Butterfly: All the Asian roles in the Capital City Opera production of "Madama Butterfly," June 12 and 14 at the Olney Theatre, will be taken by singers of Asian ancestry, including members of the chorus. In the title role will be soprano Gui-Ping Deng, a native of China, who has sung this role with many major American companies, including those of Houston, Los Angeles and St. Louis. Helen Yu, a native of Korea who will sing the role of Suzuki, has sung with the Metropolitan and New York City operas.
On the other hand, when Puccini's "Turandot" was performed in its natural environment, Beijing's Forbidden City, all the Chinese roles were taken by Italian singers, a fact that did not seem to bother the large, enthusiastic Chinese audience. This historic performance will be televised Wednesday on "Great Performances" with a documentary on its production and filming. Even those who are not opera fans may want to see it for its fascinating on-location visuals.
Competition I: A panel of judges has selected 37 singers from 11 countries, including 20 singers from the United States, to participate in the third edition of the Marian Anderson Vocal Arts Competition, July 15-24 at the University of Maryland, College Park. The first prize will include several concert engagements (notably a recital in Alice Tully Hall, New York) and $20,000. The jury, under the chairmanship of soprano Carmen Balthrop, will include soprano Evelyn Lear (United States), mezzo-soprano Irina Arkhipova (Russia), contralto Anne Gjevang (Norway), baritones John Shirley-Quirk (England) and Thomas Stewart (U.S.) and bass Bonaldo Gaiotti (Italy). The three finalists will perform in the Kennedy Center in the last round, July 24. A vocal arts festival accompanying the competition will include seminars, master classes and evening recitals by Balthrop, Martina Arroyo, Benita Valente, Ewa Podles and Gordon Hawkins.
Anderson (1897-1993) was one of the greatest singers in American history and the first African American to sing a leading role at the Metropolitan Opera. She is remembered above all for a concert she gave at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939--after the Daughters of the American Revolution had refused to let her sing in Constitution Hall--that attracted an audience of 75,000. Her recordings are still in great demand. The most recent reissue on compact disc is a collection of 30 spirituals recorded between 1936 and 1952 (RCA 63306).
Contract: Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves has signed an exclusive contract with BMG/RCA that will run through 2003 and include several recordings--notably a complete "Carmen," a role in which she has become world-famous. Her first disc under this contract, scheduled for release this fall, is a collection of operatic arias, including selections from "Carmen," "Samson and Delilah" and "Werther." A native of Washington, Graves was a participant in the first Marian Anderson Competition, in which no first prize was awarded.
Competition II: Marcus Raskin of George Washington University, co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies and author of a whole shelf of books on political theory, is in competition with a former Miss Minnesota. She is Loren Green, now anchoring the Fox News Channel in New York, and she and Raskin are both competing with Brazilian Ambassador Jose Bustani, a manager at Harrah's casino in Las Vegas, a professor at MIT and a guy who pilots 737s for Continental Airlines. They will all get together in Dallas this week with 91 other contestants from 10 countries in the first Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, June 9-13. Developed in collaboration with the annual Concours des Grands Amateurs de Piano, founded 10 years ago in Paris, this competition (unique in the United States) focuses on talented performers who decided to continue playing the piano but not to pursue musical careers.
Handel with care: All 10,000 available seats were sold out three months ago for the first appearance of the Show Choir of the Ellington School of the Arts at a European music festival. The choir will perform three times in the 48th annual Handel Festival in Halle, Germany, Handel's birthplace. The first two programs will present popular and semi-classical material, including Motown songs, the music of Duke Ellington and excerpts from Handel's "Messiah" sung gospel-style. For its last appearance, in the festival's finale, it will join in a 300-voice chorus for a traditional performance of the "Messiah" under the baton of Stephen Simon, music director of the Washington Chamber Symphony.
CAPTION: Marian Anderson inspired the vocal arts contest beginning July 15.