Patricia Racette returns to the role of Cio Cio San, a role which in my opinion is her calling card and her greatest role. As I stated in my Tosca preview Racette is best suited for Puccini as her voice is lush, expressive and dramatic. She can express every word and bring the audience through many different emotional sates. When I saw her two years ago her Madama Butterfly was the best performance I saw that year. I suffered with her character throughout the performance and also I felt happy for her at the end of the first act. Even though Cio Cio San is supposed to be 15 years old and Racette is 40, Racette showed her girlish side and it was fully believable. This proved that Racette is also a great actress. Because her performance was so convincing and garnered rave reviews the Met rewarded her with an HD transmission. This performance is now available on DVD.
Liping Zhang alternates with Racette singing Cio Cio San. Having made her Met debut in 2004 Zhang has sang all throughout the world and is best known for her portrayal of Cio Cio San. Zhang was hailed for her soft tone and her great acting skills when she sang in Los Angeles. With these qualities Zhang should easily triumph in Minghella's production.
Robert Dean Smith returns to the Met after a Wagner and a Strauss opera. He’ll sing Pinkerton and I suspect it may be a great one. I remember when he sang Tristan und Isolde, a heldentenor role which he sang surprisingly lyrically, and with great breath control. His voice is surprisingly lyrical and youthful. His high notes are pitch perfect. There is no sense of strain and as an actor Smith is perfect. Smith may be the most appealing Pinkerton since Jonas Kaufmann.
Marcello Giordani returns to the Met in a role he created for the production. Marcello Giordani is a good actor. However his voice is a different matter. He has a good mezza voce and pretty good low notes. However his high notes are of concern. He screams a lot of them and the ones he doesn't scream are strained and forced. His breath control is also of concern. After half an hour of singing he sounds tired and can barely sustain his phrases. Luckily Pinkerton is a short role and Giordani will be able to hold his ground.
Laurent Naouri makes his awaited Met debut in the role of Sharpless. His voice is very lyrical with good top notes. He is also a good actor. Without a doubt, he will make a youthful Sharpless.
Racette and Zhang should triumph in these roles making this another highlight and a must see this year.