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Thursday, June 24, 2021

‘Madame Butterfly’ comes to Indianapolis Zoo

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Thomas Cannon has performed opera in theaters around the world — from New York to Japan. His next stop? The Indianapolis Zoo.

From May 14-16, Cannon and the rest of the ensemble of “Madame Butterfly” will perform one of the world’s most popular operas in the zoo’s butterfly garden, presented by Indianapolis Opera.

“I think it’s going to be a beautiful experience,” Cannon said. “How wonderful to see such a fantastic, exotic opera in a fantastic, exotic space?”

“Madame Butterfly” tells the story of geisha Cio-Cio San, who falls in love with an American naval lieutenant and starts a family, only to have it destroyed by the lieutenant’s infidelity. Cannon plays Colonel Sharpless, an American consulate in Japan.

This is Cannon’s first time working with an orchestra since the beginning of the pandemic, and he said he hopes the unconventional venue will bring new eyes to opera.

Indianapolis Opera General Director David Starkey hopes performing the opera at the zoo will make the arts more accessible to the general public.

“By presenting ‘Madame Butterfly’ at an unusual venue for opera, we believe this makes arts more approachable,” Starkey said. “We’ve also given special consideration to themes of the production by addressing the stigma of interracial relationships with an exceptional mixed-race cast. The Indianapolis Opera has the tools to be a socially responsible voice, and I say it to everyone I work with that our job is to pursue an artistic and educational citizenship.”

Cannon got his start in the arts young. Raised in a small town near New Orleans, he saw Puccini’s “Tosca” on a school trip when he was around 12 years old. That experience, coupled with his school’s “top-notch arts and choir training,” led Cannon to a career in performing arts. Through productions such as “Madame Butterfly,” he hopes to share the power of art with a wide audience.

“I think throughout the pandemic, we really started to understand the value of what [artists] do, and the general public is starting to understand that, too,” Cannon said. “We’re starting to understand how important the arts are to our country and our human condition. I hope we can get more people to join in and understand its value.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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