‘Madama Butterfly’ Among Major Productions of Opera Saratoga’s 2020 Summer Festival

By David Salazar

Opera Saratoga has unveiled its 2020 summer festival programming which will feature three new productions, including a New York Premiere.

It all gets started with Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” which will be conducted by Brian DeMaris in a production by Eve Summer. The work will feature Opera Saratoga Festival Artists.

Performance Dates: June 19-July 4, 2020

Next up is the New York Premiere of Lembit Beecher and Hanna Moscovitch’s “Sky on Swings” in a production conducted by Emily Senturia. Opera Saratoga General and Artistic Director Lawrence Edelson will direct. Susanne Mentzer and Marietta Simpson, both in their company debuts, will appear in the work.

Performance Dates: June 20-July 2, 2020

It all comes to a close with Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” South African soprano Kelebogile Besong will star in the title role, making her role and company debut. Dean Williamson will make his company debut (all three conductors on all three productions are making company debuts) while Japanese Director Izumi Ashizawa will direct the opera.

“There is no questioning the glory of the score, but ‘Madama Butterfly’s’ popularity has perpetuated and reinforced many stereotypes of Japan, and Asian women in particular,” noted Edelson in a press release. “In considering how we might produce Madama Butterfly today, three things were very important to me. First, we eliminate all hints of yellowface – the offensive and outdated tradition of making non-Asian singers look Asian through makeup – in the production. Second, that we have a diverse cast who can honor the vocal demands of the opera, and ensure we are focused on creating characters, not caricatures. And third, that we have a director who can create a production that will allow us to look at the story through a different lens than we have in the past. I am thrilled that the brilliant Japanese director Izumi Ashizawa will create a production for us that will allow us to enjoy this exquisite score and story with new perspective.”

Performance Dates: June 26-July 3, 2020 

The festival will also feature a number of additional concerts including a complete performance of Rossini’s “Petite Messe Solennelle” on July 5, 2020.