New Devon Opera: Madam Butterfly at Roland Levinsky Building in Plymouth (review)

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Devonians might not have much to sing about with their football clubs, but this superb production of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly by New Devon Opera puts the county up there in the top league.

Martyn Harrison’s direction overcomes the Roland Levinsky Building’s limitations with a basic, yet totally adequate set, vivid costumes, and sufficient on-stage movement.

Given today’s difficulties in casting a three-year-old child, the photo-frame substitute provides a credible alternative.

But it’s the music, and ultimately the singing that can make or break this opera.

Susan Jiwey’s Cio-Cio San is a class act, soaring effortlessly to the high notes, and singing with heartfelt-emotion throughout.

Alison Duguid, as her maid, Suzuki, brought her fine, well-rounded voice to the part, and there was always such a clear dramatic and musical empathy between her and Butterfly.

Pietro Picone’s Pinkerton hit all the right spots, too, and the glorious delivery of the Act I Love Duet could surely not have left a dry eye in the house.

Wyn Pencarreg was an imposing, yet sensitive Sharpless, with another superb voice, finely complemented by Stuart Haycock’s necessarily fussy, yet equally well-sung Goro.

With strength in the minor roles, first-rate musical direction from Paul Foster and an excellent orchestra who rarely overpowered, despite there being no pit, Madam Butterfly must surely be the company’s best so far, and a terrific credit to all those involved.


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