Madama Butterfly at San Francisco Opera. Photo by Dan Rest.

San Francisco Opera announced it will present Giacomo Puccini’s tragic love story Madama Butterfly in twelve performances running October 12–November 27 at the War Memorial Opera House. Bulgarian soprano Svetla Vassileva stars as Cio-Cio-San, a role she shares with Italian soprano Daniela Dessì, and former Adler Fellow Daveda Karanas is Cio-Cio-San’s maid and confidante, Suzuki. Following his June 2010 appearances in the title role of Faust is tenor Stefano Secco as Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton, with baritone Quinn Kelsey as the American Consul Sharpless, a role he shares with Brian Mulligan. This production from Lyric Opera of Chicago, which is presented at San Francisco Opera for the first time and directed by Jose Maria Condemi, was created by Tony Award winning Broadway stage director Harold Prince and inspired by traditional Japanese theater. San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti and Julian Kovatchev conduct the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Svetla Vassileva
Svetla Vassileva

Svetla Vassileva previously appeared at San Francisco Opera as Liù in the 1998 production of Puccini’s Turandot. The soprano returns as the young Japanese geisha Cio-Cio-San, one of her signature roles that she has performed in Verona, Trieste, Torre del Lago, and Catania and will sing again this season at the Vienna State Opera. Other recent credits include the title role of Tosca in Rome, the title role of Manon Lescaut in Lyon and Magda in La Rondine in Bologna. Sharing the role of Butterfly for six performances is Daniela Dessì, an internationally renowned spinto soprano who counts nearly all of Puccini’s heroines in her repertoire. Dessì has previously appeared as Cio-Cio-San in Verona, Barcelona, Torre del Lago, Ancona, Milan and Madrid. She last performed at San Francisco Opera in 1995 as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni.

Italian tenor Stefano Secco sings the role of Cio-Cio-San’s beloved Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton, following recent San Francisco Opera appearances in the title role of Faust and as soloist in Verdi’s Requiem. Secco’s other credits include Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor in Berlin, Genoa, Parma and Firenze; Rodolfo in La Bohème in Monte-Carlo, Berlin, Paris, Parma and Bolgna; and the title role of Werther in Paris, Frankfurt and Baden-Baden. Former Adler Fellow and mezzo-soprano Daveda Karanas appears as Butterfly’s loyal maid Suzuki. Karanas recently made her role debut as Waltraute in San Francisco Opera’s 2010 production of Wagner’s Die Walküre and will return in that role and as the 2nd Norn in the Company’s full Ring cycle in 2011.

Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey returns to San Francisco Opera as the American Consul Sharpless, a role he has also performed at Hawaii Opera Theater and New York City Opera. Kelsey made his Company debut as Marcello in 2008’s La Bohème and he will return to San Francisco as Amonasro in the November and December performances of Aida. Sharing the role of Sharpless for three performances is baritone Brian Mulligan, who is currently appearing as Albert in San Francisco Opera’s production of Werther.  Mulligan recently made his role debut as Sharpless at English National Opera and will return to San Francisco Opera as Ragueneau in Cyrano de Bergerac this season.

This production, originated by legendary Broadway stage director Harold Prince at Lyric Opera Chicago, is a visually stunning interpretation of one of Puccini’s most beloved operas.  A winner of 21 Tony Awards, Prince has created opera productions at Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, the Dallas Opera, the Vienna State Opera, and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Jose Maria Condemi, who recently directed the 2010 production of Faust, will direct and Music Director Nicola Luisotti will conduct. The six November performances will be led by conductor Julian Kovatchev, making his San Francisco Opera; Kovatchev has previously conducted Madama Butterfly in Stuttgart and Genoa.

San Francisco Opera logoTickets and Information

Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the twelve performances of Madama Butterfly are scheduled for October 12 (8 p.m.), October 15 (8 p.m.), October 20 (7:30 p.m.), October 23 (8 p.m.), October 26 (7:30 p.m.), October 29 (8 p.m.), November 5 (8 p.m.), November 11 (7:30 p.m.), November 14 (2 p.m.), November 17 (7:30 p.m.), November 21 (2 p.m.) and November 27 (8 p.m.), 2010.

Tickets for the performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly are priced from $20 to $360 and may be purchased at sfopera or through the San Francisco Opera Box Office [301 Van Ness Avenue (at Grove Street), or by phone at (415) 864-3330]. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance; tickets are $10 each, cash only.

The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street. Patrons are encouraged to use public transportation to attend San Francisco Opera performances. The War Memorial Opera House is within walking distance of the Civic Center BART station and near numerous bus lines, including 5, 21, 47, 49 and the F Market Street. For more public transportation information, visit bart and sfmuni.

Casting, programs, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change. For further information about Madama Butterfly and San Francisco Opera’s 2010–11 season, please visit sfopera.

Monica Turner
Contributor to Stark Insider for tech, the arts and All Things West Coast for over 10 years.