It’s a fine return by Opera North

MORE than 100 years on, it is still thrilling audiences world-wide, from open air performances at Torre del Lago, where it was written, to London’s Royal Albert Hall.

No surprise, then, that Madama Butterfly, returning to Nottingham last week, delighted a packed Theatre Royal audience, with prolonged ovations for the leading characters.

Puccini’s masterpiece was one of a trio of Opera North productions, along with well-received performances of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore and Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades.

Tim Albery’s sensitive 2007 production found Anne Sophie Duprels reprising her city visit as the 15-year-old geisha Cio-Cio San.

She gave a superb performance in the demanding role, taking us through Butterfly’s emotions - riding out family hostility, hope and joy from Pinkerton’s arrival and despair through to the final suicidal moments.

Her voice, pure of tone, reached its pinnacle during the aria and left you sharing her optimism that one fine day Pinkerton would come back to her.

Peter Savidge was excellent as the American consul, Sharpless, his early warnings to an unheeding Pinkerton matched by his chagrin as he reveals the awful news to Butterfly. Ann Taylor (Suzuki) and Daniel Norman as the marriage broker Goro, also gave strong performances.

The American Noah Stewart’s Pinkerton was outstanding. Tall and with looks to match, his portrayal of a more immature U.S. naval lieutenant than the usual cad left him almost as much a victim of his own feelings as Butterfly.

Making his Opera North debut, the young Italian Daniele Rustioni conducted, his orchestra beautifully capturing the full, sweeping depth of Puccini’s score, including, of course, the Humming Chorus.

Hildegard Bechtler’s sparse set, making full use of sliding Japanese screens, lost nothing of 19th century Nagasaki.

Unobtrusive, yet easily visible titles offered English translations of the Italian and Opera North will return with Butterfly next February.