Madama Butterfly, Russian State Opera, Swansea International Festival

October 12, 2017 by

Arguably one of Puccini’s most popular creations, the opera has captivated audiences for more than 100 years.

Puccini brought his genius at creating atmosphere through his music to the tragic tale of Cio-Cio San, the Japanese teenager who falls deeply in love with an American naval officer, Lieutenant Pinkerton. But tragedy was never far from the union and the story ends with her death.

Butterfly is at the heart of the story and all the other leading characters merely supporting roles and it needs a strong stage presence and a magnificent voice to carry the role and the opera forward.

In this production the company had soprano Elena Razguliaeva who dominated the stage throughout.

Whether it was depicting the love she felt for her husband and her faith he would one day return or the tragedy at seeing all her hopes and dreams dashed, she was in control.

In her magnificent singing of the famous aria One Fine Day she expresses her total confidence that her husband will return to her and the three-year-old son he did not know of. It was matched only by her performance of the aria where she bids farewell to her son – Tu, tu piccolo iddio.


Pinkerton is played by Ivan Michaeilov. He displays all the arrogance and selfishness needed for the role and it comes across clearly with his opening aria where he boasts he will take whatever is offered while away from home.

While his performance was sound both vocally and theatrically he was sometimes lost in the volume of the orchestra. And I am sure no American commanding officer would allow the length of hair displayed by Pinkerton.

Sharpless, the American consul who has doubts about Pinkerton’s attitude and the marriage from the start, and who ultimately has to carry out the dirty work for Pinkerton, was superbly performed by Oleksander Malyshko.

Vocally dominant he clearly demonstrated his concern about the future of the marriage and of Butterfly herself with total conviction. There was a correctness about his performance which perfectly suited the role.

One of the other highlights was the performance of Zinaidan Dyuzhova as Suzuki Butterfly’s maid.

With her lovely mezzo voice she moved effortlessly from anger, concern and support for her mistress with her serious doubts about the future only briefly shown.

A wonderfully effortless performance which brought a warm response from the audience.

Chorus work is limited in this opera but the female chorus were graceful and vocally warm in their performance of the famous Humming Chorus in Act Two.

Visually the performance was a little disappointing. The set had seen better days and there was a lack of variety between the different settings. The costumes were often a little overstated.

Overall a well-balanced performance of the Puccini classic.









  1. Wonderful singing and acting by the soprano Butterfly Ci Ci San and her support by mezzo soprano Suzuki the hand maiden. Unfortunately the tenor did seem dwarfed by the orchestra and alittle weak.
    The setting was pretty and yes oldish in appearance, still added to the occasion,But passed overall. A very enjoyable experience and admiration too them all for a very good delivery and presentation of this opera.

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