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Hiromi Omura stars in Portland Opera opener, Oct. 25-Nov. 2 at Keller Auditorium; she's performed in the opera 19 times

COURTESY PHOTO: CAROLINE LABERGE - Hiromi Omura stars in Portland Opera's 'Madama Butterfly' in her signature role as Cio-Cio-San, which she has played in 14 countries and 19 productions.Hiromi Omura has performed the lead role in Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" at opera houses around the world, but not in the United States — until now.

Portland Opera welcomes the acclaimed Japanese soprano for the role of Cio-Cio-San for its 55th season-opening performance, "Madama Butterfly," Oct. 25 to Nov. 2 at Keller Auditorium.

Omura is thrilled to be in Portland and preparing for her U.S. debut.

"I had heard about Portland as one of the best cities to live in the U.S. I like Portland very much," she said. "Everybody is so nice and friendly. I enjoy working at the Portland Opera with adorable colleagues and meeting so many nice people everywhere in the city — restaurants, hotels, on the street. It's just amazing. I feel as if I am in my hometown. And, I enjoy the beautiful landscape: the bridges, river, mountain view from Portland Opera" at Hampton Opera Center on Southeast Caruthers Street.

Puccini wrote "Madama Butterfly" in 1903, and Portland Opera last performed it in 2012. It's the story of a young wife and mother named Cio-Cio-San, in Nagasaki, Japan, in the early 1900s, who waits for the return of her beloved B.F. Pinkerton, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.

Tenor Luis Chapa plays Pinkerton, a role he sang for the Metropolitan Opera in 2017-18. You'll see the best of the best when Omura performs Cio-Cio-San in "Madama Butterfly." She has performed the role for Opera Australia, Latvian National Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin and The New National Theatre Tokyo, among many other places.

"Until today, I have worked in 14 countries and performed in 19 productions of 'Madama Butterfly.' But every time I sing it, I feel very fresh as if I am singing it for the first time," she said.

"Cio-Cio-San is innocent, pure-hearted, and full of love. But, she's not just 'sweet.' She has so much strength in her character. She has the guts to fight and always tries to live with a big smile even in painful circumstances. I love her character very much. This is my favorite opera. (Puccini) is a genius to create drama with music, and his music is always fresh, dramatic and touching."

COURTESY PHOTO: CORY WEAVER/PORTLAND OPERA - Portland Opera stages 'Madama Butterfly' for the first time since 2012 to open its season.Portland Opera has two community engagement events planned around "Madama Butterfly":

• "Context & Conversation: Puccini, 'Madama Butterfly,' and Honoring Tradition," 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Hampton Opera Center, 211 S.E. Caruthers St. It's free to attend. Kunio Hara, associate professor of music history at University of South Carolina, and Laura Mueller, of the Portland Japanese Garden, will speak.

• "East & West: A Special Evening of Song," 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 S.W. Park Ave. It's free to attend. Guest artists and members of "Madama Butterfly" will perform pieces that explore influence and musical cross-pollination between the East and West.

Said E. Loren Meeker, stage director, who last directed for Portland Opera in 2009: "An idealistic Japanese girl in the early 1900s falls for a brash, entitled American soldier whose actions turn her love into a story ending in exploitation, betrayal and abandonment. It forces American audiences to consider our history, culture and the unknown victims of our past foreign policy. Our goal within a traditional setting is to honor Japanese culture through insightful storytelling and modern characterization."

There will be four performances of "Madama Butterfly" at Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay St. — 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25, 2 p.m. Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31, and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2.

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