Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Everything worked ideally to make the Opera Society's new production of "Madama Butterfly" an unusual triumph. Heard in the Kennedy Center Wednesday night, it will be repeated there tonight and Sunday afternoon. It is sold out and deserves to be.
Against a lovely set by Ming Cho Lee and in his handsome costumes, the opera is faultlessly directed by Frank Rizzo and conducted stylishly by Imre Pallo. Chief among its visual assets is the distinctive look of Charles Elsen's makeup and wigs.
The full score is heard, something that does not, by any means, always happen in "Butterfly." Tiny, meddle-some cuts, often made, are missing, and the full prelude to the third act is heard, all to prove Puccini's ultimate rightness.
But "Butterfly" is, for real triumph, a matter of singing, and the Opera Society has come up with a sumptuous-sounding cast, headed by a new and radiantly lovely soprano, Yasuko Hayashi, in the title role.
Hayashi follows the lead of Tamaka Miura and Hizi Koyke as a Japanese soprano taking on the celebrated role with special distinction. She has more voice than either of her predecessors, singing with a lyric soprano of fine dimensions that are never the largest demands of the long part.
Her appearance is the central fact in a series of exquisite pictures that fill the performance, while her acting, often offering less rather than any fussy detail, is striking in quality. She frequently moved her listeners with a whispered texture of arresting effect. She can still enlarge on certain great moments of the part, but she is already great in it, as she may be in a wide repertoire.
Ermanno Mauro sang as sensitively shaded a Pinkerton as has come along in some years, while Judith Forst gave Suzuki a beauty in tone as well as movement, ideally matching the Cio-Cio-San.
In a performance filled with fine detail in every area, the smaller roles came out with unusual strength. Andre Lortie, imaginatively dressed in a cut-away coat and flashy trousers, made an excellent marriage broker; David Cornell's Bonze was full of vivid power; Joseph Galiano, ideal in appearance, was properly suave as Yamadori.
Ronald Hedlund was the consul, Sharpless. For some reason he was dressed more drably than any Sharpless in memory, and often the grab seemed to affect his singing, making it come out rather square. This is neither desireable nor dramatically suitable and might well be changed.
But this was a "Butterfly" of many fine virtues, its very ligthing cue working perfectly and its total musical and dramatic impact building to an intense climax in which Hayashi's suicide was chilling. The touch of Kate Pinkerton running away was brilliant. A top production all around.