On 19th February 2016, Artur Ruciński had his debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera as Sharpless in Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. The Polish baritone will perform three more times in this revival of the famous production by Anthony Minghella – on 27th February, and 2nd and 5th March.
‘He is a wonderful artist and a wonderful man’, said British conductor Karel Mark Chicon after the performance. The audience was equally pleased with the opera singer, as shown in the thunderous applause he received. The conductor continued the praise in a conversation with the Polish Press Agency:
Working with him gives me a lot of pleasure, and it’s our first collaboration. He is fantastic, open to new ideas. You couldn’t expect more. I can only praise him. Poles should be proud of him.
Anthony Minghella, British playwright, screenwriter, and director, creator of films such as The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain, first got interested in Madame Butterfly in London. Two years before his death in 2008, the director brought his adaptation of Puccini’s opera to the Met.
Working on the production, Minghella said he wanted to ‘make the Met into the most intimate space imaginable.’ He refused to interpret the tragic history of a young Japanese woman abandoned by her American husband as an anti-imperialist work. Rather, he claimed that Puccini was predominantly interested in the intricacies of human condition.
Artur Ruciński considers Minghella’s adaptation to be fantastic and very touching. Before he started rehearsals, he watched DVDs of the original 2006 production and he was immediately fascinated by the costumes, lightning and the minimalistic yet pure scenography. The singer said:
I am happy that it isn’t something fanciful that would destroy the beauty of this opera about unrequited love and tragedy. The adaptation doesn’t lose sight of the true emotions present in Puccin’s composition.
Polish baritone plays Sharpless, American consul at Nagasaki, who is aware of the fact that the Japan custom doesn’t allow for Lieutenant Pinkerton’s marriage to the 15-year old geisha Cio-Cio-San, also known as Madame Butterfly. At the same time, he pities the young girl, knowing very well that the Pinkerton does not treat her seriously. Sharpless takes care of the geisha from afar, not knowing yet that she had a child from her relationship with Pinkerton.
Ruciński was very pleased with the performance and its exuberant reception by the audience, stating:
What else could one want from a debut performance? I feel great. The atmosphere was fantastic from the very beginning. I received support from other cast members, the conductor and the Met management. I am really happy and can’t wait for the next performances.
He has already performed in Madama Butterfly in the Warsaw-based adaptation by Mariusz Treliński. However, upon receiving subsequent offers, he declined them, explaining that it is not his repertoire:
Puccini did not really appreciate baritones, he preferred tenors and sopranos. His baritone roles are beautiful, but not particularly prominent. The only exception is Tosca, with the fantastic role of Scarpia, and Gianni Schicchi, yet I do not accept every role at this stage of my career.
Ruciński treats his invitation to the Metropolitan Opera as a reward for his work in the opera stages across Europe.
My New York debut was supposed to happen in 2014, but due to the Met’s problems with the production of Faust, in which I was supposed to play Valentin, was cancelled. I am thus delighted to have now this opportunity now to perform in a wonderful adaptation of Madama Butterfly at the very heart of the opera world.
The singer admitted that his path to the Met wasn’t easy. When he had his debut in Los Angeles in 2012 as Marcello in La Bohème, the general manager of the Met, Peter Gelb, invited him for an audition.
The New York premiere of the new season of Madama Butterfly stars Ana Maria Martinez (soprano) as Cio-Cio-San and Roberto De Biasio (tenor) as Pinkerton. Ruciński will sing at the Met again on 27th February and on 2nd and 5th March.
Source: PAP, edited by PW, translated by OK, 25 Feb 2016