Glyndebourne is well known for creating exceptional new productions, for taking risks and pushing the boundaries of opera, and usually they do this to great effect. Sadly the first night of this new touring production simply missed the mark. Shifting the time to the 1950s was pretty pointless, and moving the first act to Goro’s down town Nagasaki bridal exchange stripped away some of Butterfly’s innocence and charm. Her arrival through a brick corridor bedecked with neons, too few neons top have any real impact, lacked any sort of magic and the weird attempt of cluttered officialdom on the set was lost of the wide expanses of the Glyndebourne stage. Maybe the set will look better in the regional theatres that it visits, but here is looked if anything cheap. There was also a lot of silly business for the cast in negotiating doors and cabinets and desks and even a TV, clutter that simply did not work. It was also strange to see the Americanisation of Butterfly in her faux Chanel suit smoking a cigarette, again that innocence stripped away.
All this may seem harsh but this was not what one has come to expect. The singing was however exactly what we have come to expect. Francesco Verna has not only a beautiful voice but is an excellent actor too in the role of Sharpless. Matteo Lippi has a fine voice too and his shift from the acquisitive bride buying captain to infatuated lover is beautifully handled as his remorseful performance on his return. Claudia Huckle has an almost show stealing voice, but knows how to use it well and allow Cio-Cio San to shine and shine she does as Karah Son delivers the role with vocal panache, despite the rather odd direction. One cannot hep feeling that the entire production, despite the excellent singing, is disappointing, and far from what we have come to expect from this internationally acclaimed opera House.