Classical review: Scottish Opera- Madama Butterfly

EVEN in this second Scottish Opera revival, Sir David McVicar’s 2000 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is a fresh and arresting experience.

Scottish Opera - Madama Butterfly
Scottish Opera - Madama Butterfly

Scottish Opera: Madama Butterfly - Edinburgh Festival Theatre


Sign up to our daily newsletter

There is simple, clear-cut, quirky realism in designer Yannis Thavoris’s Nagasaki setting, the angular tilt and sharp geometric lines of Butterfly’s neat little house beautifully encapsulating the fragility of her situation. A former Geisha, she puts her complete faith in a sham marriage to an American naval lieutenant who, of course, is only after one thing before heading back to real life and an American wife.

But it’s the human realism in this production that is its most compelling factor, hotly maintained by revival director Elaine Kidd. Butterfly’s desperate naivety is both charming and exasperating in the hands of South Korean soprano Hye-Youn Lee, whose performance, if less powerful in the lower reaches than in her euphoric soaring climaxes, is riven with tragic ecstasy.

As the instrument of her fate, tenor José Ferrero cuts a selfishly passionate Pinkerton, though his welter of vocal highs isn’t quite matched by total expressiveness of line. Hanna Hipp plays a comforting Suzuki, and Adrian Thompson a suitably oily Goro.

One of the finest performances, thoughtful and compassionate, comes from Christopher Purves as the wise and well-intentioned Sharpless. Andrew McTaggart also brings plenty of character to cameo suitor Yamadori.

Under Italian conductor Marco Guidarini, Puccini’s sumptuous score has energy and breadth, but is let down by a chorus that is thin. Nor is the final scene enhanced by Catrin Aur’s benignly-sung Kate.

Seen on 08.05.14
• Until 17 May, then on tour