Following the 2010 premiere of “Madama Butterfly” at the Dicapo Opera Theatre (the review for which can be found here), Review Fix Senior Editor Olga Privman was fortunate enough to steal a few brief moments with its exceptionally busy and talented director, Michael Capasso, during which they were able to discuss what it is that makes the Brescia version so special and so rare.
Review Fix: First of all, I wanted to congratulate you on a fantastic performance.
Michael Capasso: Thank you.
RF: How are you feeling?
MC: I’m thrilled. I’m very, very happy. I love this opera very, very much; and, in particular, I love this version of this opera. And I’m very proud of my cast.
RF: Why do you favor this version in particular?
MC: Because it’s the version that explains so much more. There’s a lot more detail in the first act in terms of the relationships of the relatives. But in particular, in Act Two Part One, and Act Two Part Two, the character of Butterfly is so much clearer and the confrontation scene with Kate Pinkerton – which doesn’t exist in what is the now standard version – is so much clearer. It makes her decision so much more heartbreaking – to have to physically confront this woman to the degree that she does. I think it’s just stronger drama.
RF: Is this version performed often?
MC: This version is never performed.
RF: When was the last time that it was performed?
MC: Here in 2004, and before we did it in 2004, I don’t believe it had ever been performed in America since 1907. The American premiere of “Madama Butterfly” was this version, and then you’ll see in the notes I wrote in the program, the version that became the standard was never intended to be.
RF: How did you come to choose this version?
MC: In 2004, to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of “Madama Butterfly,” we decided to produce all three versions in one weekend. And so we produced the La Scala version, the Brescia version and ultimately what is now the Paris version. And after producing all three versions, I determined that Puccini was really right – that the changes he made after La Scala were valid changes but that this was the version that should become what is “Madama Butterfly,” because there’s so much lacking – the cuts that are made in the Paris version, the changes to the Paris version, don’t serve the piece very well.
RF: Is this your favorite opera?
MC: Oh, I don’t know. My favorite opera is the opera that I’m working on when I’m working on it. But at the end of the day, my dog is named “Tosca,” so I guess “Tosca” is my favorite.
Photo by James Martindale