Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
May – June 2017
"As Cio-Cio-San, Rena Harms is no suffering sphinx. She’s utterly sympathetic, a teenager who had only a few choices but made the most of them — and whose biggest mistake was casting her lot with a U.S. Naval officer who proves far from a gentleman. Harms at first is wide-eyed and beguiling, but as Madame Butterfly unfolds, her Cio-Cio-San is revealed as a woman in her own right, and that’s when we see the steel that girded her coquetry. She continues to insist on the values she was told America believed in — even when the evidence increasingly points to the contrary — not because she is stupid, but because she cannot allow herself to contemplate the alternative. Her suicide is not a cry for help; it’s a political statement. Making a memorable Opera Theatre St. Louis debut, Harms boasts a voice that’s almost shocking in its beauty, and the cast supporting her is terrific. Harms triumphs as Cio-Cio San."
"OTSL has assembled a fantastic cast. Soprano Rena Harms, who recently played Cio-Cio-San with the English National Opera, turns in a stunner of a performance here, forcefully sung throughout her range and acted with real conviction. She makes the character's tricky mix of vulnerability and backbone completely credible and fully commands the stage at all times. ...Like Ms. Harms, [Brandenburg] has a truly spectacular voice, especially when combined with hers. Their long love duet at the conclusion of the first act was pure musical ecstasy. Even I was enthralled."
"What a glorious collection of voices! Soprano Rena Harms, as Butterfly, and tenor Michael Brandenburg, as Pinkerton, are a fine match, and they do glorious service to Puccini's gorgeous melodies. Their love duet, which closes Act One, is weepingly beautiful. Puccini makes it climb and climb -- rather like Wagner's "Liebestod" -- and these two twining voices sing it splendidly. At the opening of Act Two Butterfly sings to her servant, Suzuki, of her irrepressible faith in Pinkerton's return. "One fine day" (Un bel di) is the most famous aria in this opera--and perhaps in all of Puccini. It is certainly the one opera melody that I always find myself whistling. Miss Harms triumphs in it. It's a glory."
Broadway World Opera
"Harms, who has also performed the role with the English National Opera, is a superb Butterfly, delivering both vocally and dramatically in the opera’s central role. She also gets the opera’s best-known aria, the tragic “Un bel di” (“One fine day”), in which she affirms her faith that Pinkerton will come back to her."
"A bravura performance by Rena Harms in her OTSL debut in the title role. Still, this version features some excellent singing and performances, led by soprano Harms. She’s performed in Madame Butterfly previously with the English National Opera, where she doubtless honed her interpretation both with her strong voice but also by capturing the romanticism and idealism of the young geisha."
"Cio-Cio San is a “big sing” and Rena Harms proved more than up to the task. Once she entered, we were able to observe that Rena is physically ‘right’ for the role, able to suggest a waif-like fifteen-year-old. Un bel di was touching and full voiced, and a spinto sheen began to evidence itself. Act III evolved into a no holds barred finale, with the diva hurling out full-throated, impassioned phrases that thrilled the ears and stirred the heart. The totality of her achievement was overwhelming, and the audience rose to their feet as one to laud her with an especially vociferous ovation."
By James Sohre