Madama Butterfly at Seattle Opera

Sharpless (Weston Hurt) shocked by Pinkerton’s appalling behavior. Philip Newton photo c/o Seattle Opera

At Seattle Opera’s panel on race and representation in Madame Butterfly, one of the younger speakers asked why anyone would even bother trying to redeem such an opera. The obvious answer was, “The music!” but a part of me felt a little guilty for perpetuating one of those “classics” that should be allowed to die as its cultural relevance fades and its artistic merit is proven less significant than its novelty. I felt even more guilty that by taking my 13-year-old Asian daughter to see it, I could be inflicting harmful stereotypes on the very person they could most affect. I think those were legitimate fears, and could have been valid if Seattle Opera had presented Madame Butterfly without comment. But in the context of the local discussion they have started – wow! What an opera! Continue reading

The Most Beautiful Music – La Traviata at Seattle Opera

Seattle Opera 2017 La Traviata McCaw Hall

Corinne Winters (Violetta). Seattle Opera 2017 La Traviata Philip Newton photo c/o Seattle Opera

People are getting pretty worked up about the unusual production of La Traviata currently playing at Seattle Opera. But really, the production isn’t very important. What really matters about La Traviata is the music, that exquisite, heavenly music.  Continue reading

Maria Stuarda and other Powerful Women

Joyce El-Khoury (Mary Stuart), Michael Todd Simpson (Cecil) and Keri Alkema (Elizabeth I). Jacob Lucas photo c/o Seattle Opera

Joyce El-Khoury (Mary Stuart), Michael Todd Simpson (Cecil) and Keri Alkema (Elizabeth I). Jacob Lucas photo c/o Seattle Opera

I always feel a little sorry for Donizetti. He’s like a low-ranking player in the NBA – easily better at his game than anyone you’ve ever met, but forever overshadowed by his more talented peers. Donizetti worked in the first half of the 19th century and a handful of his operas are still performed today. That’s pretty good. But he’s still not as famous as the other big bel canto composers, Verdi and Puccini, and with good reason. His canto is bel, but to my ear, feels a little … predictable? Formulaic? But Donizetti has one advantage over his peers – an interest in powerful women.

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