Puccini's Madama Butterfly at the Arena di Verona, the last Opera to debut for the 100th Festival

Eighth title of the rich 2023 playbill, Puccini's 'Japanese tragedy', returns to the Arena with direction and sets by Franco Zeffirelli and costumes by Oscar winner Emi Wada. 4 performances, from 12 August to 7 September, with great performers conducted by Daniel Oren, former conductor of the 2004 premiere, at the helm of the Fondazione Arena Orchestra and Chorus. Exceptional cast: opening act by Roberto Alagna-Aleksandra Kurzak, followed by Maria José Siri and Asmik Grigorian’s debut, with tenors Villari and Pretti.

Madama Butterfly

Saturday 12 August, 8.45 p.m.


Today, it seems incredible that a masterpiece of musical theatre such as Madama Butterfly was booed at its first performance in 1904. Even though it is true that Puccini then retouched it several times, as he was wont to do in his quest for perfection, since then the flight of the 'tenuous butterfly' has never stopped, conquering the theatres of the world and recently also the Arena. An experienced director and set designer, Franco Zeffirelli (whose centenary falls this year) accepted the double challenge in 2004 to tell the story of Cio-Cio-San for the first time in his long career, and to do so on no less than the immense stage of the Arena, an apparently antithetical place to the intimate story of Butterfly

It was a great success, thanks also to the costumes by Oscar winner Emi Wada (1937-2021), the choreographic movements by Maria Grazia Garofoli and the cast conducted by maestro Daniel Oren who, 19 years after that memorable night, and after the title has been restaged 4 times, returns to lead the Fondazione Arena Orchestra and Chorus instructed by Roberto Gabbiani. It is precisely to the chorus that one of the most famous pages in the history of opera comes, that 'closed-mouth' song that, like an ante-litteram soundtrack, accompanies Cio-Cio-San's last wake. As for the orchestra, Puccini infused it with his usual melodic, timbral and harmonic mastery to create his personal Japanese sound - refined, multicoloured, in line with the musical avant-garde of the time, and yet always attentive to the theatrical effectiveness of his work. 

After their success at the premiere of Tosca, Aleksandra Kurzak - as the protagonist - and her art and life companion Roberto Alagna - as Pinkerton, who seduces and abandons her, without ever forgetting her - are back. Cio-Cio-San is perhaps one of the most demanding roles from both an acting and a vocal standpoint. On the 25th, Maria José Siri will star, for the first time in the Arena, in this same role she also tackled in its original version at La Scala; while on the 2nd and 7th September, it will be the Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian, making her absolute debut in the Arena. Next to them, there will be the acclaimed tenors Angelo Villari (25/8) and Piero Pretti (2 and 7/9), while the Sharpless console will feature the young baritone Gevorg Hakobyan, also making his debut at the Arena, for all the shows. 

Supporting roles include the exceptional presence of Elena Zilio as Suzuki for the first two performances, who will be succeeded by Sofia Koberidze. The insinuating Goro will be played by tenor Matteo Mezzaro, Uncle Bonzo by Gabriele Sagona, Prince Yamadori by Italo Proferisce. Kate Pinkerton's 'American wife' will be Clarissa Leonardi (12/8), and then debutant Marta Pluda (25/8, 2 and 7/9), while the wedding ceremony will feature Gianfranco Montresor's Imperial Commissioner, Stefano Rinaldi Miliani's Registrar and Cio-Cio-San's mother and cousin (Federica Spatola and Valeria Saladino). 

Thanks to the Arena’s Technicians and the Dance Troup coordinated by Gaetano Petrosino, the stage will relive Nagasaki's 'pleasure district' teeming with life with Zeffirelli's attention to detail, which then becomes an intimate gaze to follow Butterfly's story all the way to her house on the hill, from where she will not cease to hope with her gaze turned 'to the extreme confines of the sea'. After the premiere on Saturday 12 July, additional performances will be held on 25 August, and 2 and 7 September

"Fondazione Arena has been preparing for Puccini's centenary for some time now, with a journey that will culminate in the recently announced Festival 2024, " says Cecilia Gasdia, General Manager of Fondazione Arena. - This special Butterfly, however, could not be missing from the rich programme of the 100th Festival, as a special occasion to see great artists on stage and as a tribute to Franco Zeffirelli, in his only production dedicated to this masterpiece, in the year in which he would have celebrated his 100th birthday".

"These four dates of Madama Butterfly allow us to see some of today's best artists at work, " continues Stefano Trespidi, Deputy Artistic Director, "often making their debut in this opera, or for their first time in the Arena, confirming the prominence our Festival has on the international scene.

Info: www.arena.it 



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100th Verona Arena Opera Festival 2023

from 16 June to 9 September



by Giuseppe Verdi | Directed by Stefano Poda | NEW PRODUCTION

16, 17, 25, 29 June at  9:15pm| 9, 16, 21, 30 July at 9pm

2, 18, 23 August at8:45pm | 3 , 8 September at8.45pm


by Georges Bizet | Directed by Franco Zeffirelli

23 June at  9:15pm | 6 July at 9pm

11, 24 Augustat8:45pm| 6 Septemberat8:45pm

Il Barbiere di Siviglia

by Gioachino Rossini | Directed by Hugo de Ana

24, 30 June at  9:15pm| 13, 22 July at 9pm


by Giuseppe Verdi | Directed by Antonio Albanese | NEW PRODUCTION

1, 7, 20 July at 9pm| 4 August at 8:45pm

La Traviata

by Giuseppe Verdi | Direction Franco Zeffirelli

8, 14, 27 July at 9pm| 19, 26 August at  8:45pm| 9 September at 8:45pm


by Giuseppe Verdi | Directed by Gianfranco de Bosio

15, 28 July at 9pm| 3, 17 August at 8:45pm

Roberto Bolle and Friends

19 July at 9:15pm

Juan Diego Flórez in Opera-Arena 100

23 July at 9pm


by Giacomo Puccini | Directed by Hugo de Ana

29 July at 9pm| 5, 10 August at  8:45pm| 1 September at 8:45pm

Plácido Domingo in Opera-Arena 100

6 August at 9pm

Madama Butterfly

by Giacomo Puccini | Direction Franco Zeffirelli

12, 25 August at8:45pm | 2 , 7 September at8:45pm

Jonas Kaufmann in Opera-Arena 100

20 August at 9pm

Teatro alla Scala at Verona Arena

31 August at 8pm

Soci Fondatori e Partner

Founding Members

Major Partner Arena di Verona Opera Festival