Madama Butterfly
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★★★ "Both of the leads, South African soprano Amanda Echalaz as Cio-Cio-San (known as Madam Butterfly in the opera) and American tenor James Valenti as Lt. B.F. Pinkerton, were making house debuts, as was Italian conductor Marco Armiliato. Partly because of that, perhaps, it wasn't until the second act that the musical and dramatic elements began to come into focus. One rather felt as if everyone were biding his or her time until the heart-tugging final scene that ends with Butterfly's farewell to her child and ritual-suicide. Credit British director Michael Grandage and his design team – Christopher Oram (sets and costumes) and Neil Austin (lighting) – with a staging that trusts the score, the singing and the dramatic action to tell the story. The poignant narrative about a trusting, teenaged Japanese geisha who marries an American naval lieutenant, only to be abandoned by him at the end, needs little more to send the audience reaching for their hankies." - John von Rhein, [Read the full review.](