Parlando: The COC Blog


The Big COC Podcast — Episode 28

By Gianmarco Segato, Adult Programs Manager


For Episode 28, the “Decline and Fall” edition, we welcome back Alia Rosenstock, Associate Artist Manager with Dean Artists Management; Western Canadian opera presenter and journalist, Stephan Bonfield and, opera journalist Joseph So. Gianmarco Segato, the COC’s Adult Programs Manager is your host. It’s a new opera season, and along with it, we’re following a flurry of hot opera topics!

Western Australia Opera cancels their Carmen citing concerns for their audience’s health – must be all that heavy onstage smoking!
Why are all of European opera’s highest profile music directors quitting?
In crisis once again, Rome Opera dismisses its orchestra and chorus… 
To leave or not to leave …our panel reveals their own secret walking out of a show stories!

Are you listening? Let us know your thoughts, opinions and suggestions by contacting us on our blog, Parlando, Facebook, Twitter (@CanadianOpera) or by email (


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Madama Butterfly Journey: Costumes, Makeup, and Wigs


Explore our production of Madama Butterfly through our latest infographic, delving into the productio's costumes, makeup, and wigs, and featuring exclusive interviews with Costume Designer Susan Benson and Wig and Makeup Supervisor Sharon Ryman. 

Madama Butterfly is one of Giacomo Puccini’s greatest works and one of the most popular operas in the world. The opera tells the tragic story of Cio-Cio San, a Geisha, who falls in love with B. F. Pinkerton, a U.S. naval officer, while he is stationed in Japan. Formed through layers of symbolism, musical history, and diverse cultures, the opera is filled with unique elements from the costumes to the arias that help make it a favourite of opera goers both old and new.


Click on the image below (or here) to view!

The first infographic, and overview of the story, characters, and music, is available here

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Around the World with Madama Butterfly

Madama Butterfly, a timeless tale of love, loss and devotion, is one of the world’s most popular operas. From New York City, to Rome and Finland, our globe-trotting Madama Butterfly artists have performed in opera houses and festivals around the world. We asked them to share their favourite stories, memories and behind-the-scenes tidbits from this beloved opera.



One of the things that makes live performance so exciting is that even after countless rehearsals, you can never guarantee the final result. Conductor Patrick Lange knows this from experience, when a show he was conducting didn’t go quite as planned… but he took it in stride and now it’s one of his favourite Butterfly memories! 

I had one of my most memorable Butterfly experiences when I was working, for the first time, with a certain singer notorious for slowing down the tempo in performances – but in rehearsals, this singer asked me not to slow down his part. When it came time for the performance, the Concertmaster (who had known this singer for years) asked me if I was sure about keeping the quicker tempo. I replied confidently, “Of course! Rehearsals have been going well!” But when the performance started, the singer was in a completely different world, singing his part much slower and making it impossible to go at the speed we’d rehearsed. When I looked down at the pit, I received a beautiful, knowing smile from the orchestra. These things are part of the fun of opera!



Working and performing with children on stage can lead to all kinds of interesting situations. as one of the world’s leading Butterflys, patricia racette has shared the stage with countless “troubles” (or “Sorrows,” as Cio-Cio San’s child is known in the COC’s production) and her experiences prove that working with opera’s youngest performers comes with its own unique challenges and rewards…

My best Butterfly stories typically involve my various “Troubles.” The situations I’ve dealt with have been hilarious, heart-warming and sometimes exhausting! The best moments seem to occur during “Dormi amor mio” at the end of Act II. I am always a bit tired at that point and, apparently, so are my Troubles! On more than one occasion the child has actually fallen asleep, and, I must remind any of you who are unaware, a sleeping child is MUCH heavier than one who’s awake! So to carry a child AND sing becomes more challenging. Once my little Trouble actually snored during the entire exit and I had to physically rouse her to wake her up when we got offstage! In a recent production, I also had the great pleasure to work with a lovely little boy whose mother informed me that he had referred to me as his “adult girlfriend.”


As a young singer, soprano Kelly Kaduce took a risk tackling the title role in Madama Butterfly for the first time at Minnesota Opera (her home state). Her gamble paid off, thanks in part to an influential director who had a lasting impact on her professional and personal life.

When I sang my first Butterfly, I was quite young for the role. The general consensus is that you should wait until you’re older and more established because it’s so difficult. I sought out a lot of advice and basically everyone said “No.” But I’m a little headstrong and decided I wanted to do it. And the biggest factor for me – other than that when you’re a young singer, you’re crazy to say no to anything – was that Colin Graham was directing it. He was such a well-known director, and he spent a large part of his life in Japan and knew a lot about the culture. So I knew that if I took this opportunity to do that Butterfly with him, I would really learn a lot. And sure enough I did. I learned about Japanese gesture and culture. And I just loved that man to death. I wound up doing a good handful of operas with him. My husband and I even ended up naming our son after him.



Stefano Secco’s first experience singing the role of Pinkerton in Rome was a global experience that brought together a diverse international cast.

The first time I sang the role of Pinkerton was in a beautiful city: Rome. It was 2002. In addition to the huge emotions about making my debut in such a great theatre, I was also curious about the other singers. Cio-Cio San was African, Kate Pinkerton was Korean, the American Consul Sharpless was Uruguayan and I’m an Italian playing an American. It was a very interesting situation! That’s the beauty of music – it’s a universal language! It was an extraordinary experience.


ANDREA CARÈ (Pinkerton)

Tenor Andrea Carè’s role debut as Pinkerton at Finland’s Savonlinnan Opera Festival in 2010 turned out to be a life-changing experience in ways he didn’t expect.

I arrived in Finland in mid-June from Italy, where it had been 34 degrees and sunny. Finland was cold, windy and rainy. No one spoke to me because my English was really bad at the time and I didn’t know even one Finnish word. After 10 days of rehearsal, the weather changed and the sun started to shine on the wonderful castle of Olavinlinna and I fell in love with the woman who was to become my wife! She was acting as an extra in the production, where she actually played a ninja. The newspaper version of our story is that I fell in love with two wonderful blue eyes jumping out from a black ninja suit, while I was singing in a romantic and breathtaking castle in the middle of Finland. The truth is that I started to “stalk” that ninja during rehearsals that took place in a much more modest and less romantic place: a gym. A few months later, I found myself spending much more time in Finland than in Italy, and that summer that ninja married me.



Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong knows the importance of drama in Madama Butterfly, whether it takes shape in some real tour-de-force acting, or by a surprise from mother nature!

I have had the pleasure of working with both Kelly Kaduce and Patricia Racette in Madama Butterfly. Kelly was my first Butterfly at Santa Fe Opera. One evening, after we had finished scattering petals during the "flower duet” and the news of Pinkerton’s return had been delivered, a storm blew in. As the drama intensified on stage, the wind picked up the flower petals and swirled them onstage while lightning flashed on the horizon. Mother Nature provided us with stage effects that no amount of money could buy! That production also understood the importance of all of the characters. Suzuki is so much more than a servant; she is Butterfly’s one true friend. And the audience sees and feels what Suzuki does – a silent worry and attachment to a young girl who stands to lose everything for love. My most recent Butterfly was with Patricia Racette at San Francisco Opera, and while visually stunning, it called for the singers onstage to be truly substantial actors and actresses so that the story didn’t become lost in the vivid setting. Pat was just the kind of dramatic force needed to lead the cast. It is a pleasure to revisit our roles together again at COC!


DWAYNE CROFT (Sharpless)

During a show, not everything always goes to plan, even for seasoned pros, as dwayne Croft discovered in a recent performance at the Metropolitan Opera.

Most recently I was in a performance at the Met and took out my prop glasses to read the letter to Butterfly in Act 2. The glasses had gotten bent while in my pocket and they wouldn’t stay on, so I had to incorporate broken glasses into that beautiful, intimate moment but they kept popping off. I finally put them away and pretended to read the letter holding it far away like I do in real life. It was distracting, but these things happen... and they are the things you always remember.

GREGORY DAHL (Sharpless)

Gregory Dahl rushed across Canada to make an earlier than expected debut as Sharpless with Opera Lyra in Ottawa.

I was scheduled to debut the role of Sharpless with Vancouver Opera in November 2004; however, that summer, while attending a friend’s wedding in British Columbia, Opera Lyra called to request that I replace their Sharpless who had cancelled due to a family crisis. Rehearsals were to start in 10 days, so I returned to Toronto and got to work. After four furious days of memorizing and coaching sessions, I was ready for rehearsals to begin. I was pleased with my performance and, if the reviews were any indication, the show was a huge success. Ten seasons later, I’m excited to reprise the character of Sharpless and I am grateful to have more than 10 days to prepare!


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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001



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