Beautiful Butterfly

Madama Butterfly, by Puccini, Ellen Kent Productions presenting the Ukrainian National Opera of Odessa, Regent Theatre Ipswich

James Hayward

Madama Butterfly, by Puccini, Ellen Kent Productions presenting the Ukrainian National Opera of Odessa, Regent Theatre Ipswich

"LET'S fill the house with as many flowers as there are stars in the sky,” sings the poor deluded Butterfly when she thinks the American husband who abandoned her three years earlier is about to return. Well, there was certainly at least one bright star on the Regent stage last night.

Young soprano Elena Dee was a captivating Cio Cio San (aka Butterfly), with that combination of talents rare on the opera stage. She's a delightful singer, a fine actress and blessed with a physical beauty that make her portrayal of the betrayed Japanese teenager totally convincing.


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Dee develops the character with an artistry that belies her age and experience, showing us the nervous young bride, exquisite as a porcelain figurine; the loyal and patient wife - giving a superb rendition of One Fine Day - and the tragic mother sacrificing all for her child, in a devastating final scene.

The American naval officer Pinkerton is hardly the most sympathetic of operatic heroes. To modern audiences there's an unpleasant racist element in his attitude to the Japanese culture and his treatment of Butterfly, and his last minute fit of remorse is too little, too late. Andriy Perfilov delivered a powerful performance, even if there was some straining on the very highest notes.

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Rich-toned mezzo Zarui Vardanean impressed as the maid Suzuki, her voice blending beautifully with Elena Dee's in the flower duet. Vladimir Dragos used his warm baritone to give us a kindly American Consul. The choral singing, particularly in the famous Humming Chorus, was excellent.

Ellen Kent provides a traditional staging, complete with kimonos, paper sliding doors, tinkling water features and pink blossom. No gimmicks here, just a straightforward telling of a timeless story and a dramatic account, by the orchestra under conductor Gheorghe Stanciu, of Puccini's lush, magnificent score.

James Hayward

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