Madama Butterfly

butter5

Madama Butterfly 2000 Performance

 

Poster Design by
© Heins Creative

Opera director enjoys Billings
CHRISTENE MEYERS Gazette Arts & Entertainment Editor | Posted: Sunday, October 22, 2000 11:00 pm

Food, wine and theater. Travel and opera.
These are a few of his favorite things.
But, for Douglas Nagel, opera would definitely have to head the list. The other elements follow suit, since opera inspires every aspect of Nagel’s life.
His production of “Madama Butterfly” hits the boards in Billings in early November, the fall effort of the fledgling Rimrock Opera Company.

For Nagel, a Billings native, it’s an opportunity to return to the city to be with his family and to give something back to the community in which he grew up.
“Oh, this is just too much fun,” he sighs, happily putting makeup on his Butterfly for a rehearsal and press photo session. “I have the best of both worlds, and I feel very fortunate.”

By that, the flamboyant bass-baritone means that he can sidetrack for a time from his international opera career, return to his hometown to get the nation’s newest opera company off the ground and keep his hand in touring as the company establishes itself.

And, he says, after traveling Europe, “it’s wonderful to find how the restaurant scene in Billings has grown – believe me, light years from when I grew up here.”

For now, he says, “my attentions are completely here.” To emphasize, he plants his executive directors’ feet on the Losekamp Hall stage and seals the statement with a click of his heels.

Nagel, 40, got his musical start singing in area grade schools and on Easter Eve for services at Holy Rosary Church. He saw his first opera as a teenager and was hooked on the artform.

After graduating from Central High, Nagel attended Rocky Mountain College, then graduated from University of Wyoming.

For the past 18 or so years, he’s sung and toured with Pacific Repertory Opera, the San Jose Symphony, Arizona Opera, Greater Buffalo Opera, Virginia Opera and other companies. He has appeared on PBS and the BBC, which broadcast a production in which he sang at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall.

Before Billings, Nagel’s recent involvement was with the Rogue Valley Opera, directing “La Boheme” and “Die Fledermaus,” two of opera’s war horses.
Last year, he appeared as Dr. Bartolo in Rimrock Opera’s first production, Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” starring the late Pablo Elvira. Other nationally acclaimed singers joined him, with sets and costumes from New York and a 30-piece live orchestra.

“But we put it together in just under two weeks, and I wanted a bit more leisure this year,” Nagel says. “We have almost three weeks, and it feels very comfortable.”

Using contacts on the West Coast and calling upon opera-singing buddies, Nagel assembled a crackerjack cast for “Butterfly.”
“Most of my leads have done their parts elsewhere, and that’s a big advantage,” he says.

“And the chorus has been rehearsing evenings. The musicians have their scores, and we’ll actually have about 10 rehearsals together and the last week with the conductor.”

Nagel is particularly proud of securing Barbara Day Turner as conductor. She is founder and music director of the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and has conducted nearly 50 operas, including four world premieres.

For the part of the doomed Japanese geisha who has a child with the American Pinkerton, he has Keiko Kagawa-Hamilton, a San Francisco-area singer with international credits and the important advantage of having a Japanese heritage.

“She really understands the torment that Cio-Cio San feels and the ultimate sacrifice she ultimately makes for her son to have a secure future,” Nagel says.

Nagel’s Pinkerton, too, has solid credits, having performed extensively throughout the Bay Area and recently at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.
For the role of Sharpless, the consulate and Pinkerton’s associate, Nagel is thrilled to have secured Brian Leerhuber, recently an artist in residence with the Juilliard Opera Center.

Cio-Cio San’s maid, Suzuki, will be sung by British-born Elspeth Franks, whose versatility has won her supporting roles as diverse as Orlofsky, Ernesto and Bianca.

“She one of the busiest and most sought after singers on the West Coast,” Nagel says.

Dorinda Doolittle, his assistant director, is an old friend from his Rogue Valley stint in Oregon. And Billings Symphony Chorale director David Barnett is chorus master, working with the singers for several months.

Nagel has performed with many of the supporting actors and singers, including well-known area voices such as Ed Harris, Gregory Paul Johnson and Leonard Orth. He’s enticed his fellow opera buffs to organize a group, Phantoms of the Opera, which will combine the opera with a gourmet dinner and reception.

Finally, he says with delight, “Tickets are selling very, very well. We hope to sell it out.”

It’s a tremendous help to have grown up in the region, Nagel says.
“I feel really honored to be putting the production together here, blending our own great resources and superb talent from other places,” he notes. “They are all, by the way, completely smitten by Montana.”
–Christene Meyers


Opera company in final days of rehearsal
CHRISTENE MEYERS Gazette Arts & Entertainment Editor | Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2000 11:00 pm

The guest artists are in town, the costumes and sets have arrived, the maestra is at the podium and “Madama Butterfly” is days from taking flight.
The fully staged opera, featuring nationally known stars, has been in planning for more than a year and in full rehearsal since Oct. 16, when the principals began arriving.

“We’re staying in host homes, which gives us a pleasant introduction to the community,” says British-born Elspeth Franks.

She is staying with singers Donald and Maxine Pihlaja, long involved in Billings’ musical scene. Franks, who plays the part of Cio-Cio San’s maid, Suzuki, says that having nearly three weeks’ rehearsal “is a rare luxury – we’re all feeling quite comfortable with the production and have a real sense of unity.”
Franks, born in Manchester, England, is an old friend and musical associate of Rimrock Opera Company’s artistic director, Douglas Nagel.

“Madama Butterfly” plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, and 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, at the Alberta Bair Theater. For more information, see the Friday, Nov. 3, Enjoy. Call 256-6052 for tickets.

“We’ve worked together in the Bay Area on several operas,” Franks says, “and he knows how much I enjoy this part.”
She says her friendship with Japanese born Keiko Kagawa-Hamilton, who plays Cio-Cio San is also helpful.

“We’ve bumped into one another in the Bay Area, and that’s all helpful,” she says. “And I’ve worked with Lee (Gregory), too, so it feels a bit like a big, happy family.”

Gregory plays the role of Pinkerton, the American who falls in love with Cio-Cio San and fathers her child. The three have several scenes together.
“And I met Brian Leerhuber on the plane, and we felt like old friends,” she says.

Leerhuber plays Sharpless, from the American consulate, the character who tells Cio-Cio San that her lover has taken an American wife and is returning to America without her.

Nagel said that two weeks’ rehearsal for last year’s “The Marriage of Figaro” didn’t seem like quite enough time, “and this feels much more comfortable.”
He was thrilled that conductor Barbara Day Turner arrived early and that the orchestra knew the score on the first run-through.

“It put us way ahead of the game, and she was delighted,” Nagel said.
For singer Leerhuber, a Los Angeles native, recently an artist in residence with New York’s Juilliard Opera Center, “It’s wonderful that your town is so musically savvy.

“I think ‘Butterfly’ is a good one for the community. It’s easy for the audience to get into. People who love opera love it, but it’s also easy even for people who haven’t seen much opera.”

“It’s a good length – under three hours. And we have strong singers, good musicians and flashy costumes,” he says

For David Cody, who plays Goro, “It’s a good story. Yes, a tragedy, but very human and sympathetic characters. They live their lives and make decisions. There’s a strong moral undertone, too, about doing ‘the right’ thing.”
Cody has played his role before and says that helps enormously in putting a new production together.

“You’re freer to concentrate on other nuances and the specific details of the new production if you’re already comfortable with the role,” he says.
For the Pinkerton character, “I’ve done the role in Santa Cruz and elsewhere, and I’ve worked with Elsbeth and knew Douglas. That puts us halfway there when we get together.”

With the mechanics under control, the singers agree, they can work on the subtleties of their characters.

Gregory says he hopes to paint Pinkerton as “a believable, sympathetic character.”

“He is a typical, turn-of-the-century American male. America ruled the world, and he took what he wanted,” Gregory says. “But he does truly love Cio-Cio San, and that complicates things.”

Gregory says it would be easy to play Pinkerton as a villain, “but this is no cookie-cutter human being.”

For this final rehearsal week, the principals ran through the work Saturday and Sunday, with the orchestra. The first full technical rehearsal was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, with a full dress rehearsal with orchestra Tuesday.

Wednesday is final dress rehearsal and Thursday is a dark day, with “nothing assigned, a well-deserved day off,” Nagel says.
–Christene Meyers


Soprano, mezzo and conductor form key spokes of musical wheel
CHRISTENE MEYERS Gazette Entertainment Editor | Posted: Wednesday, November 1, 2000 11:00 pm

Three strong women are integral points of a triangle in next weekend’s Rimrock Opera production of “Madama Butterfly.”

All three bring unique contributions to the mix in what artistic director Douglas Nagel calls “a very exciting production. We had the first orchestra run-through Monday and it was thrilling. We have top musicians.”
In fact, he’s bursting with pride about the production, from the orchestra pit to the leading singer.

Having a Japanese heritage gives a big leg-up to Keiko Kagawa-Hamilton, who plays the leading role of the ill-fated courtesan, Cio-Cio San.

“I actually have samurai blood on my mother’s side of the family,” says Keiko, “and I have her as a resource for figuring out my character.”

When Cio-Cio San falls in love with Pinkerton, she becomes pregnant with his child.

“She loves the child enormously,” says Keiko, “and she wants a good life for him. But she knows she can’t raise him by herself.”

Thus, she reasons, “her decision to commit suicide is an act of bravery and generosity. And because she comes from a noble background, even though she’s fallen on hard times, she will not disgrace herself.”

Keiko, a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, also studied music in her native Japan, at a top private music School in Tokyo, the Kunitachi College of Music. Her operatic roles include critically acclaimed performances as Cio-Cio San with North Bay Opera and San Francisco Lyric Opera.

“It’s fun to be reviving the role now with your Rimrock Opera,” she says, “and I love the countryside. Parts of it remind me of Japan.”

Born near Hiroshima, Keiko has been in the U.S. for many years, leaning perfect English and playing many European roles.

She will do Nedda in “I Pagliacci” with S.F. Lyric Opera, and favorite past roles include Fiordiligi in “Cosi fan Tutte,” Donna Anna in “Don Giovanni,” the First Lady in “Christopher Sly,” and the Mother in “Hansel and Gretel.”
“I asked my mother to come to Montana for the production,” she says, “but she doesn’t travel as much as she once did. But I think she would have felt very happy here.”

As homage to her heritage, the well reviewed and busy soprano is director of Choral Cosmo, a Silicon Valley based Japanese chorus, and she teaches privately, giving both piano and voice lessons to about 50 students, including several talented Japanese students.

Singing with her in “Butterfly” is mezzo-soprano Elspeth Franks, a fellow Californian who has played a huge range of roles, including parts usually taken by males.

“I play boys and old bags,” says Elspeth, with a laugh. “That’s my lot, it seems, so I’m delighted to play the part of Suzuki, with all its lyricism.”
Elspeth sees Suzuki as a sympathetic character, “who really understands the intricacy of the romance” between her mistress and Pinkerton.

“She is a bit older, a bit less na’efve, and she sees what is happening,” Elspeth says, “while Cio-Cio San may be a bit more unworldly.”

The opera is a “prop nightmare” for Suzuki, Elspeth says, “because she produces all the props used by nearly everyone.”

And, she says, “My knees are a wreck by the end, from all the sitting and bowing and ups and downs.”

The singer is one of the West Coast’s most courted, Nagel says, because of her “trouser-role” versatility and repertoire as Cherubino, Hansel, Octavian, Nerone, Luzauli and Prince Orlofsky. But Elspeth says she’ll “wear a skirt when absolutely necessary” and has done so in roles with Rogue Opera, West Bay Opera, and Teatro Bac-chino in Berkeley, Calif.

Conductor Barbara Day Turner recently completed 15 years serving as Opera San Jose’s resident conductor and artistic administrator.

She worked with Nagel during both her San Jose days, and during production of “The Merry Wid-ow,” with the Rogue Valley Opera in Oregon.

She is also proud of her work the El Paso Opera, Texas All-State Orchestra, North Arkansas Symphony and the well respected Bay Area Women’s Philharmon-ic.

For eight years, Turner was conductor of the San Jose State University Symphony and Chamber Orchestras and lecturer in conducting and harpsichord, a personal love of hers. She studied harpsichord with the late Fernando Valenti and has appeared with most of the Bay Area’s orchestras, including the San Jose Symphony, Oakland/East Bay Symphony, Sinfonia San Francisco and the Midsummer Mozart Festival Orchestra of San Francisco.
An ardent advocate for contemporary composers, Turner has premiered more than 30 new works in the past 10 years and recently released, with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra, a CD recording of four works written in the past five years. A second CD of new work is set to be recorded in the fall of 2000.
An inveterate traveler, she’ll be conducting “Lucia di Lammer-more” for Taconic Opera in New York, and is planning a concert with the symphony orchestra of Rudolstadt, Germany, and a repeat engagement conducting the “Sing It Yourself Messiah” at Davies Hall in San Francisco this December.
MORE INFO Rimrock Opera Co. presents a preview of “Madama Butterfly” this Sunday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. in Losekamp Hall on the RMC campus. The preview is free and features musical excerpts. The complete production with full orchestra, lavish costumes and sets and “supra-titles” is Nov. 3 and 5 at the ABT. Call (406) 256-6052.



Opera inviting, even to neophyte
BECKY SHAY Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Friday, November 3, 2000 11:00 pm

What I know about opera fits in a thimble.
That statement made, here’s what I think about Rimrock Opera’s Friday performance of Madama Butterfly:
Wow!

Powerful, moving singing and orchestra performances. Beautifully designed sets. Lighting that added a fabulous effect.
And, much to my surprise, laughter from the crowd and sarcasm from the characters.

As producer and director Douglas Nagel said at the beginning of the opera, “We have a plethora of local talent,” and they were joined by phenomenal, nationally recognized talent.

The English titles projected above the stage helped outline the specifics of a fairly simple story line, but the acting and emotion in the singing did more to carry me along through the nearly three-hour performance. (There are two intermissions.)

Keiko Kagawa-Hamilton’s performance as Madama Butterfly, Cio-Cio San, was probably the most emotional portrayal. While her soprano voice at times seemed rather soft, she also had the ability to project over the orchestra and the male lead, Lee Gregory, with amazing strength. It was her emotion-packed performance in the second act – while she waited for Gregory (U.S. Navy Lt. B.F. Pinkerton) to return to Japan and their marriage and family – that most drew me into the opera. Something I didn’t realize until Gregory returned in the third act was that I found myself upset with his arrogance and the way he broke that poor girl’s heart. By the way, they build to an incredibly dramatic ending together with young Billings’ actors Lewis Rawlinson, who shined in Friday’s performance, and Tatum Walker, who will most likely do the same on Sunday.

It says much about Rimrock Opera that it provides the type of performance that moves an opera neophyte through a range of emotions including laughter, anger and tears.

They apparently had a similar effect on the bulk of the crowd as there was a full 10 minutes of applause after the curtain dropped. Kagawa-Hamilton brought the crowd to its feet, but it was Billings’ own Nagel who drew the first “bravos!” Laurel’s Leonard Orth also drew exuberant applause for his baritone performance as Prince Yamadori. And Gregory, well the crowd apparently adored him, too. As I heard one dignified-looking woman say at intermission: “Oh, that Lee Greogry. Is he to die for? And he can sing, too.”
One of the things to remember about opera in Billings is that it’s new. That means people, like me, who don’t know an aria from a orchestra prelude, have an opportunity to shed the stereotypical notion of an over-sized singer with an over-size voice and give it a try. Heck, it was the third act before I saw conductor Barbara Day Turner’s hands and baton and realized where the orchestra pit was located.

Although I did see a few pairs of opera glasses in the nearly sold-out theater, it certainly wasn’t an “uppity” crowd. I heard friends greet each other with a “Happy opera!”

I certainly didn’t expect to laugh at the opera. The chuckles started early, when well-known local bass Ed Harris entered wearing a skull cap as a Buddhist priest. It was Harris’ well-known personality, certainly not the performance, that drew the little wave of laughter. But those chuckles did much to break the ice for me and are surely a sign that opera isn’t all hoity-toity.

I have to confess, I was a little worried about “what to wear.” But I was assured that as long as I fell somewhere between a formal dress with high heels and jeans with wool clogs I’d be OK. That’s exactly the type of dress people around me were wearing as I entered Alberta Bair Theater.
My best advice to anyone who might be interested in trying a visit to the opera, or to those who want to help bolster attendance by encouraging a friend to go, is to remember that opera doesn’t have to be intimidating. The cast and crew of “Madama Butterfly” make it incredibly comfortable and Rimrock Opera and a long list of sponsors make it accessible.

If you like music and you appreciate talent, go check out this showcase of both.
–Becky Shay


Butterfly’ takes wing tonight
CHRISTENE MEYERS Gazette Arts & Entertainment Editor | Posted: Monday, November 6, 2000 11:00 pm

It’s down to the wire and Douglas Nagel is happy as if he were in his right mind.

Puccini’s ghost is guiding him, he feels, for his production has the passion and beaut the master demanded.

For Nagel, opera is a passion, and to be artistic director of his own production is “sheer joy,” he says.

Returning to Billings from a career in Oregon and Washington has meant some shifts in focus for the 40-year-old bass-baritone. The changes have been good, though.

“I’ve reconnected with old friends and we’re actually building the nation’s newest opera company right here,” he says. “I’ve been eating and sleeping and dreaming ‘Butterfly,’ and we even have opera groupies.”
The “Phantoms of the Opera” have organized to get the inside scope on the opera. They attended Sunday’s opera preview at Rocky Mountain College, listening to Nagel and orchestra conductor Barbara Day Turner visit with principals about the production.

They’ve had special opera dinners, and they’ll have a post-opera party this weekend.

The opera has been in planning for a year, in serious production for two months, and in final rehearsals this week. But it hasn’t been all work and no play for the international cast. They’ve had time off for sight seeing, have taken in the hockey at Metra, saw parts of the NILE rodeo and have had time for antique shopping and trying Billings’ restaurants.

Rimrock Opera Company attracted the guest artists, Nagel says, because of the appeal of Montana and the fact that Billings has enough “city life” to engage folks from larger metropolitan areas.

For Nagel, a Billings native, it’s an opportunity to return to Billings to be with his family and to give something back to the community in which he grew up.
“It’s been just too much fun,” he sighs, happily putting make-up on his Butterfly for a rehearsal and press photo session. “I have the best of both worlds and I feel very fortunate.”

After graduating from Billings Central High School, Nagel attended Rocky Mountain College and then graduated from the University of Wyoming. For the past 18 or so years, he’s sung and toured with Pacific Repertory Opera, the San Jose Symphony, Arizona Opera, Greater Buffalo Opera, Virginia Opera and other companies, and has appeared on PBS and the BBC, which broadcast a production in which he sang at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall.
Before Billings, his recent involvement was with the Rogue Valley Opera, directing “La Boheme” and “Die Fledermaus,” two of opera’s war horses. Many of this weekend’s guests have connections with Nagel’s Bay Area and Oregon arts venues.

But he’s been back in Montana off and on for several years and in 1999, he appeared as Dr. Bartolo in Rimrock Opera’s first production, Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” starring the late Pablo Elvira. Other nationally acclaimed singers joined him, with sets and costumes from New York and a 30-piece live orchestra. Nagel is carrying on the dream of opera buffs who have struggled for nearly a decade to get the opera company off the ground.

“Last year, we put a production together in just under two weeks, and I wanted a bit more leisure this year,” says Nagel. “We have almost three weeks and it feels very comfortable.”

Most of the leads have done their parts elsewhere, and the chorus has been rehearsing evenings for several weeks. The musicians were ready last week and 10 full rehearsals have been accomplished.

Nagel is particularly proud of securing Turner to act as conductor. She is founder and music director of the San Jose Chamber Orchestra, and has conducted nearly 50 operas, including four world premieres. For the part of the doomed Japanese geisha who has a child with the American Pinkerton, he booked Keiko Kagawa-Hamilton, a Bay Area singer with both international, credits and the important advantage of having a Japanese heritage.

“She really understands the torment that Cio-Cio San feels and the ultimate sacrifice she makes for her son to have a secure future,” says Nagel.
The opera’s Pinkerton, singer Lee Gregory, has solid credits, having performed extensively throughout the Bay Area and recently at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.

For the role of Sharpless, the consulate and Pinkerton’s associate, Nagel is thrilled to have secured Brian Leerhuber, recently an artist in residence with Juilliard Opera Center.

Cio-Cio San’s maid, Suzuki, will be sung by British born Elspeth Franks, whose versatility has won her supporting roles as diverse as Orlofsky, Ernesto and Bianca. “She’s one of the busiest and most sought after singers on the West Coast,” says Nagel.

Old friend Dorinda Doolittle is his assistant director, an acquaintance from his Rogue Valley stint in Oregon. And Billings Symphony Chorale director David Barnett is chorus master, working with the singers for several months.
Rounding out the cast are well known area voices such as Ed Harris, Gregory Paul Johnson and Leonard Orth.

The singers and players had Thursday night off after two full dress, technical and make-up rehearsals with full cast and orchestra Tuesday and Wednesday.

With his mom in the audience for a recent dress rehearsal, Nagel says, “It’s great to have such a build-up, to feel the region behind us. We’re honored to be putting this together here, blending our own talent and nationally known voices under the beautiful Big Sky.”


A taste of opera for area kids

CHRISTENE MEYERS Gazette Arts & Entertainment Editor | Posted: Friday, October 13, 2000 11:00 pm
Opera has all the great stuff of life: tragedy, triumph, bliss, betrayal, revenge and death.

Area gradeschoolers are raving about a condensed version of “Madama Butterfly,” brainchild of Billings-born Doug Nagel, who detoured from a world-class opera career to return to his roots.

“Opera isn’t about some weird foreign fat lady singing,” said Nagel, who took his troupe to Bench Elementary recently. “It’s about life.”

In preparation for the shortened version of the Giacomo Puccini masterpiece, teachers coached their young charges on the well-loved story.

One fourth-grader put it this way before the show: “It’s in Japan and a Navy guy marries a Japanese lady and she loves him really a lot. Another guy thinks she loves him more than he loves her and he’s right. But they have a baby anyway. Then he goes back to our country and gets married again. That’s why the Japanese lady kills herself.”

“That’s the story,” Nagel said with a laugh. “And we do it in 36 minutes. The kids are absolutely eating it up. They’re spellbound. You can hear a pin drop.”
The kids agree.

“It’s a great story, but sad,” said Kelli Murphy, 11. “I liked it a lot and it was fun to study it first in music class.” She conceded that she knew the actress playing Cio-Cio San didn’t really kill herself. “When she went behind the screen, we knew it was just pretend.”

Kevin Cofer, 11, said the story was “as good as a movie. I liked it a lot and it kept my interest all through.”

Nagel’s hope is that he is addressing the opera buffs of the future. “Some of these kids will come to the grand production in November,” he said, “and maybe bring their friends and parents. But more importantly, we are grooming the audiences of the future. That’s the exciting part.”

Teachers prepared their classes with a production kit organized by Nagel. Before the production, classes discussed the story of the ill-fated, intercultural love affair. The kids learned also learned the difference between a soprano and a mezzo, a baritone and tenor. “Tenor is high,” said one boy. Then dropping his voice, he giggled “and baritone is loooooooooow.”
They learned about Puccini, born in 1858 in Lucca, Italy, and they studied Japanese life, learning words like obi, kimono and yen.

They looked up words like “composer,” “libretto,” and “geisha” and discussed the great opera themes of unrequited love, abandonment, fidelity and suicide.

Teacher Twila Michel said her sixth-graders were “eager and excited about it. It’s a marvelous grooming experience. Of my 25 kids, only one had seen an opera. So exposure to the arts is a wonderful result of this all.”
The kids also learn audience protocol, such as when to clap and show enthusiasm. “If you like what you hear,” Nagel told them, “it’s appropriate to applaud. Let the spirit move you.”

Playing the baritone role of Pinkerton’s friend Sharpless, Nagel admitted he liked to wear the performer hat, too, while directing the upcoming full-length production.

His lively asides and gregarious nature also charmed the kids. At one point, he tossed off asides as he fanned himself in front of a Japanese screen while delivering bad news about Pinkerton. “Oh, it’s so hot here in Japan,” he said, encouraging the suspension of disbelief.

While setting the scene before assuming his character, he asked the kids: “Okay, Puccini ate pasta and drank a little wine. Where did he live?” The kids hollered, “Italy.” “Where does this story take place?” he quizzed. The hands shot up to answer, “Japan.”

“What is opera?” he asked. “It’s when people sing instead of talk,” a young buff replied.

And when Pinkerton took his curtain call, the kids voiced their disapproval of his abandonment of Cio-Cio San with good, old-fashioned boos.
“Yes,” said the good-natured tenor, David Barnett, who plays the role. “I play that rotten, not very nice guy.”

The kids’ sympathies were obviously with Anita Rawlinson, who plays the rejected Cio-Cio San. The soprano rose from her death bed, like all good divas, to bow to Bench Elementary School’s applause.

Upcoming Gazettes will carry Christene Meyers’ interviews with members of the nation’s newest opera company, including the conductor, artistic director and the lead soprano. And the Gazette will cover the intensive one-week rehearsal when chorus, orchestra, costumes, set and lights come together. Enjoy will feature a close-up of the finished “Butterfly” on Nov. 3.