If there were a prize for the most minimal set, it would undoubtedly go to the one seen in Pimlico Opera’s Madame Butterfly seen on September 19 at Grange Park. The curtain went up to reveal a low platform eight inches high that was all Pinkerton and Sharpless had to sit on as they quaffed their whiskey (no ‘milk-punch’). Behind them, one door shaped screen and a curved sheet of (?) plywood – an armchair was added in act two.
Some of the cast looked as if they had only recently donned long trousers, Sharpless/Andrew Ashwin, more like the Consulate office-boy than the boss, Gozo / Toblas Morz a gangling barrow-boy, Suzuki/Helen Sherman, just out of college. But Butterfly was a genuine oriental – Hye-Youh Lee, beautiful face and well able to sustain the very taxing but opportunity –full role that Puccini composed for her. If she could reduce the rather intrusive beat in her voice she would be ideal. That B.F. Pinkerton/Jesus Leon had a good powerful tenor voice, moderate actor; one could not help wondering how he scraped into the US forces seeing that he is, how should one say it gently, vertically challenged. The singers were all up to the mark, especially the married couple in their sumptuous duet in act one, surely the finest love duet that Puccini ever wrote. The result of that duet appeared later in person; the son of the house won all hearts.
I could have wished for more pointing of the themes in act one and a better balance for the Humming Chorus but otherwise Toby Purser directed a performance with the Neville Holt Orchestra that was satisfying reducing the audience, as it should, to tears, even your scribe, seeing probably his fiftieth or more performance of this wonderful opera.