"MADAMA BUTTERFLY," through Aug. 8, Ellen Eccles Theatre, 43 S. Main, Logan (435-750-0300 or utahfestival.org); running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes (one intermission)
LOGAN — One of the classic tragedies of opera, Giacomo Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” at Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre in Logan explores the morality of deception.
The lead deceiver is Lt. Pinkerton, a naval officer stationed in Japan, who, as he puts it, is enjoying himself without any risks. He marries a native teen bride, one who changes her religion from Buddhist to Christian in order to consummate the marriage. Meanwhile, Pinkerton toasts with his friend his future “real marriage in America” on the eve of his wedding with Butterfly.
As Pinkerton, UFOMT newcomer Nelson Ebo is despicable, as the role requires. His tenor tones are fabulous and timbre of his voice is penetrating, and his was a solid, appreciated performance. But the character’s morals cast a pall on all, making for an uneasy intermission.
As Cio-Cio-San, or the bride "Butterfly," Kristin K. Vogel is outstanding, making her second season with the company memorable. She is able to incorporate perfect passion into her dynamics, going from hard to soft, not just loud to quiet.
During the cat-and-mouse pre-wedding night duets, both Vogel and Ebo were top-drawer in their performances. Perhaps because she was singing for her life, not for convenience as was Pinkerton, Cio-Cio-San/Vogel pierced even deeper into patrons' hearts.
There was never any strain in the range of Vogel’s voice, only the strain of lost love. Her maid Suzuki’s (played by Holly Sorensen) lamentation in the final scene is also impactful and memorable.
Viewed side by side, "Butterfly" and one of UFOMT's other main stage offerings, "The Music Man," offer interesting but different perspectives on similar themes. Unlike the pace and rapid-fire feeling of “The Music Man,” "Madama Butterfly" takes its time, almost painstakingly adding to the dread and overcast possibilities Butterfly’s painful solos foretell.
Both shows are about deception and have silver-tongued pitchmen as principal characters. But there the similarity ends, as "Music Man" is full of hope and love, reflecting the deep, inner goodness of the smooth talker, while "Butterfly" reflects the manipulative lack of morals that some who deceive might have.
Content advisory: "Madama Butterfly" contains an implied sexual encounter and suicide.
Jay Wamsley has been an observer of theater and the arts in Cache Valley for more than two two decades.