There is a lot to be said for simplicity both in design and execution. This revival of Moshe Lieser and Patrice Caurier’s production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly has pretty straightforward set design and lighting, set in the interior of a traditional Japanese house, with little in the way of props.

As such the execution is uncluttered allowing the performers plenty of space. That’s not just physical space but also to get grips with the characters. This freedom suited some better than others. To begin with Antonio Pappano sets the orchestra off at a bit of a pace though he does settle down, and the audience aren’t putting on their coats early.

Soprano Ermonela Jaho heads the cast as Cio-Cio-San and it is an astonishing performance. It’s a part she’s very familiar with, having sung it in Paris and Berlin recently but there are no signs of fatigue, it’s the complete opposite. She naturally blends the grace, playfulness and naivety of the character. Her duet with Marcelo Puente in Act I is sublime while her vigil with Suzuki sung by Elizabeth Dershong as they wait for Pinkerton at the end of Act II is very affecting.

Marcelo Puente as Pinkerton doesn’t quite hit the mark. He has the brash arrogance of the character and the demeanour one would expect of a military man and his singing is fine but there’s a leadenness about him that just deadens the performance a touch.

Generally, though the performances are fine with the aforementioned Dershong, in good voice, Jeremy White’s as Bonze is close to the top, though not over, and Scott Hendricks’s Sharpless, is well tuned. This is however Ermonela Jaho’s night.

Photo courtesy of Bill Cooper and the Royal Opera House.

Currently running 7, 10, 13, 17, 20, 22, 25 April.
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