Miami Lyric’s "Butterfly" takes a late flight

By Lawrence A. Johnson

By now Miami Lyric Opera regulars know what to expect. As with an eccentric but loveable, well-intentioned relative, you overlook the faults to focus on the positives. In the case of Raffaele Cardone’s fledgling company, aficionados shrug off the ill-fitting costumes, undernourished orchestra and chintzy sets for a fleeting taste of the real thing: exciting and idiomatic Italianate singing.

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is an ambitious work for Cardone’s financially challenged ensemble to tackle. But even with the best of intentions and some inspired moments Saturday night at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach, this Butterfly was not one of the company’s conspicuous successes, undone by a soprano ill-equipped to cope with the title role’s demands.

Bao-Guo Wang possesses an admirable technique and clear voice but her lightweight instrument is simply too small for the part, even in an intimate venue like the Colony. The Mongolian soprano’s shallow tone and lack of body were fatally underpowered in the big dramatic moments; her cool Un bel di dispatched with little feeling, Wang’s voice simply vanishing at the climax. She brought belated fire and desperation to the tragic final scene, which proved too little, too late. Dramatically too, Wang failed to convey the innocent character of Cio Cio-San, with a lack of animated facial expression and too often relying on stock stage gestures and outstretched arms. Also, to put it bluntly, the veteran soprano is a bit too mature to be credible as a teenage geisha.

Conversely, Pinkerton is a fine, suitable role for Jorge Antonio Pita. Despite being handicapped by a uniform two sizes too large, the company’s house tenor made an aptly swaggering cad, as the American naval officer who casually breaks the young Japanese girl’s heart. Pita provided the evening’s vocal high points, ardent in the love duet and serving up a terrific, emotionally intense Addio, fiorito asil.

Some pitch issues apart, Emilia Acon made a vitally sung and empathetic Suzuki, establishing a well rounded character. Veteran Cuban baritone Hugo Marcos was a worthy Sharpless, the huge-voiced Diego Baner, a more intimidating Bonze than usual. Eduardo Valdes showed an attractive tenor as the unctuous Goro, and as Butterfly’s son Trouble, Kaylee Riverta, Pita’s grandchild, was a silent charmer.

Pablo Hernandez’s chorus sang with greater ensemble cohesion and Cardone provided graceful traditional direction. Conductor Jeff Eckstein had the measure of the score but the rather scrappy playing and intonation marked a step backward after a more polished outing from the orchestra in May’s Lucia di Lammermoor. And even in this venue, the tiny string section had a clearly deleterious effect, with Puccini’s sumptuous lyricism sounding decidedly threadbare.

Daniella Carvalho will sing the role of Butterfly August 2 with Lissette Jiminez as Suzuki. Performance time is 8 p.m. at the Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. Tickets are $30. Go to, call 305-674-1040, or purchase tickets at the box office.

Posted in opera review, Performances

One Response to “Miami Lyric’s "Butterfly" takes a late flight”

  1. Posted Jul 27, 2008 at 1:46 pm by Anonymous

    You hit the nail on the head. Company does admirable work with minimal funds. The audiences should be proud to support their efforts with attendence and support.

    jorge 176

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Sun Jul 27, 2008
at 5:04 am
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