Madama Butterfly

Friday, February 16, 2018 • 7:30pm
Sunday, February 18, 2018 • 2:30pm

Performed at The Morrison Center
$25.50 to $76.50

Buy here

Sung in Italian

Music: Giacomo Puccini
Libretto: Luigi Illica & Giuseppe giacosa
Premiere: February 17, 1904, Teatro alla Scala, Milan


Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly) • Vanessa Isiguen
B. F. Pinkerton • Chaz’men Williams-Ali
Suzuki • Michele Detwiler
Sharpless • Kenneth Overton
Goro • Anthony Webb
Prince Yamadori • Jason Detwiler
Il Bonzo • Dennis rupp
Kate Pinkerton • Soprano Emily Hansen
Il commissario • Willis Carr
Il Ufficiale del Registro • Nik Dumas
Lo Zio Yakusidé • Casey Lebold
La madre • Melissa Bagwell
La Zia • Patty Wainwright
La cugina • Kristen Dittman
Dolore (Sorrow, Cio-Cio-San’s child) • Robert Pope

Director • Helena Binder
Conductor • Dean Williamson

Click here for artists’ bios

One of the most popular operas of all time, Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is near the top of the list of operas performed by Opera Idaho in its 44-year history with five productions. Last performed in 2011 at The Egyptian Theatre, this production returns to The Morrison Center. The opera tells the story Cio-Cio-San, the trusting and innocent young geisha of the title, who disastrously falls in love with American Navy lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton, only to be abandoned by him. Her loyal servant Suzuki and Sharpless, the sympathetic American consul, do all they can but are unable to avert tragedy.


Madama Butterfly: a disastrous premiere and in trouble again
by General Director Mark Junkert

Thursday, January 18, 2018
6:00pm – 7:30pm

The Community Library
415 Spruce Ave, Ketchum, ID 83340, United States

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, one of the most-performed and-beloved operas worldwide, had a disastrous premiere but has stood the test of time. Once again though, in our age of political correctness, the opera is under attack for its insensitive ethnic stereotyping. We will look at the opera through the years and address what opera companies are doing today to address our contemporary issues. Opera Idaho General Director Mark Junkert will talk about Madama Butterfly, which Opera Idaho will perform in Ketchum on Feb. 10 at Presbyterian Church of the Bigwood and in Boise on Feb.16 and 18 at the Morrison Center.


Time: 1904
Place: Nagasaki, Japan.

Act 1
In 1904, a U.S. Naval officer named Pinkerton rents a house on a hill in Nagasaki, Japan, for himself and his soon-to-be wife, “Butterfly”. Her real name is Ciocio-san (cio-cio, pronounced “chocho” [t͡ʃoːt͡ʃoː], the Japanese word for “butterfly” (蝶々 chōchō?); san is a plain honorific). She is a 15-year-old Japanese girl whom he is marrying for convenience, since he intends to leave her once he finds a proper American wife, and since Japanese divorce laws are very lax. The wedding is to take place at the house. Butterfly had been so excited to marry an American that she had earlier secretly converted to Christianity. After the wedding ceremony, her uninvited uncle, a bonze, who has found out about her conversion, comes to the house, curses her and orders all the guests to leave, which they do while renouncing her. Pinkerton and Butterfly sing a love duet and prepare to spend their first night together.

Act 2
Three years later, Butterfly is still waiting for Pinkerton to return, as he had left shortly after their wedding. Her maid Suzuki keeps trying to convince her that he is not coming back, but Butterfly will not listen to her. Goro, the marriage broker who arranged her marriage, keeps trying to marry her off again, but she won’t listen to him either. The American Consul, Sharpless, comes to the house with a letter which he has received from Pinkerton which asks him to break some news to Butterfly: that Pinkerton is coming back to Japan, but Sharpless cannot bring himself to finish it because Butterfly becomes very excited to hear that Pinkerton is coming back. Sharpless asks Butterfly what she would do if Pinkerton were not to return. She then reveals that she gave birth to Pinkerton’s son after he had left and asks Sharpless to tell him.

From the hill house, Butterfly sees Pinkerton’s ship arriving in the harbour. She and Suzuki prepare for his arrival, and then they wait. Suzuki and the child fall asleep, but Butterfly stays up all night waiting for him to arrive.

Act 3
Suzuki wakes up in the morning and Butterfly finally falls asleep. Sharpless and Pinkerton arrive at the house, along with Pinkerton’s new American wife, Kate. They have come because Kate has agreed to raise the child. But, as Pinkerton sees how Butterfly has decorated the house for his return, he realizes he has made a huge mistake. He admits that he is a coward and cannot face her, leaving Suzuki, Sharpless and Kate to break the news to Butterfly. Agreeing to give up her child if Pinkerton comes himself to see her, she then prays to statues of her ancestral gods, says goodbye to her son, and blindfolds him. She places a small American flag in his hands and goes behind a screen, cutting her throat with her father’s hara-kiri knife. Pinkerton rushes in, but he is too late, and Butterfly dies.

Artists’ Bios

Vanessa Isiguen [Cio-Cio San] is making her Opera Idaho debut. Vanessa made her Florida Grand Opera debut in the title-role of Madama Butterfly. She was subsequently featured as a soloist at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, singing “Un bel dì vedremo” on a lecture concert with Maestro Nicola Luisotti for the Insights Program on Madama Butterfly. Last season Vanessa made her Portland Opera debut as Mimí in La bohème and also made her Oregon Symphony debut as a soloist in the Annual Waterfront Concert. She will be featured as a soloist in the Portland Opera Gala “Big Night” concert in April, 2018. Other engagements include Mimí in La bohème at Sarasota Opera and Marzelline in Fidelio. Vanessa performed the leading soprano role of Roberta Alden An American Tragedy with Glimmerglass Opera. She worked closely with composer Tobias Picker, librettist Gene Scheer, director Peter Kazaras and conductor George Manahan. She also sang the role of Beatrice Russo in the New York City premiere of Daniel Catan’s Il Postino under the baton of Maestro Joseph Colaneri. In 2013 she participated in a workshop at the Metropolitan Opera of The Sorrows of Frederick by Scott Wheeler. Other roles include Liu in Turdandot, Magda in La Rondine, Nedda in I Pagliacci, Violetta in La Traviata, Contessa and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro and Despina in Così fan tutte. Vanessa has won prizes from The Gerda Lissner Foundation, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Connecticut Opera Guild, Jenny Lind Competition, and the Bel Canto Competition. She holds a Bachelor of Music from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master of Music from Boston Conservatory and a Professional Studies Diploma from the Mannes College of Music in New York City.

Chaz’men Williams-Ali [Pinkerton] is making his Opera Idaho debut. He is originally from St. Louis, MO but now resides in New York City. While studying at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, Chaz’men joined the Opera Theatre St. Louis Artist-in-Training program where he studied for two years. He then went on to study voice at the University of Iowa School of Music. Chaz’men made his professional opera debut in 2008 in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre. In 2009, he was named the Grand Prize division winner in the National Association of the Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition. He recently performed Ferrando in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte in Milano, Italy. He made his Kennedy Center Debut with Washington National Opera’s Emerging Artist performance of Madama Butterfly as Pinkerton. The 2017-2018 season marks the debut season for Chaz’men with Florida Grand Opera in Lucia di Lammermoor. 2018 will also see Chaz’men returning to the Kennedy Center for a role debut as Don Jose in Carmen. Chaz’men has also directed and conducted for companies throughout the Midwest.

Michele Detwiler [Suzuki] made her Opera Idaho debut as Siébel in Faust, 2009. Since moving to Boise in 2007, she has performed nearly a dozen roles with Opera Idaho. Roles include Siebel (Faust), Tisbe (La cenerentola), Bloody Mary (South Pacific), Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), Augusta (The Ballad of Baby Doe), Mother (Hansel & Gretel), Dinah (Trouble in Tahiti), Anna (The King and I), Maddalena (Rigoletto), Third Lady (Die Zauberflöte) and most recently Prince Orlofski (Die Fledermaus). She has sung over two dozen roles with regional companies on the West Coast, favoring Mahler, Strauss, Bel Canto and French repertoire. Last season’s engagements included soloist in Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliette with the Boise Philharmonic, Mahler’s Das Knaben Wunderhorn with the Boise Wind Quintet, and a return to Livermore Valley Opera to reprise her role as Suzuki, a role she also performed with MidAtlantic Opera in December, 2017.

Kenneth Overton [Sharpless] is making his Opera Idaho debut. As a leading baritone, Kenneth has sung with San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Memphis, Nashville Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Opera Delaware, Sacramento Opera and Opera Carolina. His roles with these companies include Michele (Il Tabarro), Germont (La Traviata) Papageno (Die Zauberflöte), Sharpless (Madama Butterfly), Leporello (Don Giovanni), Ping (Turandot), Marcello and Schaunard (La bohème), and Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro). In 2018, Kenneth will debut the role of Yeshua in the World Premier of Richard Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshua at the Oregon Bach Festival. He will also return to Lincoln Center for the New York premiere of Angela Rice’s Thy Will Be Done, with the National Chorale. He continues his season with the role of historical figure and civil rights leader, Ralph Abernathy in the world premiere of Douglas Tappin’s Rhythm and Blues Opera, I dream, with Opera Grand Rapids, Toledo Opera, and Opera Carolina.

Anthony Webb [Goro] is making his Opera Idaho debut. A native of Spanaway, Washington, Anthony holds a Master’s Degree from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Pacific Lutheran University. He is a 2010 District Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and a 2014 winner of the Irene Dalis Competition. Recent highlights include his Carnegie Hall debut as Jack Prence in Merry Mount under the baton on Michael Christie, Goro (Madama Butterfly) with Opera Colorado, Harold “Mitch” Mitchell (A Streetcar Named Desire) with Union Avenue Opera, and Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) with Union Avenue Opera and Tacoma Opera. Upcoming engagements include Beppe (I pagliacci) and Spoletta (Tosca) with Vashon Opera, Goro (Madama Butterfly) with Annapolis Opera, and the tenor solo in Orff’s Carmina Burana with the San Antonio Symphony.

Helena Binder [director] is making her Opera Idaho debut. She has been a theatre professional for over 30 years and was an actor and director of plays and musicals before focusing her career on opera. Her innovative and imaginative productions have been seen at New York City Opera, Dallas, Minnesota, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Portland Opera, as well as at Opera Saratoga, Omaha, Chattanooga, Syracuse, Anchorage, Toledo, Roanoke and Wolf Trap among others. Helena has earned praise for her direction of Ermione, Il ritorno d’Ulisse, and Madama Butterfly for New York City Opera, and for her productions of Minnesota Opera’s L’Italiana in Algeri, L’Elisir d’Amore, and Tales of Hoffmann. Her production of The Barber of Seville for The Dallas Opera was named one of the Top Ten Classical Performances of 2006 by the Dallas Morning News. She has also directed Fidelio, La bohème, Rodelinda, The Mighty Casey, The Marriage Contract, Opera for the Cure, Brundibár, The Magic Flute, La traviata, La cenerentola, Hansel and Gretel and Glory Denied to name a few.

Dean Williamson [conductor] made his Opera Idaho debut conducting Die Fledermaus, 2000. He is currently the Music Director for Nashville Opera, where he conducted productions of Tosca, Maria de Buenos Aires, Susannah, Don Giovanni, Glory Denied, and the world premiere of David Cote’s Three Way. He also conducted the original cast recording of Three Way on the American Modern Recordings label. Recent engagements include Hydrogen Jukebox, Così fan tutte, and Die Fledermaus with Nashville Opera; Don Pasquale for Intermountain Opera Bozeman; and Faure’s Penelope for Philharmonia Northwest. For his New York City and Lincoln Center début, Dean lead New York City Opera orchestra in a production of Florencia en el Amazonas. He was honored with a nomination for the 2015 Emmy Awards for the televised broadcast of the production of Le comte Ory that he conducted for Des Moines Metro Opera.