in Pagliacci), Tosca (Malmö Opera – new production), and Norma (Baluarte in Pamplona, Spain – role debut). Last season Haroutounian returned to Verdi with performances as Leonora/Il trovatore (Madrid) and Elisabetta/Don Carlo (Hamburg). She also sang the title role/Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta (Valencia). The soprano gained international recognition in 2013 as Elisabetta/Don Carlo at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The ROH subsequently presented her as Hélène/Les vêpres siciliennes (new production), Mimì/La bohème, and the Trovatore Leonora. Other highlights include Les vêpres siciliennes (Frankfurt Opera), Tosca (San Francisco), Don Carlo (Verbier Festival, Berlin Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Zurich Opera House, Metropolitan Opera), Amelia/Simon Boccanegra (Met), the title role/Adriana Lecouvreur (La Monnaie in Brussels), and Desdemona/Otello (Teatro Real Madrid, Opera Australia).

Brian Jagde 

as B. F. Pinkerton, February 6 – 29 and March 5 & 8

butterflyjagde_brian_260x325The American tenor began the current season in Cavalleria rusticana in Amsterdam, where he returns in June for Rusalka. Immediately following Lyric’s Butterfly, he will star as Cavaradossi/Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera. Jagde has scored many major successes in Puccini, including Madama Butterfly (San Francisco, London, Palermo, Washington, Hamburg), La bohème (Mexico City, Munich, Castleton Festival), Tosca (San Francisco, Santa Fe, Berlin, Naples, Stuttgart), Turandot (Zurich, Palermo, Berlin, San Francisco), and Il tabarro (Dresdner Philharmonie). He has also earned acclaim in other Italian spinto and dramatic-tenor repertoire, including Aida (Seattle, San Francisco), La forza del destino (Paris), La Gioconda (Barcelona, Moscow, Verona), and Adriana Lecouvreur (London). Jagde is celebrated as Don José/ Carmen (San Francisco, London, Naples, Munich). Among his more unfamiliar roles is the Stranger/ Korngold’s Das Wunder der Heliane (Deutsche Oper Berlin, new production). His concert appearances include Froh/Das Rheingold (New York Philharmonic) and the Verdi Requiem (Radio Filharmonisch Orkest at Amsterdam.

Brandon Jovanovich 

as B. F. Pinkerton  March 4 & 7 

butterflyjovanovich_brandon_260x325Previously at Lyric: Seven roles since 2009|10, most recently Siegmund/Die Walküre (2017|18); Don José/Carmen (2016|17). The renowned American tenor has previously earned acclaim as Pinkerton in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Stuttgart, and Toulon. Earlier this year he made his role debut as Samson/Samson et Dalila at the Berlin State Opera. Jovanovich returns to Lyric later this season in The Queen of Spades, Das Rheingold, and Die Walküre. Following Lyric’s Ring, he returns to the Bavarian State Opera in La fanciulla del West. His exceptional stylistic versatility encompasses works of Wagner (Lohengrin – San Francisco, Zurich, Berlin, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – San Francisco, Paris); Massenet (Werther – Lille); Strauss (Ariadne auf Naxos – Lyric, Boston, Munich); Janácek (Jenufa – Munich, Angers-Nantes, Katya Kabanova – Lyric); Shostakovich (Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Met, London); and in contemporary opera: Mieczysław Weinberg’s The Passenger (Lyric) Marco Tutino’s Senso (Palermo, world premiere), Walter Braunfels’s Die Vögel (Los Angeles), Richard Rodney Bennett’s The Mines of Sulphur (Glimmerglass Festival), Jonathan Dove’s Flight (St. Louis), and David Carlson’s Anna Karenina (Miami world premiere, reprise in St. Louis).

Other cast members include: Baritone Anthony Clark Evans as American consul Sharpless  mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel as Cio-Cio-San’s maid Suzuki and her little son Sorrow (Graham Macfarlane, Lyric debut) and marriage broker Goro (tenor Rodell Rosel.

Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási returns for Madama Butterfly after making his American debut at Lyric with Le nozze di Figaro (2015/16).

The Production

The original production was created by director Michael GrandageLouisa Muller is the revival director. Grandage’s longtime collaborator, Christopher Oram, designed sets and costumes. Two-time Tony Award-winner Neil Austin is the original lighting designer; Lyric’s lighting director Chris Maravich is the revival lighting designer. Michael Black is chorus master.

The Details

Performance dates for “Madama Butterfly” are: February 21, 24, 29; March 4, 5, 7, and 8. Performance times vary.
For tickets and information call 312.827.5600 or go to
Discount tickets: College students who are registered with Lyric’s NEXT student ticket program can buy tickets for just $20. Discount tickets are also available for children accompanied by adult ticket holders by calling 312.827.5600.
Running time: “Madama Butterfly” is performed in Italian with projected English translations. Estimated running time is 2 hours 50 minutes, including one 30-minute intermission.

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