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Has Heartbreak Ever Sounded So Beautiful? Dayton Opera Proudly Presents Puccini’s Madame Butterfly

Communications & Media Manager

Dayton Performing Arts Alliance
Phone 937-224-3521 x1138

DAYTON, OH (November 4, 2015) – On Friday, November 20 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, November 22 at 3 p.m. in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Dayton Opera, under the artistic direction of Thomas Bankston, will present Giacomo Puccini’s beloved Madame Butterfly, the heartbreaking story of a devoted wife willing to do whatever it takes in the name of love. This opera will be sung in Italian with English surtitles.  Principal Sponsors for this production of Madame Butterfly are ELM Foundation and Opera Guild of Dayton, and the Leadership Sponsor is Premier Health.

The tragic story of Madame Butterfly has deeply moved countless audiences since its 1904 premiere, with some of Puccini’s richest scoring and most beloved music. The first act climaxes with a passionate love duet between Pinkerton, an American sailor, and Butterfly, the trusting Japanese girl he has just wed—temporarily in his mind, forever in hers.

Lovingly set in 19th-century Japan, this traditional production is perfumed with the exotic East, yet the emotional chords it strikes are very much at home anywhere in the world. It’s hard not to weep at Butterfly’s excitement when Pinkerton’s ship, after three long years of waiting, finally returns to Nagasaki. Both Butterfly and Pinkerton have secrets to reveal. Butterfly has a young boy of three, dressed and ready to meet his long-awaited father. And Pinkerton has a pretty new wife.

That the audience already knows the wrenching eventual outcome only heightens the emotional tension as the voices of Butterfly and Pinkerton soar together to blissful heights of young love. Small wonder that Madame Butterfly’s place is secure in the world’s top ten most-performed operas!

For the role of Madame Butterfly, Artistic Director Thomas Bankston has cast a newcomer to Dayton Opera in soprano Yunah Lee.  However, Yunah Lee is certainly not a newcomer to Madame Butterfly. Her appearance as Puccini’s heroine Cio-Cio-San in Dayton Opera’s production will to add to her previous thirty-some productions with opera companies across the globe.  Lee has been described as “…a revelation… [her] voice unites the girlish innocence and the wistful sensuality [of Cio-Cio-San]” (ONLINE MUSIK MAGAZIN) and “…utterly convincing in mood and presentation… a commanding and touching performance revealing the highs and lows of Butterfly’s emotions.” (DAS OPERNGLAS). Lee has sung the role of Cio-Cio-San with such premier opera companies as Opera Quebec, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Carolina, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera and most recently covered the role with the Metropolitan Opera in New York.  Internationally she has performed the role in theatres in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Ireland.

To balance Yunah Lee’s renowned portrayal, tenor John Pickle returns to Dayton Opera to play the commanding lead role of Lt. B. F. Pinkerton, having recently made his Dayton Opera debut in May of 2014 in the role of Radames in Dayton Opera’s outstanding presentation of the epic Aida.  In a 2014 performance as Pinkerton with Florida Grand Opera, Pickle earned this succinct praise: “[Pickle as] Pinkerton was robust, and practically perfect.” (The Shot Glass Review)  Additionally, lauded Pickle as being “…well-groomed for the role [of Pinkerton] with a big voice which he has no trouble controlling."  Pickle will return to Dayton for a January appearance with the Dayton Philharmonic as soloist in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde.

Mezzo-soprano Ryu-Kyung Kim returns to Dayton Opera to play the role of Suzuki, Butterfly’s devoted maid and confidante.  Kim performed with Dayton Opera twice in the recent 2014-2015 season as Third Lady in The Magic Flute and as Jade Boucher in Dead Man Walking, in which she gave a gripping performance as the mother of one of the convicted criminal’s victims. 

Baritone Corey Crider also returns to Dayton Opera in this production to play the role of Sharpless, the American Consul in Japan who is sent to break the news to Butterfly that Pinkerton will return to Nagasaki, but not for the reason of which Butterfly has dreamt.  Crider appeared with Dayton Opera last in the role of Morales in the 2005 production of Carmen and has recently appeared in leading roles with Opera Roanoke, Arizona Opera, Sarasota Opera, Madison Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

Returning to Dayton Opera for his fifth performance, bass Adam Fry will perform the role of The Bonze, having appeared with Dayton Opera once before in a Madame Butterfly production in 2006, as well as appearances with Dayton Opera in Macbeth in 2008, in Turandot in 2008, and most recently in Tosca in 2013.  Rounding out the cast are three vocalists who will be making their Dayton Opera debuts:  tenor Robert Norman as Goro, baritone Andrew Pardini in the dual roles of Imperial Commissioner and Prince Yamadori, and soprano Kasia Borowiec as Kate Pinkerton.  Pardini and Borowiec are both members of Dayton Opera’s upcoming 2015–2016 Artists-in-Residence Program.

Puccini’s gorgeous score will be provided by the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Conductor Robert Tweten, hailing originally from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and making his Dayton Opera debut with this performance.  Tweten has conducted Madame Butterfly with both Edmonton Opera and Utah Opera, both in 2014.  He has been described as leading with “verve and precision,” as well as having “flawless” pacing and “musicality and near-symbiotic accord with singers, which always impresses.”

Albert Sherman returns to Dayton Opera to stage-direct Puccini’s masterpiece, bringing this beautiful story to life on the Mead Theatre Stage.  Sherman’s directing expertise was enjoyed in five past Dayton Opera productions: The Elixir of Love in 1998, Cosí Fan Tutte in 1999, Cinderella in 2006, The Merry Widow in 2009, and most recently in Romeo and Juliet in 2012.

The ever-versatile Dayton Opera Chorus, under the direction and leadership of Chorus Master Jeffrey Powell, take to the stage again to add their choral expertise, helping to make this opera so memorable.

Don’t forget to bring a handkerchief for the gripping ending as Butterfly does what she feels she must to preserve her honor. Has heartbreak ever sounded so beautiful?

Want to learn even more about the beauty of Madame Butterfly? Come one hour prior to both performances to hear pre-performance talks presented by UD Music Professor Dr. Sam Dorf.  Delicious “Opera bites” are also available in the Wintergarden before the performance and at the first intermission.

Tickets for Madame Butterfly range from $38 to $94 and are available at or by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630. Senior, student, and military discounts are available. For more information on tickets, or how to subscribe to the 2015–2016 Ascend season, visit


About the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance
The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance was formed in July 2012 as the result of a groundbreaking and innovative merger between the Dayton Ballet, the Dayton Opera, and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Together, they are the largest performing arts organization in the community, offering a tremendous variety of performance and education programs and setting a new standard for artistic excellence.  Dayton Performing Arts Alliance performances are made possible in part by Montgomery County and Culture Works, the single largest source of community funds for the arts and culture in the Miami Valley. The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance also receives partial funding from the Ohio Arts Council, a state agency created to foster and encourage the development of the arts and to preserve Ohio's cultural heritage. Funding from the Ohio Arts Council is an investment of state tax dollars that promotes economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohio residents.  The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance is proud to be one of five performing arts organizations in the country selected to receive a three-year "Music Alive" grant from New Music USA and the League of American Orchestras.
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