The WNO's latest production of Puccini's Madam Butterfly is not like any you have seen before - original score and libretto but not a kimono in sight! A modern dress staging gives the production a more natural feel while the clever revolving two-storey house set and simple white screens provide ample opportunity for beautiful stage images to be created.
I have seen, and greatly enjoyed, the WNO quite a bit over the years but it is a very long time since I have seen a Butterfly. In this show, the story is front and centre of the production and it comes over really powerfully. Pinkerton (Leonardo Caimi) is an arrogant and evil man taking, as he does, a 15 year old Butterfly (Joyce El-Khoury) as a temporary wife before abandoning her to return to his native USA and get "properly" married, leaving Butterfly with no-one but Suzuki (Kezia Bienek) to care for her and her son. Three years later, with Butterfly still waiting for him, Pinkerton and his new wife return - on learning he has a son, his wife (Sian Meinir) seeks to adopt him, leaving Butterfly with nothing but to maintain her honour with her own (spoiler alert) death.
The central characters were played extremely well, I particularly enjoyed Kezia Bienek's Suzuki who was completely credible, and of course, Joyce El-Khoury's Butterfly who breaks your heart. The setting of the Humming Chorus was almost unbelievably moving, a real moment of theatre. Sadly, I don't know who played the son but he was excellent - such a small child to have such stage awareness and discipline. Bravo.
I highly recommend this production - no ifs, no buts ...
One small, and very personal, note. The Theatre Royal Plymouth has a proper orchestra pit so we didn't get to see the WNO orchestra working - something I have always enjoyed and which makes you feel engaged in the process of producing great opera, as well as just loving the performance.