Orlando Philharmonic performs Puccini’s opera, Madama Butterfly

Orlando Philharmonic’s Madama Butterfly Features Virtual Opera Sets

Directed by former Orlando Opera Director Robert Swedberg, the Philharmonic’s April 5 & 7 productions will feature projected sets and scenery

Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra will take a new approach to its staged opera productions by adding virtual backdrops. Since the Orlando Opera closed its doors in 2009, the Philharmonic has presented 1-2 operas per year, with all the music, drama and costumes of grand opera, but with minimal scenery, so as not to distract from the musicians on stage.  The orchestra’s April 5 & 7 productions of Puccini’s Madama Butterflymark the first time the orchestra has used projected sets to enhance the drama of the production.

“Projected images help us expand beyond the limitations of hard scenery,” said Robert Swedberg, stage director for this production. “They allow the inclusion of visual themes and visions that would otherwise not be possible. Our goal is to make this a subtle enhancement rather than a distraction, and I am so happy that the Orlando Philharmonic has agreed to this approach.”

Graphic designer Lisa Buck describes how the sets fit into the action of the opera:

“The projections are usually created without the human form and are kept bold and symbolic- capturing the mood and location of the action, allowing the cast to perform and tell their stories–with the artwork creating a digital backdrop. Once the elements are in place, the story telling begins: a moon rising and setting, mournful birds in flight foretelling impending doom, or a ship silently sailing off in the early morning light.”

Orlando Philharmonic Music Director Christopher Wilkins says Puccini’s opera lends itself very well to this type of staging.

“The Philharmonic’s unique presentation gives the audience an exceptional experience, not only because they can watch the music being made by singers and orchestra alike, but also because the actors perform just inches away from the front row.  This stage arrangement is especially well suited to a drama like Madama Butterfly, dealing as it does with the private lives and intimate exchanges of the principal characters.

The cast includes Shu-Ying Li as Cio-Cio-San, Brian Jagde as Lieutenant Pinkerton, Thomas Potter as Sharpless, and Mika Shigematsu as Suzuki. The graphic projections and sets will be designed by scenic designer Lisa Buck, and the chorus will be directed by Robin Stamper of Florida Opera Theatre.

Written by Giacomo Puccini and premiered in 1904, the story of Madama Butterfly follows Cio-Cio-San, a beautiful young geisha who sacrifices her family, her religion, and ultimately her life for an American naval officer, Lieutenant Pinkerton, who takes her as his bride for convenience, with no intention of bringing her home to America. The original opera later inspired the Broadway musical, Miss Saigon.

Conducted by Christopher Wilkins, performances will take place on Friday, April 5 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 7 at 2 p.m. at Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, 401 W Livingston Street in Downtown Orlando. Tickets are $22-$82, available at 407-770-0071 or www.OrlandoPhil.org/Opera. The Orlando Philharmonic’s 2012-2013 opera series is sponsored by United Arts of Central Florida, Darden Restaurants and The Bryce L. West Foundation.

Currently celebrating its 20th Anniversary Season, the Orlando Philharmonic is Central Florida’s resident professional orchestra, comprised of accomplished musicians recruited from around the world. With more than 125 performances each year, the orchestra provides captivating musical experiences to people of all ages, provides enriching education programs for students and adults, and helps build a rich, sustainable future for symphonic music in the Central Florida community. Learn more at www.orlandophil.org.