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A night at the opera – Madama Butterfly

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The gilded interior of the restored Isaac Theatre Royal is an appropriate setting for the New Zealand Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly, Puccini’s sorrowful tale of a devoted Japanese woman, Butterfly, who chooses entirely the wrong man to fall in love with – caddish US naval officer Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton.

This tragic affair of the heart unfolds on a visually simple but truly striking set of Japanese screen doors that seamlessly slide, fly and adjust to form a puzzle-box like series of dazzling interiors and partitions. It’s magnificently lit throughout, and behind it all a layered backdrop of cherry trees is artistically vibrant enough that you’re in danger of having it distract you away from the actual show.

Not for long though, because the lavishly-costumed international and national cast brings its A-game to the performance, led by Anne Sophie Duprels as Butterfly. The French star has played the role all over the UK and Europe, and her assured performance makes it easy to see why she has been so widely acclaimed; her voice is, of course, enough to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, but her characterisation and conveyance of Butterfly’s deep well of sorrow also holds the audience spellbound, especially in an amazing sequence where she waits silently overnight for her errant husband to return.

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Duprels isn’t alone in her excellence, though; the entire ensemble comes to the party. Australian tenor Angus Wood is appropriately oily in the role of Pinkerton, the selfish swine that everyone in the audience wants to punch at the end of the show, and there are some excellent supporting turns by local boy Jared Holt as the decent, handwringing American consul Sharpless and fellow Kiwi Kristin Darragh as Butterfly’s selfless and scene-stealing servant Suzuki (plus an “aww!”- provoking performance from adorable moppet Samuel Liken).

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It all makes for a spectacular night in a spectacular setting – one that makes you genuinely glad that we’ve got the Theatre Royal back – and an exquisite production that any fan of the performing arts simply shouldn't miss. 

Images: Neil Mackenzie.

Madama Butterfly
Isaac Theatre Royal
25, 30 July, 1 August, 7:30pm
28 July, 6:30pm
Book at Ticketek.

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Guest 21 November 2017