Butterfly : Live from Lincoln Center


In my mind, I maintain an idealistic idea that I and my family gather regularly around the television or our stereo and we listen to great artists and art embracing the truly unbelievable technology available today. We do this whenever possible.. every night, or at least weekly as we learn and explore the world around us on our terms.

The reality is of course far from this. Even with my passion for classical singing, I rarely watch recorded opera on video/tv... my justification: "it isn't good enough, it isn't the same" strangely, I justify my laziness with platitudes of guilt targeted at the producer, the sound engineer, the cameraman, and even my TV. Instead, we get a steady course of Law and Order, Disney, movies, and sitcoms.. like everyone else. That is our choice conscious or not.. uggh.

Live from Lincoln Center on Thurs night changed that situation for me through the eyes and will of Emma and Joshua. We arrived home after our Maundy Thursday service and my thinking centered on beginning our Spring Break. I turned on the television and began searching my normals.. National Geographic, Discovery and PBS and there it was. State Theater with the opening of Madam Butterfly as presented by NY City Opera. I thought I might listen to just a bit, I told myself. This was presented in HD, the musical emanated from the speakers of my sound systems beautifully. To my amazement, Emma and Josh came into the room, and sat down with me to watch. In just a few minutes, the questions started coming. They were enjoying the story, the singing, the sounds. They were immersed in the experience of opera right here in our living room.

"Dad, can you sing that?" said Emma.
My response.. "I think so, but I have never performed Pinkerton for real. It is something I'd like to do. "
"This is cool." said Josh

We ended up watching all the way to the end. Emma was mildly stunned when Pinkerton and Kate came to take the boy away. They were intrigued and asked about Butterfly's sense of honor and commitment. They were openly concerned about Pinkerton's abandonment of his "family" and his arrogance in owning/buying a marriage. Ideas like this are in such short supply publicly in today's MTV world. My kids got that something different was on this stage, in this opera. They heard and experienced something that my practiced and mature ears misses. The anguish leading up to the suicide and the compassion and caring demonstrated by Sharpless and Suzuki presented role models for my children that I hadn't considered. They struggled as I do with the idea that the American tenor, decked out in the flag and uniform, could some how be the bad guy. This conversation and experience was certainly worthy of our time.

O how different this is from their normal TV and other entertainment fare, Hannah Montana, Raven and the pop concerts of the "Disney generation".

As I prepared to write my normal sort of "review" of concerts, I had to simply stop. The power of the performance didn't come from the energized and rich voices of Butterfly and Pinkerton. It didn't matter that Pinkerton was tall and handsome, an soooo "American". It didn't come though the rich and luxurious textures of the Bass/Baritone voices in all roles, nor the biting and strident singing of Goro. This production connected with my 7 and 9 year old. A Japanese story, sung in Italian by American and Chinese principles..presented "Live from Lincoln Center".

My thanks go out to all of the foundations and artists who made it possible. My job is now to share my experience with others, and see if I can use opera and classical music more effectively to engage my community. here, now, in Richmond VA. As an opera singer, I am obliged.

Genee Obligé

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