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Daria Parada's Mercury Opera was under a big white tent in the heart of Edmonton's Little Italy Aug. 23-27, mounting MadiVna Butterfly as part of a larger initiative to promote the vibrant inner-city Via Italia. Mounting Butterfly as a small domestic tragedy in a small space intensifies the personal expression singers always aim for, though, inevitably the tiny orchestra of such a production reduces the ctgets of Puccini's orchestration. But under conductor Hiroya Mi lira, the little group here provided all the music we needed to underpin the singers' efforts.


As diretor, Parada gave the opera a delicacy and sweetness that enhanced the exotic and feminine elements of the drama. The business she gave to Butterfly s son. Sorrow, of tossing Bower petals about the staie was a cheerful touch, making his mother's ultimate despair more poignant. As Butterfly, Japanese-born Manami Hattori-Fallen was captivating. Watching her character drift from hope to collapse at close quarters added a dimension one seldom experiences in a large theatre.

Yu Li's Suzuki was like a mini-chorus, commenting on her mistress's gradual deflation with exquisite gestures of support and, eventually, intense distress. She gave her servant's role a seriously personal quality; and she and Hattori-Fallen sang wonderfully together. As Pinkerton, Boston-based Jeffrey Hartmann was suitably oleaginous at the outset, and effectively creepy in the scene leading to the consummation of the marriage. His strong, dramatic voice held up well, and managed to evoke at least a little sympathy in his remorse when he discovers Butterfly's lifeless body.

The whole cast helped shape a versimo Butterfly, in some ways more convincing because of the intimacy of the space. There were no surtitles, so those without Italian were left to absorb the familiar story in purely emotional terms. That's a limitation, though here in a way it reinforced the simplicity of the productions design.

The casting coup for Edmonton Operas' season-opening CavaHcria msMfflm and I pagliaai (Oct. 22) was Richard Margison, appearing in his first Edmonton opera production since the late 1980s, early in his career. Valerie Kuinka, Margison's wife, directed both works and managed the large choral contributions without tussine with too much peripheral stage business. The opening scene of Cavaikria featured fine, sombre singing from the Edmonton Opera Chorus, directed by Peter Dala, and it bore witness diligently to Canios homicidal breakdown in Pagliacci.

Making her EO debut, American soprano Dana Beth Miller gave the most charismatic performance in CaRifler/a. She has both vocal power and warmth, and made Santuzza a truly woeful presence throughout. Margison Turiddu was assured. His voice doesn't have the timbre of a young man, but its clarity and force were a satisfying influence on the overall quality of the performance. Clutching the cuckolded Turiddu with macho agression and ominous intent, baritone Gregory Dalil (Alfio), an EO regular with a terrific dramatic range, effectively created the moment of high drama that sends this little classic to its violent conclusion in the fatal off-stage duel.

Mia Lennox Williams brought the right lusty arrogance to her Lola, while Lynne McMurtry s reserved Mama Lucia made Millers excesses seem all the more distressing. The Edmonton Symphony, conducted by Tyrone Paterson, played its part lusciously particularly in the church-square opening where the static setup begs for some musical purpose.

Dahl, as Tonic, set the scene for Pagliacci charmingly, coming out from the audience to deliver the Prologue. Besides setting the scene nicely, he conveyed genuine menace when he accosts Nedda, only to be beaten back. The Nedda of Laura Whelan, another EO favorite, was strong both vocally and dramatically as the un-intimidated, adulterous wife.

Margison was more convincing as the cuckolded husband in Leoncavallo's trau;-edy. His Canio was full of take-charge bravura in Act I as the players arrive and prepare for their evening performance. His restrained reaction to the rumors of Ned-das infidelity made his berserk outburst at the end all the more surprising and unsettling. The familiar "Vesti la giubba" was well sung and much appreciated, and his murderous derangement at the end had enough menace and pathos to leave the audience well satisfied.

Tenor Robert Clark is a ubiquitous contributor to Edmonton s choral scene, while developing a solo career through several emerging-artist programs, including Calgary's. His Beppe here was his Edmonton coming-out as a soloist, and he sang his aria/'O Colombina" sweetly.

EO is undergoing much challenging change after losing both Artistic Director Brian Deedrick and General Manager Mary Phillips Rickey this year, but it continues to deliver a constantly entertaining product.--Reviews from Edmonton by Bill Rankin
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Title Annotation:CANADA
Author:Rankin, Bill
Publication:Opera Canada
Article Type:Opera review
Geographic Code:1CALB
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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