The tragic story centres on the arranged marriage between the dastardly Lieutenant Pinkerton of the US Navy and the innocent geisha Cio-Cio-San, known to all as Butterfly. Pinkerton sees it merely as a marriage of convenience, valid only for the time he is stationed in Japan, but the innocent Butterfly approaches it with total trust and commitment, even renouncing her family and religion to adopt what she believes are American values.
When Pinkerton leaves and tells her he will return, she has faith in him, and when he does return, but with his American wife in tow, she takes the only honourable way out.
Dooner’s production took the unusual step of employing Sonoko Kamimura as an adviser on Japanese movement and as a result every gesture and every step taken has gained authenticity, giving the entire production added conviction.
Whenever Patrician Bardon, as Butterfly’s maid, sat or stood with her hands patiently together, for example, she always placed the left hand on top of the right in correct fashion. Had I not read this in the programme, I would never have noticed it, but knowing about it made me more observant and more appreciative of the meticulous nature of the production.
Such attention to detail added a great deal to the performance of Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian in the title role which she portrayed with great dignify and patience, with exactly the right degree of controlled emotion.
British-Italian tenor Freddie de Tommaso added substance to the role of Pinkerton, conveying well the simplicity of the character who was floundering when confronted by the total loyalty of Butterfly.
American baritone Lucas Meachem also gave a fine performance as the American consul Sharpless and the entire cast and production team are to be congratulated at avoiding any temptation to parody the Japanese-ness of it all in costume, make-up or attitude.
To round it all off perfectly, the orchestra under Israeli conductor Dan Ettinger gave a superbly thoughtful performance of Puccini’s powerful score, with the percussion playing their part particularly effectively. It seemed to me that even the pauses in the music were extended very slightly longer than usual, emphasising Butterfly’s patient and unhurried demeanour. Altogether a beautiful performance.
Book the tickets here -Box Office: roh.org.uk or 020 7304 4000 (In production various dates until July 6).