Published: 09/06/2014 10:16 - Updated: 09/06/2014 10:45

Review: Madama Butterfly

Hye-Youn Lee is impressive in the title role of Madama Butterfly.
Hye-Youn Lee is impressive in the title role of Madama Butterfly.

Madama Butterfly

Scottish Opera

The Empire Theatre

Eden Court

ON the face of it, the constituent elements of Madama Butterfly hardly sound like the makings of a fun night out.

Suicide, betrayal, western arrogance towards an ancient culture and even what amounts to an early form of sex tourism as a western visitor takes advantage of a young girl.

If those were the ingredients of a modern drama, they might be distinctly off-putting.

Put them together with Puccini’s most famous music and Scottish Opera’s glossy production, however, and you have something that can pack out a rather hot and stuffy Eden Court — and with every justification.

Korean soprano Hye-Youn Lee is excellent in the title role, moving convincingly from the shy child-bride of the opening act to the strong mother figure of the latter prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to secure the future of her son Sorrow, and destroyed by her unswerving love for the worthless Lieutenant Pinkerton.

As the latter, Jose Ferrero took his curtain call to boos as well as cheers, always a sign that the actor playing the villain has done his job.

As the American sailor, Ferrero is charismatic enough to explain why Cio-Cio San/Butterfly is so devoted to such a faithless specimen, but his treachery and cowardice are soon exposed as he tries to pass on to others the messy business of telling his Japanese lover that she is surplus to requirements.

Adrian Thompson is a sleazy presence as Goro the marriage broker, exploiting Butterfly’s tragic circumstances to his own ends, so it is up to Christopher Purves to redeem male honour as Sharpless, the American Consul to Nagasaki.

Disgusted by Pinkerton’s callous and cynical treatment of Butterfly, he becomes complicit in Pinkerton’s cruelty as the bearer of bad news while struggling to retain some basic humanity and sympathy for the girl.

In the end, however, it is only Hanna Hipp’s sympathetic maid to be Butterfly’s only source of strength in her final crisis.

Under conductor Marco Guidarini, the orchestra performs Puccini’s famous score with a breezy energy while the drama onstage is played out on Yannis Thavoris’s simple and elegant set.

A Japanese home as fragile as Butterfly’s dreams of happiness.


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