Review: Delicately demure take on a classic
Opera: Madama Butterfly, National Concert Hall
During his tenure as principal conductor of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, John Wilson has regaled NCH audiences and RTÉ Lyric FM listeners with American musicals.
His latest offering - Puccini's Madama Butterfly - may be different but it still holds a US brief through two of its principal characters. While one, navy Lieutenant BF Pinkerton, may not be an example of moral propriety, the other, US consul Sharpless in Nagasaki, shows some integrity even if complicit in the arranged 'marriage' of Pinkerton to innocent geisha Cio-Cio San.
The opera comes in a concert performance, which is a bit of a curate's egg. Without sets, one can concentrate on the music and, indeed, John Wilson finds the essential nuances as well as the dramatic intensity inherent in Puccini's voluptuous score.
But a problem arises with the strongly committed cast placed behind music stands and thus reducing their power to readily communicate with their audience and among themselves. It makes the Butterfly/Pinkerton love duet somewhat incongruous in a case where 'never the twain shall meet'.
This is a pity really as impressive US soprano Talise Trevigne and powerful Portuguese tenor Bruno Ribeiro steep themselves in Puccini's rapturous music.
On her own Ms Trevigne's Act II Un bel di touches the heartstrings while her Che tua madre, addressed to her son, is poignantly affecting. Delicately demure in Act I, Talise Trevigne presents formidable strength in Acts II and III.
Russian baritone Igor Golovatenko is the imposing consul Sharpless. Initially indulging camaraderie with Pinkerton, he later conveys fatherly concern for the duped Butterfly.
Among smaller roles, Anne Marie Gibbons is a detached Suzuki, Robert Burt a smarmy marriage broker, Cormac Lawlor an irritating Bonze and Peter O' Donohue a self-effacing suitor.