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Review: Madama Butterfly at Newcastle Theatre Royal

FROM colourful wedding to violent death, Puccini’s opera is an exhilarating whirlwind of extremes.

FROM colourful wedding to violent death, Puccini’s opera is an exhilarating whirlwind of extremes.

When 15-year-old Japanese geisha Cio-Cio San marries an American navy officer, East meets West in a passionate but devastating encounter.

French soprano Anne Sophie Duprels, who appeared in the Opera North production when it was premiered in 2007, returned to the lead role to demonstrate her masterful command of Butterfly’s turbulent character.

Her co-star, American tenor Noah Stewart, made an impressive debut as Pinkerton.

Italian Daniele Rustioni, who is also new to the company, conducted an orchestra in fine form.

The opera’s famous and exquisite Humming Chorus left you with the realisation that you had been holding your breath to capture each and every note. Opera North’s minimalist black and off-white set had translucent screens that slid effortlessly to create a bedroom here, a garden there.

But despite this simplicity, the designers had not scrimped on detail – from the intricate patterns of the geishas’ kimonos to the miniature Statue of Liberty surveying the scene from Butterfly’s bedside.

Even her footwear betrayed her abandonment of native culture in her efforts to impress Pinkerton, with traditional wooden ‘geta’ soon replaced by western high heels.

Lieutenant Pinkerton’s self-assured idealism in the first act contrasted starkly with his wife’s desperate hope of reunion years later in act two.

The depth of her pain was powerfully expressed by Duprels.

There is an inevitability to Butterfly’s decline but it was still harrowing and engrossing.

Lauren Davis


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