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Puccini: Madama Butterfly (The Royal Opera)
Ermonela Jaho (Cio-Cio San); Marcelo Puente (Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton); Carlo Bosi (Goro); Scott Hendricks (Sharpless); Elizabeth DeShong (Suzuki); Jeremy White (Bonze); Emily Edmonds (Kate Pinkerton); Gyula Nagy (Imperial Commissioner); Yuriy Yurchuk (Prince Yamadori);
Puccini’s Japanese tragedy Madama Butterfly is given a ravishing production by The Royal Opera. Its alluringimagery of Japan from the 19th-century EuropeanImagination heightens the intense clash of East and West.When the American naval officer Pinkerton seduces theyoung ‘Butterfly’ Cio-Cio-San, he seems to promise everyhappiness – but his cruel abandonment leads to her tragicself-sacrifice. Antonio Pappano, Music Director of The RoyalOpera and renowned for his interpretations of Puccini,conducts an exceptionally fine cast with the Royal OperaChorus and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.
Powerful performances show why Madama Butterflyremains one of the all-time operatic favourites.
"This revival of Leiser and Caurier’s production of Puccini’s tragedy is a superb achievement, with Ermonela Jaho bringing passionate conviction to the title role. [Marcelo Puente gave] one of the most complete and convincing portrayals of the role to be heard for some time: handsomely sung with a dark, bronzed tone; attractively laddish and irresponsible at the start; the remorse and moral cowardice of the final scenes wonderfully and empathetically realised. The whole evening is, in fact, outstanding. Ermonela Jaho, one of the great verismo interpreters, brings uncompromising veracity to the title role, and the combination of vulnerability and torrential emotion just tears you in two. Scott Hendricks’s fastidious Sharpless grows increasingly bewildered as the tragic situation spirals beyond his control, while Elisabeth DeShong admirably conveys both the inflexible pride and the affection lurking beneath Suzuki’s devotion to her mistress. Always at his best in Puccini, Antonio Pappano conducts with passionate sincerity." (The Guardian ★★★★★)
"... superlative conducting of the inexhaustible Antonio Pappano: He gives the score a sharp brilliant edge but never loses touch with the emotional core of an opera that ranks among the very greatest of the 20th century." (The Daily Telegraph ★★★★)
"Ermonela Jaho is the best Cio-Cio-San London has seen in years. The Albanian soprano took Covent Garden by storm with her electrifying performances in Puccini’s Il trittico, but although she’s sung his Cio-Cio San to acclaim around the world, she’s waited till now to sing that role in London. And how poignantly she does it: the final scene in the Leiser-Caurier production is exquisitely understated, with minimal tear-jerking stuff with the tot, and no clumsily symbolic meetings between East and West; this allows the staging to perfectly set off the pathos of Jaho’s performance. Under Antonio Pappano’s baton every nuance of the score’s tender-cruel refinement is brought out. There are some fine performances, notably that of the Argentinian tenor Marcelo Puente as Pinkerton, whose endearingly old-fashioned acting in no way undermines the sustained beauty of his singing. Jeremy White’s Bonze is appropriately thunderous, Elizabeth Dershong is discreetly commanding as Suzuki, and Scott Hendricks makes a sympathique Sharpless. Jaho alternates between vulnerability and feistiness, at times suggesting the fragility of a bunraku puppet with her body-language. Her great duet with Puente cries to the heavens, and her long solo in which hope contends with fear has us hanging on every bar: she is the best Madama B London has seen in years." (The Independent ★★★★)
"Ermonela Jaho gives a star performance. Once again in the pit, the Royal Opera’s music director Antonio Pappano demonstrates an unerring feeling for the detail and dramatic momentum of score that place him in the very top league of Puccini interpreters. The orchestra plays marvellously for him." (The Stage ★★★★)
"Ermonela Jaho is the singer I've longed to hear as Butterfly and she doesn't disappoint. It takes a selfless, soul-searching artist to lift Puccini's opera out of melodrama and into tragedy, and such beasts are rare. In the last scene Jaho's Cio-Cio-San is transfixed, pinned through and effectively dead before her suicide. It is shattering. Vocally, the Albanian soprano dared to falter or be hushed as the moment demands, even in the wide open spaces of the Royal Opera House; but her set piece arias "Un bel di" and "Che tua madre" were properly big and harrowing. Over recent seasons Jaho has developed into a formidable star; but never a diva. Antonio Pappano's mastery of this repertoire ensured impeccable musical judgement, even in the broad-brush lush sections. When it mattered he had the confidence to channel Puccini's inner Richard Rodgers." (WhatsOn Stage ★★★★)