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Sunday 18 November 2018

Butterfly blossoms in tale of love and betrayal

Pat O'Kelly

Opera Ireland Puccini's Madama Butterfly Gaiety Theatre, Dublin

Puccini's 150th anniversary is doubly celebrated by Opera Ireland at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre this week. With 'Madama Butterfly' the commemorative work, Eike Gramss' traditional production comes from Lucca -- the composer's birthplace.

Christoph Wagenknecht's dilapidated hilltop-house setting, with rows of sliding screens, is distracting but the oriental atmosphere is welcome.

The teenage geisha Cio-Cio San marries US naval officer and cad Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton in Act I. Puccini dispenses with this bounder in Act II but his later return, accompanied by his American wife, results in hara-kiri for the distraught Butterfly.

South Korean soprano Yunah Lee may not be a convincing 15-year-old but she certainly presents a sympathetic portrayal of the title role. Naive and subservient in Act I, she blossoms fragrantly.

Ms Lee is vocally secure and vibrant, as well as delicate and demure. Her passionate outpouring in 'Un bel di' deserves its ovation.

Chinese alto Qiu Lin Zhang offers unusual warmth and depth to Suzuki -- Cio-Cio San's faithful confidante -- while robustly experienced Belgian baritone Marcel Vanaud is US consul Sharpless.

US tenor Keith Olsen's Pinkerton is uninspiring, with Mary Flaherty conveying regal dignity in her almost non-role of his legitimate wife Kate.

Italian Bruno dal Bon conducts with flair but the RTE concert orchestra takes time to rise to his coaxing bait.

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