Madame Butterfly takes flight at Liverpool Empire

Puccini's Madame Butterfly - Ellen Kent Opera
Puccini's Madame Butterfly - Ellen Kent Opera

Puccini’s Madame Butterfly - Ellen Kent Opera

Liverpool Empire

Once again it was a pleasure to attend an opera directed by Ellen Kent.

Ellen specifically targets the ordinary theatregoer and not the opera buffs, and her success with over five million ticket sales in major theatres and arenas, over the last 23 years, speaks for itself.

In contrast to many of her operas, which boast lavish changes of scenery with live animals and birds on stage, Madame Butterfly’s set is static.

The stage was transformed into a beautiful Japanese garden with a little house on a hill and, by judicious use of lighting, changes from day to dusk. One can almost hear the lapping of the waves with the ocean backdrop and smell the scent of the flowers which adorn the stage.

Puccini’s score was ably played by Chisinau National Opera and Philharmonic under conductor Nicolae Dohotaru who provided the first class music including a moving version of The Humming Song.

Soprano Alyone Kistenyova gave a fine performance as Cio-Cio San, aka Butterfly, who falls in love and marries her American sweetheart Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton, (Ruslan Zinevych) against the wishes of her uncle Bonze (Iurie Maimescu). Her rendition of One Fine Day was most moving.

While Cio-Cio San sees the marriage as forever and is willing to sacrifice her Japanese roots and family, Pinkerton sees it as a short-lived adventure. He is warned by the American Consul (Vladamir Dragos) that this could lead to tragic consequences but he ignores the warning, going away for three years, while Cio-Cio San, along with her maid Suzuki (Zarui Vardanean), waits for her beloved to return.

The day dawns when his ship once again docks and Pinkerton, with his new American wife, Kate (Tatiana Chitoraga), comes not to see Cio-Cio San but to take the child, born of their union, away with them whereupon, a distraught Cio San kills herself.

Ruslan Zinevych had the Liverpool audience booing when he took his final bow, as they are unforgiving of his callousness towards Cio-Cio San. Perhaps they saw it more as panto than opera.