Madame Butterfly review: Welsh National Opera production at Birmingham Hippodrome is a spectacular surprise

Director Lindy Hume twists this classic into something modern and tantalising

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Birmingham Hippodrome has gifted the public with a generous assortment of performances since the restriction on theatres opened.

On October 20 2021, the renowned classic, Madame Butterfly stole the stage through a modern format.

The first act starts off powerfully, unveiling Pinkerton’s (played by Leonardo Caimi) callous plan in the pursuit of desire.

The set design, by Isabella Bywater, reflects the cold clinical nature of his diabolical deceit, but suddenly softens at the prospect of love.

Madame Butterfly (played by Alexia Voulgaridou) injects innocence and naivety into the opera, accentuating her ability to shift the dynamic.

Combined, the actors radiate a powerful chemistry, contrasting harshly against each other, and so we’re left in awe. Amazed at the monstrous form of lust, and at how deeply infatuation twists the innocent into insanity.

Act two and three lingers like Butterfly’s unreciprocated love, heart wrenching as we witness the marital bliss bubble pop, leaving pins in Butterfly’s wings.

She longs for the deserter Pinkerton, her mood fluctuates like the fog over the sea she’s so desperately scanning.

Voulgaridou’s performance is mesmerising, and we see her vocals amp to produce signature aria with gusto and grace.

Tears brim as we watch yet another Madame falter to the sins of love and another woman fall victim to a brute promising nothing but pipe dreams.

The cathartic crescendo stirs emotions of surprise as we side with Butterfly.

We understand her damned devotion for Pinkerton, but through the same lens we loathe the knowledge that he will triumph yet our precious Butterfly is left scattered.

Butterfly’s empowering emotions undercut the unchanging scenery yet the subtle changes made throughout the acts amplify her changing American lifestyle. The costumes, by Isabella Bywater, repeatedly reinforce Butterfly’s isolation and, sadly inevitable, demise.

The Welsh Opera’s contemporary take on a much beloved constantly renovated classic is always worthy of a watch and should be caught as it tours across the UK.

4 out of 5 stars.

We want to hear from you: let us know what you think about this story and be part of the debate in our comments section below

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.