San Francisco Opera's Centennial Season Continues with New Co-Production of Madame Butterfly at the War Memorial Opera House, June 3-July 1
Music Director Eun Sun Kim Leads Puccini Classic in New Staging by Japanese Director Amon Miyamoto Featuring Costumes by the Late Fashion Designer Kenzō Takada
Karah Son Makes Company Debut as Cio-Cio-San with Michael Fabiano as Pinkerton, Hyona Kim as Suzuki and Lucas Meachem as Sharpless
Tickets available at (415) 864-3330 and sfopera.com
June 9 Performance Will Be Livestreamed
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (May 11, 2023) — San Francisco Opera’s 2023 Summer Season opens June 3 with Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (Madama Butterfly) at the War Memorial Opera House. Caroline H. Hume Music Director Eun Sun Kim leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and a brilliant cast in a new production by visionary Japanese director Amon Miyamoto. San Francisco Opera Chorus Director John Keene prepares the artists of the Opera Chorus.
Known for its many stirring melodies, including Cio-Cio-San’s aria “Un bel dì” (“One beautiful day”), the Humming Chorus and the passionate Act I love duet, Madame Butterfly is among the most famous operas from the composer of La Bohème, Tosca, Gianni Schicchi and Turandot. Miyamoto’s production, staged with associate director Miroku Shimada, presents the story from the perspective of Cio-Cio-San’s child with Pinkerton, Trouble, who is now a grown man discovering the events that led to his American upbringing.
Director Amon Miyamoto said, “Madame Butterfly highlights the clash of cultural and family issues but also the abiding strength of love. In our staging, we see Cio-Cio-San’s son, Trouble, now an adult in his early 30s who has grown up experiencing discrimination as a biracial person in 1920s America. Trouble is on a journey to find where he belongs. Can he forgive his father's mistakes by finding himself? This story illustrates the importance of valuing love as the key to a true understanding of people from different cultures and backgrounds.”
The new staging, a co-production with The Tokyo Nikikai Opera Foundation, Semperoper Dresden and the Royal Danish Opera, features the work of set designer Boris Kudlička, lighting designer Fabio Antoci and projection designer Bartek Macias. The costumes are designed by the late fashion icon Kenzō Takada, founder of the global brand and fashion house KENZO, and developed by associate costume designer Sonoko Takeda.
Now in her second season as San Francisco Opera’s Music Director, Eun Sun Kim opened the Company’s Centennial Season last September with the world premiere of John Adams’ Antony and Cleopatra and also led Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites and a new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata along with numerous concerts. The New York Times 2021 Breakout Star earned praise this season for her “precision and bravado” and “ever-deeper communicative bond with the musicians of the Opera Orchestra” (San Francisco Chronicle).
Korean soprano Karah Son makes her Company debut as the unforgettable title heroine, Cio-Cio-San, a role Son has performed on stages across Europe, North America and Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald recently said of her performance in the Sydney Opera House, “Her voice spans innocent playfulness, intimate intensity and unflinchingly thrilling moments, singing ‘Un bel dì, vedremo’ with tonal purity and grace of line and without undue portent.”
American tenor Michael Fabiano returns to the War Memorial Opera House stage to portray Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton, the U.S. Naval officer who marries Butterfly at the beginning of the opera. Fabiano, who made his San Francisco Opera debut in 2011, has performed many leading roles with the Company, including Rodolfo in La Bohème, Cavaradossi in Tosca and the title role of Verdi’s Don Carlo, and won acclaim for his “vocal grandeur—now sweeping and impassioned, now delicately pointed” (San Francisco Chronicle). San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Moisés Salazar performs the role of Pinkerton in the July 1 performance.
Mezzo-soprano Hyona Kim is Cio-Cio-San’s servant and confidant, Suzuki. Baritone Lucas Meachem is the U.S. Consul, Sharpless. Tenor Julius Ahn is the marriage broker Goro and baritone Kidon Choi makes his Company debut as the wealthy Prince Yamadori. Actor John Charles Quimpo portrays the adult son of Pinkerton and Butterfly, known in the opera as Dolore or Trouble, and actor Evan Miles O’Hare is the elderly Pinkerton. The cast includes current San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows Jongwon Han as the Bonze and Mikayla Sager as Kate Pinkerton, along with Andrew Pardini, Jere Torkelsen, Kevin Gino, Crystal Kim, Silvie Jensen and Whitney Steele.
Madame Butterfly entered San Francisco Opera’s repertory during the Company’s second season in 1924. The work, along with Tosca, has been presented in 38 previous seasons, the second most in Company history; La Bohème is the most performed (45 seasons). Numerous operatic legends have portrayed Cio-Cio-San with San Francisco Opera, from early greats like Elisabeth Rethberg and Lotte Lehmann to later artists including Leontyne Price, Renata Scotto, Pilar Lorengar, Teresa Stratas, Yoko Watanabe, Catherine Malfitano, Diana Soviero, Patricia Racette and Lianna Haroutounian. Czech soprano Jarmila Novotná made her U.S. debut with San Francisco Opera as Butterfly in 1939 and from 1941 to 1969, the opera was frequently presented with San Francisco favorites Licia Albanese (8 seasons) or Dorothy Kirsten (9 seasons) in the title role.
Madame Butterfly was a favorite of Company founder Gaetano Merola who conducted San Francisco Opera’s first performance in 1924. While conducting “Un bel dì” in a 1953 summer concert at Stern Grove, the 72-year-old Merola collapsed and died. The baton for this work was taken up in later seasons by, among others, General Director Kurt Herbert Adler, music directors Sir Donald Runnicles and Nicola Luisotti and maestros Sir Charles Mackerras, Marco Armiliato, Fabio Luisi and Yves Abel.
Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the eight performances of Madame Butterfly are scheduled for June 3 (7:30 p.m.), 6 (7:30 p.m.), 9 (7:30 p.m.), 18 (2 p.m.), 21 (7:30 p.m.), 24 (7:30 p.m.), 27 (7:30 p.m.); July 1 (7:30 p.m.), 2023.
LIVESTREAM: June 9 performance
The Friday, June 9 performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly will be streamed live at 7:30 p.m. PT. The performance will be available to watch on demand for 48 hours beginning on Saturday, June 10 at 10 a.m. PT. Livestream tickets are $27.50. For more information, visit sfopera.com/digital/livestream.
COMMUNITY PANEL DISCUSSION: June 18, 12–1 p.m.
Before the Sunday, June 18, matinee performance of Madame Butterfly, San Francisco Opera’s department of Diversity, Equity and Community will host a panel that explores and unpacks a variety of topics relating to the artform of opera and the Company’s new staging of Puccini’s 1904 work. Free and open to the public, this conversation will be held in the John M. Bryan Education Studio on the 4th floor of the Veteran's Building. More information and panelists will be announced at sfopera.com/butterfly.
MADAME BUTTERFLY LOBBY EXHIBITION
San Francisco Opera’s department of Diversity, Equity and Community presents Kaleidoscope: A Journey into Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, a lobby exhibition in different areas of the War Memorial Opera House. Open to ticket holders for June and July performances of Puccini’s opera, Kaleidoscope is a digital, interactive experience that explores the beauty, controversy and historical context of this operatic classic. Each display throughout the Opera House is adorned with origami butterflies created by incarcerated artists at San Quentin State Prison and includes QR codes for a scavenger hunt-like experience.
PRE-OPERA TALKS & SAN FRANCISCO OPERA GUILD PREVIEW
San Francisco Opera will present a Pre-Opera Talk prior to each performance inside the theater. Beginning 55 minutes prior to curtain, the 25-minute Pre-Opera Talks are open to ticket holders for the corresponding performance.
On June 2 at 6 p.m., San Francisco Opera Guild presents an Opera Preview on Madame Butterfly by scholar Alexandra Amati. The 90-minute Zoom lecture provides in-depth insight into the opera’s history, composer, story and music. For more information and to register, visit sfopera.com/operapreviews.
*For the complete press release, including cast and program, open the PDF version above.