Puccini, Illica, Giocosa
Palace Theatre, Manchester
22 January 2020: 2hr 30min
Ellen Kent’s production of Madama Butterfly has been here before, and the setting is once again simple and practical: the "little house" of which the libretto speaks placed centrally, and a lavish selection of garden centre produce arranged around it, with Mount Fuji on the backcloth behind.
The silhouette effect produced by backlighting the little house is skilfully employed to present both the conclusion of Act One’s love scene and then the heroine’s suicide at the close.
It works because that’s all that’s really needed, and musically all you really need is one good soprano to take the title role. This time it is Elena Dee, the Korean who has sung Cio-Cio-San so often and so well before, who brings to the role the qualities of guileless innocence and inner steel it needs. The other characters, one-dimensional portrayals though they may be, fall into place alongside her.
Nicolae Dohotaru’s conducting, which seemed laid back to the point of sleepiness in the previous night’s La Boheme, this time suited the piece well – it has a calm and idyllic quality that suits the waves of melody that surround the story in Puccini’s telling of it.
Again the chorus sings beautifully (especially bearing in mind their limited number) and the orchestra’s sound is mellow and (except near the end) much more distinguished than the night before.