A beloved classic opera — with sets and costumes by a popular local artist — is on Opera Omaha’s lineup next season.

Opera Omaha General Director Roger Weitz announced Friday that “Madama Butterfly,” designed by Jun Kaneko, is one of four productions the company will stage beginning in fall 2019. Other titles are “The Abduction From the Seraglio,” “St. John the Baptist” and “The Capulets and the Montagues.”

The Kaneko version of “Madama Butterfly” premiered here in 2006 and was last seen at the Orpheum in 2011. Since then, it has traveled to numerous companies in the United States and some beyond our borders.

“San Francisco Opera was so excited about Jun’s work that they had it there twice,” Weitz said.

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In fact, SFO worked with Kaneko to add costumes and change some of the scenery, and those changes will be reflected when it returns to Omaha’s Orpheum Theater on Nov. 1 and 3 this year. Opera Omaha and SFO now jointly own the production.

Weitz said most companies in the country try to do “Madama Butterfly,” written by Giacomo Puccini, once every six or seven years. It provides a classic and traditional opera amid the diversity of the coming season.

“Every year, as best as we can, we try to have seasons that represent all opera has to offer,” Weitz said.

That includes productions from various eras and with different languages and styles.

Alessandro Stradella, who composed during the baroque period, wrote “St. John the Baptist” as an oratorio, for instance, meaning it’s a major musical work without costumes or scenery. Opera Omaha’s production, set for March 25-April 5, 2020, as part of the company’s ONE Festival, will be fully staged at a yet-to-be-revealed location. Opera Omaha isn’t the first company to do that, Weitz said, but it’s very rare. He hopes to reveal the venue for the opera later this year.

“St. John the Baptist” will be directed by Christopher Alden, who may be familiar to longtime Omaha opera fans because he got his start here, Weitz said.

Vincenzo Bellini’s “The Capulets and the Montagues,” at the Orpheum Theater April 3 and 5, 2020, is the other production in conjunction with the festival. It will be directed by James Darrah, who also is the festival’s artistic director.

“The theme of the two festival operas is familiar stories told in less familiar ways,” Weitz said.


"Madama Butterfly" last appeared in Omaha at the Orpheum in 2011.

Bellini based his work on an earlier opera called “Juliet and Romeo” rather than on the William Shakespeare play, Weitz said. And one of the characters in “St. John the Baptist” is Salome, who is not named in the Gospel of John in the Bible.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Abduction From the Seraglio” rounds out the season on Feb. 7 and 9, 2020. Including some spoken dialogue, it is performed in German.

Weitz revealed the coming season on Friday night at “The Elixir of Love,” the second performance in Opera Omaha’s current season. Ticket information for the 2019-20 season will be available later at operaomaha.org.

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Betsie covers a little bit of everything for The World-Herald's Living section, including theater, religion and anything else that might need attention. Phone: 402-444-1267.

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