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Review: Madam Butterfly, Mid Wales Opera at the Artrix, Bromsgrove

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Review: Madam Butterfly, Mid Wales Opera at the Artrix, Bromsgrove

A dedicated handful of singers took a final curtain call after an amazing achievement in a tough tour for this small opera company.

This was their second night. A no doubt sparse rehearsal did not manage to cure certain lighting problems, with some faces in deep shadow and others in an uncomfortable glare – worrying for performers and audience. Clever use of sliding panels on the restricted stage helped set diverse scenes, but a mind teasing mix of costumes and props also caused speculation, from the non-Japanese marriage broker to anomalies of TV, Coke Cola, a vacuum cleaner and other such curiosities.

Madame Butterfly is, however, another Puccini triumph, with ever-familiar music wringing the heart strings. A tiny orchestra did wonders with the reduced score – every section shining with moving solos, no small feat. Conductor Nicholas Cleobury created a sensitive balance for the most part with singers coping remarkably well, having to come to terms with a bright acoustic in a small venue.

A naïve 15-year-old Butterfly, well portrayed by Stephanie Corley, soon grew into a full throated adult during her American lover’s three year absence. Seán Ruane’s Pinkerton was loud and strident on this limited stage, but was thankfully offset by Wyn Pencarreg who depicted his American Consul character with sensitivity, imagination and full rounded voice. Amy Payne was a robust and fully supportive Suzuki, portrayed with a rich commanding voice.

Some of the new translation, however, was unclear, with Butterfly’s One Fine Day only being recognisable by the melting music. The moving Humming Chorus set the scene for Butterfly’s long wait for Pinkerton’s brief return, heartbreaking removal of their child and finally Butterfly’s tragic death.

Rating * * * *

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