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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 17, 2008 @ 10:45 am

    Reviews: Opera Ireland’s Madama Butterlfy – Gaiety Dublin

    Fiona McCann

    Opera Ireland’s artistic director Dieter Kaegi has departed from his company’s routine for the new Madama Butterfly which opened at the Gaiety Theatre on Saturday.

    Under Kaegi, Opera Ireland has shown a penchant for taking unusual slants on the best-known works in the repertoire.

    But this time around he has imported a production from the Teatro del Giglio in Lucca in which director Eike Gramss and designers Christoph Wagenknecht (sets) and Catherine Voeffray (costumes) give us a traditional Japanese house, the kind of dress that Puccini would have recognised in the opera, and a no-nonsense presentation that doesn’t fiddle with the work itself.

    The opening-night audience loved it, and many of those present rose to their feet in appreciation.

    Puccini is a composer who knew how to tug the heartstrings, and this new Butterfly did nothing to impede him. It was an unusually even evening, not just in terms of casting, but also in the way the moments of what you might call big sing were integrated into the whole.

    The fact that the standout arias did not stand out as they often do was by no means to the work’s disadvantage.

    Quite the contrary, in fact.

    Korean soprano Yunah Lee’s moments of girlish petulance as Cio-Cio San, and her extended inability to read the reality of her situation were all the more plausible for not being overshadowed.

    The sharpness of Belgian baritone Marcel Vanaud had a businesslike efficiency, neither sympathetic nor insensitive, and US tenor Keith Olsen’s Pinkerton was, well, as selfish as the role demands.

    Chinese contralto Qiu Ling Zhang brought an unusual richness of timbre to the always compassionate presence of Butterfly’s maid, Suzuki.

    Italian conductor Bruno Dal Bon encouraged colour and passion in the playing of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, and at the same time secured mostly apt balances between stage and pit. In short, this is just the kind of production to win new friends for Opera Ireland. – MICHAEL DERVAN

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