Madama Butterfly, Swansea Grand Theatre

February 21, 2024 by

When reviewing modern-day opera, it has become almost compulsory to begin by tackling the number one question: was it a ‘faithful’ production? Does it take the source material as gospel, or does it filter it through a contemporary lens in order to tackle some issues that might be less palatable to a 21st century audience?

For better or for worse, Ellen Kent’s long-touring production of Madama Butterfly is firmly in the ‘faithful’ camp. Except for a handful of modern additions like the ever-present surtitles and some dramatic use of lighting, this is a production that Puccini himself might have felt at home watching more than a century ago. From flower-throwing Geishas parading with parasols to American imperialism in full force (and full voice), this is the Madama Butterfly that many will know and, judging by the full house and standing ovation, love.


Featuring the Ukrainian Opera & Ballet Theatre Kyiv, the orchestra packed the Swansea pit with conductor Vasyl Vasylenko at the helm. Elena Dee cut a tragic figure as the ill-fated title character alongside Georgi Meladze whose Pinkerton, despite being marginally more sympathetic than most portrayals, was still roundly booed like a pantomime villain as he took his bow. The lead cast was rounded off by Irina Sproglis as the faithful maidservant Suzuki and Vitalii Cebotari as the US consul at Nagasaki.

A solid production with some notable singing that will keep purists more than happy.

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