‘Madama Butterfly’ in Japanese and English at Aratani

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Keiko Clark as Cho-Cho-san

Pacific Opera Project presents Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” sung in Japanese and English, at the Aratani Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St. (between Second and Third streets) in Little Tokyo, on Saturday, April 6, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 13, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, April 14, at 2 p.m.

So what if what if a brash American naval officer and a young Japanese girl met and fell in love? How would they communicate? (Certainly not in Italian!) In POP’s most ambitous production to date, Artistic Director Josh Shaw’s long-time dream of a bilingual “Madama Butterfly” comes to life at The Aratani.

Kimberly Sogioka and Naoko Suga

With a new libretto by Shaw and Eiki Isomura, all Japanese roles will be sung in Japanese (by Japanese American artists) and all American roles will be sung in English. Chorus master: Naoko Suga. Costume designer: Sueko Oshimoto. This is a co-production with Opera in the Heights (Houston). This production is sponsored in part by an Innovations Grant from Opera America.

The cast: Keiko Clark as Cho-Cho-san; Peter Lake as B.F. Pinkerton; Kenneth Stavert as Sharpless; Kimberly Sogioka as Suzuki; Eiji Miura as Goro; Hisato Masuyama as Bonze; Steve Moritsugu as Prince Yamadori; Chelsea Obermeier as Kate Pinkerton; Norge Yip as Imperial Commissioner; Takuya Matsumoto as Registrar; Jussi Sjöwall as Sorrow; Janet Todd as Cho-Cho-san Cover.

Sueko Oshimoto

Chorus (members from South Bay Singers): Soprano — Miyako Ito, Kaori Kawamura, Hitomi Kitagawa, Kazuko Kosaka, Keiko Kurosawa, Keiko Nakada, Tomoko Nakazawa, Shinoi Osuka, Yurika Takashima, Makiko Tohmatsu, Naomi Uenishi. Alto — Yoshiko Akane, Hiromi Dunbar, Mayumi El-Mekhgiange, Atsuko Igarashi, Sanaye Kozono, Yoko Kuriki, Noriko Mizuhara, Namie Miyake, Midori Morimoto, Keiko Murai, Keiko Suga, Emiko Sudo, Ayako Takano, Kazuko Tsubota. Tenor — Yusaku Kishi, Toshiki Maehara, Seiko Yajima, Masaru Yokoyama.

Peter Lake (Pinkerton) and Keiko Clark (Cho-Cho-san) in rehearsal.

Advisory Committee: Snehal Desai (East West Players), Shigemi Matsumoto (USC, CSU Long Beach, CSU Northridge), Doug Cooney (Diversity in American Theater), and Padraic Costello (ethnomusicologist). Community engagement manager: Yumi Mizui.

This production is sponsored in part a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and supported by The Japan Foundation of Los Angeles. Makeup is generously sponsored by Star of the Color, Kaori Nara Turner.

Tickets are $15 to $75 and are available from the Aratani Theatre Box Office, (213) 680-3700 or [email protected] For more information, visit: https://www.pacificoperaproject.com/madamabutterfly

Make opening night an event. POP will take over the popular Little Tokyo restaurant Sake Dojo, 333 E. First St., for dinner and drinks with Isomura and Shaw. The menu will feature Hijiki Sunomo Salad, Kushi, Popcorn Rock Shrimp, Makimono, Nigiri Sushi, Kurobuta Pork Chahan, Black Cod, dessert and, of course, sake. Additional drinks available for purchase.

The dinner will begin at 5:15 p.m. and will conclude by 6:30 p.m. in time for a 7 p.m. curtain. Seating is limited to 60 people. Tickets for the dinner are $100 and do not include tickets to the performance. If you have already purchased tickets to another night’s performance and would like to switch, call the Aratani Box Office. After the opening night performance, join the cast and design team in a private champagne reception at the Aratani.

About the lead singer: Keiko Clark, soprano, has thrilled audiences across the globe with a voice remarkably pure and clear, and a stage presence fresh and engaging. From performing the most demanding operatic roles, to an emotional rendition of the U.S. national anthem at Dodger Stadium, Clark takes command of her stage with a warmth and generosity of spirit that audiences take to heart.

Her repertoire includes the title roles of Juliette in “Roméo et Juliette” and Lucia in “Lucia di Lammermoor.” She has performed the lead roles of Constanza and Blonde in “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” Norina in “Don Pasquale,” and Madame Goldentrill in “The Impresario.” She has performed multiple renditions of the menacing Queen of the Night in “The Magic Flute” with Riverside Lyric Opera, Repertory Opera, Pasadena Lyric Opera, Bakersfield Symphony, Pacific Palisade Symphony and USC Thornton Opera.

A native of Tokyo, Clark trained under a scholarship with legendary tenor Carlo Bergonzi. She holds a master’s degree in vocal arts from USC, a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from New England Conservatory in Boston, as well as a teaching credential in music from CSU Long Beach. In addition to her live performances, Clark has worked as adjunct instructor at Loyola Marymount University, co-founded a youth choir at The Church of Jesus Christ the Latter Day Saints, and currently works as the choral director and theatre director for North Torrance High School.

About the conductor/librettist: Eiki Isomura is in his second season as artistic director and principal conductor of Opera in the Heights, where he has led over 70 performances of over 15 operas, drawing consistent praise for elevating the company’s performance standard. “The orchestra has never sounded so focused,” wrote The Houston Press. “Down the line, this is ensemble playing of fine caliber… The OH chorus is ultra-fine, too, smooth and lustrous… Maestro Isomura deserves our thanks.”

In recent years he has served on the music staff of Opera in the Ozarks as conductor and pianist, as well as HGOco, preparing the premieres of numerous chamber operas for Houston Grand Opera. Prior to his appointment as artistic director at OH, Isomura served as director of orchestral activities at Lone Star College-Montgomery.

He holds a doctorate in orchestral conducting from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Kenneth Kiesler, who also mentored him as a conducting fellow at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to work with the NAC Orchestra. Eiki’s conducting teachers also include Thomas Cockrell, Colin Metters, Gustav Meier and Mark Gibson. He resides in Houston with his wife and most trusted collaborator, mezzo-soprano Monica Isomura, and their 1 year-old, Edison.

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