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Tenor bringing American swagger to Milan 'Madama Butterfly'

Posted 5:54 p.m. Wednesday
Updated 5:56 p.m. Wednesday

— U.S. tenor Bryan Hymel is bringing American swagger to the role of F.B. Pinkerton for La Scala's gala season premiere of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" next week.

Hymel said he's been hired often, especially abroad, to perform the role of the U.S. naval officer who takes a Japanese bride with tragic consequences.

"I think there is something about the American swagger," he said. "That's the way I play it. I play it very big, very relaxed."

La Scala's principal conductor, Riccardo Chailly, is reviving the original Puccini production that was so hotly contested on its 1904 world premiere at the Milan opera house it hasn't been staged there since.

It also will be the first time a Puccini opera will be performed for the traditional Dec. 7 season opener since "Turandot" in 1988.

"It is not only important and interesting, it is a duty toward Giacomo Puccini to listen to the first version in this theater, where it was heard only once, on February 17, 1904," Chailly told reporters.

Puccini rewrote Butterfly from two acts to three acts, and premiered the second version three months later, to great success.

Hymel, returning to La Scala for the third time but the first time for the season-opener, will be singing opposite Uruguayan soprano Maria Jose Siri, who is making her debut as Cio-Cio San.

"I was afraid to be overpowered. I avoided it for many years," Siri said of the role.

Her inexperience proved an advantage since she didn't have to unlearn what has become the more classic version.

"I am the original version," she joked, "because I never sang it before."

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