Virginia Opera Presents Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ at Center for the Arts

Posted: March 28, 2011 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: March 25, 2011 at 7:59 pm

By Jill Graziano Laiacona

Brian Jagde as Lieutenant Pinkerton and Sandra Lopez as Cio-Cio San in Virginia Opera's "Madama Butterfly." Photo by Anne M. Peterson

The Virginia Opera concludes its 36th season with a production of Giacomo Puccini’s heartbreaking “Madama Butterfly,” one of the most influential operas of all time.

The Virginia Opera brings this tragic masterpiece to the Center for the Arts Concert Hall on Friday, April 1, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 3, at 2 p.m.

First staged in 1904 at La Scala in Milan, “Madama Butterfly” is the most performed opera in the United States, according to Opera America.

Last performed by the Virginia Opera in 2003, “Madama Butterfly” transports audiences to the Japanese city of Nagasaki at the turn of the 20th century. Cultures collide and tragedy ensues when an American officer takes a young geisha as his bride and then leaves her to return home to the United States.

After years of anxiously awaiting his return, the lovesick girl is distraught to learn that her husband has remarried. Filled with love, loss, betrayal and sacrifice, this captivating opera touches the heart with its deep human tragedy, powerful music and the extraordinary voices of the Virginia Opera.

Virginia Opera’s Associate Conductor Joseph Walsh is the conductor for this production. Walsh has conducted several recent Virginia Opera productions, including “The Daughter of the Regiment,” “Don Giovanni” and this season’s “Così fan tutte.”

Walsh has been involved in the musical preparation of more than 50 Virginia Opera productions since joining the company in 1995, and has been instrumental in the development of the company’s Spectrum Resident Artist Program, an intensive training program for young artists. He also co-founded the company’s Student Training and Artistic Residency program.

Dorothy Danner returns to direct this production of “Madama Butterfly.” Noted for her inventive staging, she has directed numerous Virginia Opera’s productions over the years, including “The Elixir of Love,” “Lucia di Lammermoor” and “Susannah.” Danner has directed almost 200 productions of operettas, musicals and plays in the United States, Canada and Belgium. She has staged operas for the Glimmerglass, Houston, Minnesota, Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Portland companies, among others.

The cast includes

  • Soprano Sandra Lopez, making her Virginia Opera debut as Cio-Cio San
  • Former Spectrum Resident Artist tenor Brian Jagde as Lieutenant Pinkerton
  • Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Wór as Suzuki
  • Baritone Levi Hernandez as Sharpless
  • Jeffrey Halili, who returns to the Virginia Opera after appearances as Gastone in 2005’s “La Traviata” and Nerone in 2007’s “Agrippina,” as Goro
  • Bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam, who last appeared as Ferrando in 2008’s “Il Trovatore,” as the Bonze
  • Baritone Michael O’Halloran, a Spectrum resident artist, as Prince Yamadori
  • Bass Andrew Ross René as the Imperial Commissioner
  • Soprano Shelly Milam as Kate Pinkerton
  • Bass John Charles Holman as the Official Registrar
  • Isaak Mihalap as Trouble, Cio-Cio San’s child

“Madama Butterfly” will be sung in Italian with English supertitles. The orchestra for this production comprises members of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra.

Performances will be presented with one intermission. A discussion, free to ticket holders, begins 45 minutes prior to each performance on the center’s Grand Tier. Pre-performance discussions are sponsored by the Friends of the Center for the Arts.

Tickets are $44, $72, and $86 on Friday, and $48, $80, and $98 on Sunday. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit

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