If you’re a performing arts lover around the Bradenton area, this time of year isn’t tourist season, or almost-spring-training season or the end of football season. It’s opera season.
Sarasota Opera stages a limited fall season, but that’s just kind of a tide-you-over kind of thing. The real opera excitement is the Winter Festival, which opened Friday and runs into early spring.
It’s Sarasota Opera’s first season in 28 years with at least one opera by Giuseppe Verdi. Sarasota Opera last year become the first opera anywhere in the world to have performed every single note that Verdi ever wrote for performance. (This year’s is just kind of a Verdi breather for the company though. The 2017-18 season includes another Verdi opera. More on that below.)
This winter’s season gets going with one of the true classics of the genre. Giacomo Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” may be the most widely known opera in the world. Everybody knows the title, and almost everyone knows a little about the story. And even people who don’t know the story recognize a lot of the music. It’s an ideal opera for first-timers. And for connoisseurs too.
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The narrative concerns a young Japanese woman who married an American Navy lieutenant. He has left Japan, and she awaits his return, but he only breaks her heart again.
“Butterfly” ranks sixth on the list of most-performed operas (by a website that keeps track of such things) but it’s probably more well known than “La Traviata,” which ranks first. (More on that below also.)
The Sarasota Opera production opened Friday, and runs through March 5.
Starting Feb. 18, “Butterfly” will be in rotating repertory with the other Sarasota Opera production for this season: Gioachino Rossini’s “The Italian Girl in Algiers” (through March 25), Francis Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites “(March 4-18) and Italo Montemezzi’s “The Love of Three Kings” (March 11-26). They’re all highly respected operas, and unlike “Butterfly,” they’re not ones that audiences in mid-sized cities get to see often.
Which brings us to the opera’s next season, which was just announced. The highlight of the 2017 fall season is the return of Verdi, with “La Traviata,” opening Nov. 3.
The 2018 Winter Festival Season features “Manon Lescaut” by Puccini starting Feb. 10, Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” (opening Feb. 17), Vincenzo Bellini’s “Norma” (March 3-24) and “Tiefland” by Eugen d’Albert (March 10-25).
Just in case you’ve never been to an opera but you’re curious, all the operas are accompanied by English translations projected about the stage, and Sarasota opera encourages patrons to dress any way they’re comfortable. Some people dress in tuxedos and gowns, others in blue jeans.