Off the Couch: Expect to shed tears with 'Madame Butterfly,' CSO's long-awaited return to opera

Off the Couch: Expect to shed tears with 'Madame Butterfly,' CSO's long-awaited return to opera

March 20th, 2017 by Barry Courter in Life Entertainment

Shannon Kessler Dooley, left, plays Madame Butterfly, Willa Grace Hansard, center, plays her son Sorrow, and Mika Shigematsu plays Suzuki during a rehearsal in the Read House's Terrace Ballroom for the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera's production of Madame Butterfly on Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Lisa Denton and Barry Courter

Lisa Denton and Barry Courter

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

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BARRY COURTER: Lisa, as you know, I love blaring opera in my house while I wash dishes or vacuum the floors. There's just something so dramatic about scrubbing a dirty pot while Pavarotti is singing "La Donna e Mobile." Trust me, you are familiar with the song even if you don't know it by name. Every movie or television show with an Italian character seems to have it playing somewhere.

And don't even get me started on sweeping a floor with "Funiculi Funicula" playing. Magic. You can look them both up on YouTube, but I'd recommend doing so when your house needs cleaning. Of course, Marilyn Manson works too, but

LISA DENTON: At least your latest musical choices have big musical scores and booming instrumentation, unlike the show tunes phase you went through — "I Feel Pretty" with a feather duster.

BARRY: I thought we agreed not to talk about that ever again. It was just the one time.

LISA: If you need an easy introduction to opera, there's always "Looney Tunes." Bugs Bunny as the Barber of Seville is a classic.

BARRY: Funny you mention that, but while I think a lot of people are intimidated by opera, I think they'd be surprised at how many songs, and certainly melodies, they actually know because of Bugs and other shows.

LISA: The best way to get our opera fix this week is to see the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera's "Madame Butterfly," which will be presented Thursday and Saturday at the Tivoli Theatre. This is the first opera they've done since "La Boheme" in 2009.

BARRY: Man, we took a long time to get to the point this week, didn't we?

LISA: And how is that different from other weeks? But go on.

BARRY: You are correct that this is the first fully staged, grand opera in the Tivoli in eight years. It is back because some generous donors ponied up to make it happen. Staging an opera is very expensive because of the costumes, staging, labor, time involved in rehearsing and number of people it takes to make it happen.

It is also for those reasons that opera fans insist it is the best of all worlds when it comes to live theater. And there is a good chance that someone will die in dramatic fashion onstage. That is certainly true with "Butterfly." It is a very powerful story about a Japanese girl who falls for an American soldier only to have her heart broken. That's an oversimplification, but people will empathize with the story.

LISA: I teared up reading the synopsis. The other day, I got choked up listening to a radio clip of Gerald McRaney on the new NBC series "This Is Us." I'm planning to binge-watch this show, which just finished its first season, but I'm thinking I'll need a palette of Puffs to get through it.

At "Madame Butterfly," I'm pretty sure I'll ugly-cry, as Oprah calls it. But what a powerful story it tells.

BARRY: There will be crying. I might have gotten a little verklempt just watching rehearsal. You can get a sneak peek during last week's Music Wednesdays episode (https://youtu.be/xi1rvqo4Jh8). People should know that it will be sung in Italian with supertitles.

LISA: Gosh, I'm feeling a little weepy right now just thinking about all this drama. How about we talk about the fact that today is the first day of spring? I thought it would never get here. At least now I can blame all this sniffling on my allergies.

Get event information every Thursday in ChattanoogaNow or online anytime at www.ChattanoogaNow.com.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354. Contact Lisa Denton at ldenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6281.