The Baltimore Opera Company ends its season with two critically acclaimed singers, soprano Yoko Watanabe as Cio-Cio-San and tenor Richard Estes as Pinkerton, in Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," opening at 8:15 p.m. Saturday at The Lyric Opera House.
Love, faithfulness, faithlessness, honor, death and other operatic staples are bound up in the popular 1904 opera. The story was loosely adopted for "Miss Saigon," the current Vietnam War-era hit now on Broadway.
Watanabe has become for many the Butterfly. Michael Harrison, Baltimore Opera's general director, calls her "the leading interpreter of this role." The opera was the first she saw in her native Japan at 16 and the vehicle for her Metropolitan Opera debut in the 1986-87 season.
Watanabe is appearing as the Japanese girl this season with the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, Opera Pacific in California and the Michigan Opera. She sang "La Boheme" in a Washington Opera performance in the fall. "Mefistofele," "Turandot" and "Pagliacci" are among her other roles. She lives in Milan with her husband, Italian tenor Renato Grimaldi, and returns to Japan for summer concerts.
North Carolina native Estes has drawn glowing notices from his many regional opera company roles, including as Cavaradossi in "Tosca," Alfredo in "La Traviata," Rodolfo in "La Boheme," Alfred in "Die Fledermaus" and the Duke in "Rigoletto."
Also singing are mezzo-soprano Yun Deng as Suzuki, baritone Richard Fredricks as Sharpless, tenor Joaquin Romaguera as Goro, Chinese baritones Chai-Lun Yueh and Sun Yu as Prince Yamadori and the Bonze, George Fischer as the imperial commissioner, Steven Marking as the official registrar and mezzo-soprano Phyllis Burg as Kate Pinkerton. Four-year-old R. Scott Sweren is Trouble, Butterfly's son.
Anton Guadagno conducts the Baltimore Opera Orchestra and Bliss Herbert directs the production.
Tickets are $15 to $70. Call 685-0692 for details. Tickets may also be bought at the lobby box office, Medical Arts Building, 101 W. Read St. Opening night is almost sold out. Performances are at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday and April 26 and at 3 p.m. April 28. If available, student and senior half-price tickets will be sold 45 minutes before each performance.