Latest Review – Madama Butterfly [Royal Opera House]


The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Until Thursday 18 July 2024

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

First staged at the Royal Opera House back in 2003, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s now long-celebrated production of Puccini’s endearing classic has returned to Covent Garden once again for an impressive ninth revival, and, as is often the case, it is carried by a genuine superstar performance from it’s extraordinary leading lady.

Sharing the title role with Hrachuhí Bassénz for this current run – which returns for a further spell of performances in July – Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian is simply sublime as the tragic young Geisha, Cio-Cio-San – the titular Madama Butterfly – returning to a role she first performed with Deutsche Oper Berlin back in May 2021. Grigorian totally inhabits this hugely demanding role from the moment she enters the stage – and once she does, she barely leaves – expertly navigating the tricky emotional journey of the character and singing with such precision, weight and glorious colour. From innocence to devastation, every movement, every delicate gesture, every hopeful smile, so perfectly rendered.

Elsewhere, performances are strong but struggle to reach the same level. Mexican-American tenor Joshua Guerrero sings heroically as the cowardly Lieutenant Pinkerton, though never quite does enough to convince us of his seductive charm. Estonian baritone Lauri Vasar grows into the role of Sharpless, the American consul stationed at Nagasaki, and gives a warm performance as the sympathetic conscience of the piece. Chinese mezzo-soprano Hongni Wu is perhaps the other standout here, who brings real depth to the key role of Suzuki, Cio-Cio-San’s maid and confidante.

In the pit, conductor Kevin John Edusei leads the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in a thrilling and forceful performance of Puccini’s gloriously rich and moving score.

Leiser and Caurier’s minimalist production remains effective in that it avoids any sort of gimmicks or unnecessary staging devices. Instead, it simply allows the music and the performances to shine. Set against a back panel of simple Shoji doors, the bare stage is lifted purely by some intriguing lighting touches. Subtle blues, whites and yellows wash over the stage during the first act – echoing the tones seen in the costumes of the central characters – followed by some slightly muted mood lighting in the later acts, as the emotional weight of the story unfolds.

The whole production feels typically Japanese in its Kanso approach, rooted in simplicity and zen, and brings to mind the latter colour films of master filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu. Never a bad thing.

A five star Butterfly in a four star revival, and a majestic, soaring performance that will live long in the memory.

Running Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes (approx.), including one 25-minute interval.

Final Performance at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden: Thursday 18 July 2024

For more information, and to book tickets, please CLICK HERE.

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