Arts & Entertainment

NJ Festival Orchestra Presents ‘Madama Butterfly’ in Westfield March 3

Soprano Asako Tamura sings the role of Cio-Cio-San, the fragile and trusting geisha known as Madama Butterfly.
Acclaimed tenor Noah Stewart sings B. F. Pinkerton, the callous American naval officer.
Metropolitan Opera’s Kyle Albertson makes his NJFO debut as Sharpless, the U.S. Consul at Nagasaki.
Korea National Opera’s Sabina Kim is Butterfly’s maid, Susuki.

WESTFIELD, NJ — Soloists from the New York Metropolitan Opera and beyond will join the New Jersey Festival Orchestra to present the opera “Madama Butterfly,” Puccini’s enduring tale of love, honor, betrayal and sacrifice on March 3, at 7:00 p.m. in Westfield

The concert will be presented with supertitles, costumes, staging and design by Maria Todaro.

“There is a vocal theme running throughout the NJFO's 2017-18 season, with the human voice featured on every program,” NJFO Music Director and Conductor David Wroe said. “The climax of this element is, of course, the annual opera, and this year we wanted to go big and famous. ‘Madama Butterfly’ is arguably the best-known opera of the 20th Century, with love interests both national and international in scope — the all suffering ‘damsel’ is Japanese and the faithless male lover, American.”

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Madama Butterfly is the story of a fragile Japanese geisha who is betrayed by her American husband,  B. F. Pinkerton. But it’s the music itself that ultimately drew the orchestra to this masterpiece and makes it a perfect choice for this audience, Wroe said.

“It’s lush music, passionate and driving, but with a peculiar mix of the Oriental fused with Italian verismo,” he said. “Who will it appeal to? Anyone with a heart, and has the ability to cry, laugh and feel love. The setting is in the 1920s — the moment when America’s power was manifest throughout the world with an almost unchallenged navy. The exoticism of young Butterfly was too much for Pinkerton, a bold and adventurous captain in the American Navy — and early infatuation and mutual love spirals out of control to ultimate betrayal, with a twist.”

The NJFO’s production is made up of a dream cast that heralds from across the globe, Wroe said.

“International soprano Asako Tamura has sung this role worldwide and is praised in her native Japan at one of their finest professionals,” Wroe said. “The role of Pinkerton is taken this time by Noah Stewart, recently back from London singing the American National Anthem for 40,000 sports fans at Wembley Stadium for the an NLF international extravaganza. Metropolitan Opera regular Kyle Albertson takes the somber role of the American Consul — ever concerned about his friend’s reckless playing of a young girl’s heart. We were excited to place Noah, an African American, in the lead role of Pinkerton, representing the diverse and rich cultural heritage of America’s population and wanting to demonstrate that all people, independent of their race, color or ethnic background have the opportunity, when qualified, to bring to life this magnificent music.”

The concert is presented in conjunction with Ray Catena of Union. The Joseph T. DeAlessandro Memorial Opera Concert  is made possible through additional support of Marty Jeivens, the NJ State Council on the Arts and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. 

Watch it Saturday, March 3, at the Westfield Presbyterian Church at 7 p.m. Free pre-concert lecture by Michael Rosin at 6 p.m. 

Then, again on March 4, at 3 p.m., “Madama Butterfly” will be presented at 3 p.m. at the Concert Hall at Drew University in Madison.

Tickets ($28-$76, students U18 $15) are available online at, or call the box office at 908-232-9400.

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