MADAMA BUTTERFLY by Giacomo Puccini. See listings, page 68. Rating: NNNN
The Canadian Opera Company has mounted Brian Macdonald's production of Puccini's opera four times in 13 years. No wonder.Despite its culturally clichéd geisha-falls-for-American-cad plot, the opera still flies, especially when you've got a soprano like Xiu Wei Sun in the lead.
Less convincing vocally in the first half as a 15-year-old new bride, Xiu captures Cio-Cio-San's pride and escalating pathos astonishingly well in the second and third acts, her steely voice (this woman's sung Norma) showing the strength beneath the passion.
Jorge Antonio Pita, her Pinkerton, is gruff, with an airy top range, but she's well supported by her confidantes Sharpless (James Westman) and Suzuki (Allyson McHardy).
Macdonald's one controversial decision -- having Butterfly stand and wait during the very long orchestral transition between acts two and three -- is justified dramatically here. You can almost feel Xiu's physical need and longing.
Elio Boncompagni conducts the richly textured score respectfully, and Susan Benson's set, with its Ikea-friendly pale wooden screens and evocative backdrop of Nagasaki mountains, feels as fresh as ever.