Valerie Hamlin, CCO Publicist/Associate Director of Marketing
303-292-6500, ext. 108
January 08, 2010



MADAMA BUTTERFLY by Giacomo Puccini

Denver, Colo. - General/Artistic Director Pelham G. Pearce announces Central City Opera’s (CCO) 2010 Festival with three productions ranging from classic to contemporary including the revival of a Central City Opera milestone, the company’s first production of Offenbach’s operetta known for its famous “Cancan” music, and the commemoration of mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle’s 40th career anniversary in opera with her starring role in Central City Opera’s first presentation of work by composer Jake Heggie. The 2010 Festival will feature a staging of the popular 2005 CCO production of Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini, the tragic tale of one woman betrayed by love and her ultimate sacrifice; Orpheus in the Underworld, the satirical operetta based on the story of Orpheus from Greek mythology featuring the famous “Cancan” dance; and Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers, a modern chamber opera about the struggles of a famous actress and her two adult children.

The first Festival production will be Giacomo Puccini’s tale of love, betrayal, and sacrifice, Madama Butterfly. Set in early 20th century Japan, the story follows the marriage of a naïve geisha, Cio Cio San (Madama Butterfly), and her aloof husband, Naval Officer Lt. Pinkerton. The lush musical score incorporates Japanese themes and includes such favorite arias as “Un bel di vedremo.” Puccini’s opera with text by Giacosa and Illica was a fiasco upon its premiere at La Scala in Milan on Feb. 17, 1904. A revision in May of 1904 led to its status as one of the most beloved pieces in the operatic genre.

Catherine Malfitano returns as stage director, having staged this production of Madama Butterfly when it premiered at CCO in 2005. A Central City Opera milestone, the 2005 production is Central City Opera’s best selling production to date. The 2005 CCO landmark was the career directorial debut of Ms. Malfitano, who also made her debut as a professional singer with CCO in 1972 as Nannetta in Falstaff. Ms. Malfitano’s recent directing credits include Rigoletto at Washington National Opera and Don Giovanni for the Merola Program at San Francisco Opera. In addition to her 2005 debut, Ms. Malfitano returned to Central City Opera in 2007 to direct The Saint of Bleecker Street and also directed the company’s Lucia di Lammermoor last summer. British maestro Matthew Halls, who made his CCO debut with 2009’s Rinaldo, will return to conduct Madama Butterfly. Recently, Mr. Halls assumed the position of Artistic Director for the newly formed Retrospect Ensemble based in the UK. Following their successful May 2009 inaugural performance at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, the Ensemble already boasts a new annual season at the prestigious Wigmore Hall in London, and tours to Korea, Israel, Portugal and Switzerland.     

As the second offering in the 2010 Summer Festival, Central City Opera will present a new production of Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, which will be performed for the first time by Central City Opera this summer. A work of opéra bouffe, the satire focuses on the story of the Greek mythology character, Orpheus. He is sent begrudgingly by the representative Public Opinion to Hades to rescue his estranged wife, Eurydice, from her new lover, Pluto. Jupiter, who learns of Orpheus’ plight from his fellow gods, joins the pursuit and intends to win the hand of Eurydice as well. After employing the magical powers of the gods, Jupiter succeeds in seducing Eurydice to the delight of Orpheus and the dismay of Public Opinion.

Orpheus in the Underworld opened at the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens on October 21, 1858 in Paris. Not an immediate success, the work was a financial disaster for Offenbach until he was accused of blaspheming an ancient work and plagiarizing. The public’s curiosity in the scandal created a great interest in the production. It soon became a hit and ran for 228 performances. The operetta is most famous for its “Galop Infernal” scene where the entire cast joins in a rowdy dance. The scene’s music provides the basis for the widely recognized “Cancan.”
A Central City Opera veteran, Marc Astafan returns to direct Orpheus in the Underworld, after accomplishments with last summer’s Rinaldo, 2007’s Cendrillon and 2006’s Don Giovanni. Mr. Astafan’s recently directed The Rape of Lucretia with Juilliard Opera Theater, Romeo et Juliette with Syracuse Opera and Tosca with Virginia Opera. Making his CCO debut in 2007’s production of La Traviata, Martin André returns to conduct. Recent engagements include Martinů’s Mirandolina at Garsington Opera in England and Britten’s War Requiem at the Royal College of Music, London.

Central City Opera’s final offering in 2010, Three Decembers, was created in 2007 by American composer Jake Heggie. This production marks the debut of Jake Heggie’s work on the Central City Opera stage. The opera’s libretto, written by Gene Scheer (Thèrése Raquin, An American Tragedy), is based on Terrence McNally’s unpublished play Some Christmas Letters (and a Couple of Phone Calls). McNally and Heggie continued their creative partnership for this new opera after their highly acclaimed first collaboration on Dead Man Walking, which premiered in 2000 at San Francisco Opera. In addition to his brilliant writing capabilities, Scheer is also a lauded singer who has appeared often with Central City Opera including his recent appearances as Lutz in the 2004 production of The Student Prince and Dr. Pangloss and Voltaire in the 2000 production of Candide.

Having premiered at Houston Grand Opera in 2008 under its original title Last Acts, Three Decembers follows the relationships of a dysfunctional American family. A famous actress, Madeline often chose the spotlight over her now adult children, Bea and Charlie, and must deal with the outcome of her actions. Through a series of phone calls, letters, and interactions, family relationships and strife are revealed. The narrative follows three decades (between 1986 and 2006) in three acts. Commenting on his gift for intertwining story and music, The San Francisco Chronicle praised Heggie for his “tender, often emotionally luminous score” for Last Acts/Three Decembers.

Portraying the role of Madeline in Three Decembers, mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle will mark her 40th career anniversary in opera in 2010. With an extensive repertoire of 132 roles from Strauss and Wagner to Bernstein and Sondheim, Ms. Castle’s recent portrayal of roles in contemporary opera have earned her much acclaim. No stranger to the work of Heggie and Scheer, Ms. Castle recorded the duo’s song-cycle “Statuesque” in 2008 for a benefit CD. In 2005, Ms. Castle portrayed the role of Mrs. Bertram in Heggie’s The End of the Affair at Seattle Opera and again in 2007 at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City in which performances were recorded for commercial release. A CCO veteran, Ms. Castle returns to Central City Opera after notable appearances as Augusta in 2006’s The Ballad of Baby Doe and Elizabeth in the highly acclaimed 2001 production of Britten’s Gloriana.

Stage Director Ken Cazan returns to CCO to direct Three Decembers after his recent credits for A Little Night Music in 2009 and the sold out West Side Story in 2008. The resident stage director for the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, Mr. Cazan is one of America’s most sought after directors, having staged more than 100 productions for more than 40 opera companies. Recent credits include Owen Wingrave at Chicago Opera Theater and Cunning Little Vixen at Long Beach Opera. CCO Music Director John Baril will serve as conductor, having led a wide range of productions during his tenure with the company; most recently Lucia di Lammermoor last summer. After recently making his Nashville Opera debut conducting Don Giovanni, he will lead the young artist performance of The Barber of Seville for Opera Colorado in February and makes his Opera Delaware debut in May conducting Tosca.

Further casting and artistic staff announcements for the 2010 Festival are to be announced. Subscriptions and single tickets for the 2010 Festival are on sale now. Single tickets for individual shows are $38 to $99 and subscriptions to see all three productions range from $90 to $237. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 303-292-6700 or visit www.centralcityopera.org.

Central City Opera House Association is the nation’s fifth-oldest opera company, located just 35 miles west of Denver in one of Colorado’s official National Landmark Historic Districts. The company continues to present artistically excellent professional opera in an annual summer festival; to offer career-entry training to young singers; to produce education and community service programs; and to preserve and maintain the Opera House and 30 other Victorian-era properties. For more information or to purchase tickets to the Central City Opera, visit www.centralcityopera.org or call 303-292-6700.