Pinkerton (Thiago Arancam) and Butterfly (Ana María Martínez) on their wedding night, Madama Butterfly, Washington National Opera (photo by Scott Suchman)
The choice between the two casts is fairly close, based on the second cast's opening performance on Tuesday night, with neither of them being so remarkable as to warrant an unqualified recommendation. If pressed to make a choice, I would go with Catherine Naglestad in the first cast, a much stronger voice for the title role. We have greatly admired the fine soprano Ana María Martínez on the stage at Santa Fe Opera and have followed her highly praised exploits in Europe the past few years. Her voice did not sound quite ready for Butterfly, however, as she shied away from many of the high notes (the one toward the end of the opening scene was so evanescent as to be almost inaudible) -- Scott Cantrell had similar reservations about her debut in the role last fall at Houston Grand Opera. As for her acting of the role, Martínez's coy, even hammy teenager was miles away from the more dignified, even stiff Naglestad: one wonders which of the two is closer to what director Ron Daniels envisioned. It is possible that he encouraged the singers to go in vastly different directions.
Anne Midgette, WNO's second "Butterfly" cast offers vague passion (Washington Post, March 3)
Washington National Opera's production of Madama Butterfly continues through March 19, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.