All this beauty and symbolism might be mere superficial satisfaction for one’s sensibilities, if it were not for the dramatic insight and vocal distinction of Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais who truly appreciates, and communicates, that Butterfly’s tragedy is a personal one not a cultural one . . . her Butterfly is a ‘real’ woman of disturbing integrity and resolution, and this steely determination is gradually revealed by Opolais to be an unwavering willpower and honesty which will eventually destroy both herself and Pinkerton.

Opolais’s spinto glistens like gossamer thread but has an underlying strength; she sang with such seductive lyricism that, for once, one might empathise with Pinkerton’s infatuation . . . in the end-of-Act 1 love duet Opolais used a powerful chest voice to convey the shockingly deep passion which lays beneath her docile purity and the demure civilities of her culture. In Act 2 she laid bare Butterfly’s emotional unpredictability: her haughty sulkiness when admonished or guided by Suzuki; her youthful excitability which irrepressibly bursts out, interrupting Sharpless’s reading of Pinkerton’s letter; her fiery anger when the US consul dares to suggest that she may never see Pinkerton again. In a pre-production interview in the Daily Telegraph Opolais said of the role: ‘Just to sing it with a good voice is not enough, it asks tears from your soul. I am very emotional on stage and the music is so tender that I suffer for real when I am singing it.’ This was nowhere more evident than in ‘Un bel dì’ where the wistful honesty of her singing totally explicitly and uncompromisingly revealed her despair.

Leiser and Caurier manage to keep their production on the right side of sentimentality, but here it was Opolais who imbued it with true tragic authority . . .”

Claire Seymour – Opera Today

“And it’s this particular Butterfly that rivets the audience. The Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais entered the production at its last revival in 2011 and, although she is twice as tall as any 15-year-old Japanese girl should be, she suspends disbelief from start to finish simply by her perfect vocal incarnation of the naivety and fragility of the character. And she can hurl out a dark chest voice with the sudden terror of a wounded animal.”

Hilary Finch – The Times

“Most striking of all, however, is the quality of singing across the board . . . Kristine Opolais stands out as Cio-Cio-San. Her soprano is blessed with both a fullness of sound and lightness of touch that makes her output feel genuinely spiritual. The sensitivity of her performance is also aided by excellent precision and attention to phrasing.”

Sam Smith – Opera Online

“After her Manon Lescaut last season, Opolais confirms she is one of – or maybe the – leading Puccini soprano at the moment, adding depth and texture to the role of Butterfly. There is a clear transition between acts I and III, from innocent girl to heart-broken woman, with moments for passive-aggressiveness in her defence of her marriage and the regal determination by which she decides to commit suicide . . . her determination and pain became clear during her ‘Un bel dì’, honestly one of the best renditions that I have ever heard. Equally electrifying was her final ‘Con onor muore’, incredibly moving and musically superb. Many eyes were not completely dry when the lights came up, and I am afraid mine were not either . . . A rapturous applause confirmed my feeling that I had just witnessed a sensational performance that rested almost solely on Opolais’s shoulders. The long second half may have disappointed some members of the audience, but the dramatic energy of Butterfly did not falter. A performance as heart breaking as it will ever be.”

Confesiones de un Nuevo Londinese

Image: Tatyana Vlasova