The San Francisco Opera Has a New Voice: Lianna Haroutounian

Lianna Haroutounian

(E)  I have attended over the years many performances of the San Francisco Opera: Carmen, La Boheme, Aida, The Marriage of Figaro, Salome…And so, I had the privilege to hear many outstanding singers. But last night, I attended Madame Butterfly and heard for the first time, Lianna Haroutounian

At some point in time during the concert, I closed my eyes, and I had the impression that the clarity, strength, and musicality of the voice that I was listening to was different but as breathtaking as listening to Maria Callas on one of my CDs at home.

As well written by Georgia Rowe in the San Jose Mercury News:

Just when it seemed the San Francisco Opera season was winding down, the company has introduced a “Madama Butterfly” that absolutely knocks it out of the park.

The reason is Lianna Haroutounian, whose impassioned, stunningly beautiful vocal performance in the title role breathes new life into Puccini’s melodrama. Sunday afternoon at the War Memorial Opera House, the Armenian soprano created a “Butterfly” for the ages.

That’s saying a lot, especially in view of San Francisco Opera’s long history with this opera. The company first produced “Butterfly” in 1924, and leading sopranos including Licia Albanese, Leontyne Price and, most recently, Patricia Racette have sung it here since then.

Haroutounian, whose only previous company assignment was in the title role of “Tosca,” makes this “Butterfly” her own. As Cio-Cio-San, the lovestruck Japanese teen whose sham marriage to an American serviceman ends in tragedy, the soprano inhabits the role completely and decisively, tracing the character’s arc from shy hopefulness to utter despair. The role’s gleaming high notes and poignant utterances are hers to command, and she made the most of them throughout this revival.

Mining the deep vein of emotionalism in Puccini’s soaring score, her voluptuous, artfully shaded vocalism and delicately nuanced characterization added up to a gripping portrayal, and her expressive singing in the role’s great set pieces, including the timeless Act II aria, “Un bel di,” was nothing short of brilliant.

Note: The picture above is Lianna Haroutounian in her performance of Madame Butterfly with the San Francisco Opera.

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Categories: Arts