November 22, 2012 9 Comments
Full disclosure: Madame Butterfly is not one of my favorite operas. I understand its popularity and appreciate its usual appeal to most of its fans (sweeping melodies, exotic locales, an easy-to-feel-sorry-for heroine, etc.), but no matter how many chances I give it, I’m never drawn into the music or the drama.
Count me in the minority. The powers-that-be at Los Angeles Opera love themselves some Madame Butterfly. Eighty-ish times they’ve staged this particular Puccini number, more than any other opera in the company’s relatively short history. That’s because the local opera-watching public obviously loves it too: its box office success is as predictable as lines for the latest iPhone, and the current run had very strong sales even before Saturday’s opening night performance.
And an enjoyable opening night it was. Not great, not innovative, not enlightening, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Even if you’re predisposed to groan at the notion that the company would trot out this particular warhorse once again, the contributions of three of the men involved — tenor Brandon Jovanovich as US Navy Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton; bass-baritone Eric Owens as Sharpless, the American Consul; and conductor Grant Gershon — would still be worth your attention.
Mr. Jovanovich, in particular, was spectacular. He has a show-stopping voice, with a smooth, rich, and pure tone that rings out effortlessly. On top of that, he can act, too. His Pinkerton comes across with casual naiveté, clueless instead of callous. On the heels of his triumph in Lohengrin at San Francisco Opera just weeks before (read just one of the many glowing reviews HERE), I got the sense while experiencing him do his thing that this was a true star in the making. Easily the best new tenor of I’ve heard in at least a decade, probably two.