Madama Butterfly and its Original Sketches Have Landed at The Florida Grand Opera

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Florida Grand Opera Madama

The weeks leading up to Halloween are a time when costumes are on the top of everyone’s mind. While everyone is readying their princesses and pirate costumes, the Florida Grand Opera’s (FGO) production team, is focusing on ornate Japanese geisha costumes as they prepare to take center stage.

This November, FGO will present Puccini’s heart-wrenching masterpiece, Madama Butterfly, as created by the world-renowned theater designer, Allen Charles Klein. Shows begin November 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, and those who will be in the audience will enjoy the exotic visual buffet of Butterfly’s traditional Japanese-style house shaded by a large, cherry blossom tree, all of which are illuminated by a backdrop of Swarovski-crystal stars. But among the stunning scenery and music are the real stars of the show: the gorgeously designed geisha costumes, which deserve their own standing ovation.

Klein has a long history in the arts: having studied painting and theater design in his youth, he has designed sets and costumes for over 100 productions, more than 20 of them for the Florida Grand Opera. When it comes to costume designers, Klein’s attention to detail is legendary, and Butterfly sees him doing what he does best: designing beautifully exotic costumes that are luxurious, theatrical, and (as he puts it) “a little more fairy tale-like.”

Original Madame Butterfly Opera Costume Sketch
Original Madame Butterfly Opera Costume Sketch

Critics have called his costumes works of art, and these words of praise are no exaggeration. Even before the first stitch has been made, Klein’s hand-painted design illustrations are further proof of his refined artistic skills.

FGO is the current owner of Klein’s original Butterfly sketches from 1979; however, the term “sketches” is quite an understatement. Consisting of 32 mounted illustrations, Klein’s artistic prowess and clear understanding of Japanese culture is stunningly evident in his detailed watercolor costume renderings.

“We wanted this production of Madama Butterfly to be romanticized and yet naturalistic. I drew from my own memories of Kabuki theater, Japanese designers, and Japanese watercolor,” remarked Klein in a conversation with FGO General Director and CEO, Susan T. Danis.

Each of Klein’s kimonos is intricately detailed with various nature-themed patterns, and the vibrant ubis (belts) complement each robe’s vibrant hues with shimmering metallic ornamentation. As Klein adds, “[The kimonos’] rainbow palette is intended to be a contrast to the pale American watercolor world of beige and pale green. [The geishas in Butterfly are] a strong and highly decorative group of women…”

Be sure not to miss how all of these creative elements combine into a stimulating, multi-sensory experience at the opera. Florida Grand Opera’s presents Madama Butterfly, November 15 through December 6, in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. For tickets and more information, please visit or call (800) 741-1010.

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