Despite the cheery-sounding title, Madama Butterfly is a real downer. Giacomo Puccini's opera about culture clash and false hearts starts with a promising love story; Pinkerton is a Navy man in early-1900s Japan who takes the geisha Cio-Cio San for his "wife." Cio-Cio San is unaware that she's only a starter wife for Pinkerton, a plaything to idle away the time until he returns to America and finds a "real" wife. For a brief time, Pinkerton and Cio-Cio San are happy -- then Pinkerton initiates phase two of his plan, the return to America. Cio-Cio San has only her memories to remind her of their love; well, that and her son by the faithless Pinkerton. He's in for a big surprise when he eventually returns to Japan, but then, so is Cio-Cio San. Union Avenue Opera presents Madama Butterfly at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (July 12 through 20) at the Union Avenue Christian Church (733 North Union Boulevard; 314-361-2881 or Tickets are $30 to $52.
Fridays, Saturdays. Starts: July 12. Continues through July 20, 2013

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