Madama Butterfly Sells Out Barcelona’s Liceu

 SpainSpain G. Puccini: Madama Butterfly, Liceu’s Orchestra and Chorus, José Miguel Pérez Sierra (conductor), Barcelona’s Liceu, 26 & 27.03.2013 (JMI)

Cio Cio San: Hui He/Ermonela Jaho
Pinkerton: Roberto Alagna/Jorge de León
Sharpless: Giovanni Meoni/Ángel Ódena
Suzuki: Jossie Pérez/Gemma Coma-Alabert
Goro: Vicente Ombuena
Yamadori: Roberto Accurso
Zio Bonzo: Evgeni Orlov
Kate Pinkerton: Claudia Schneider


Coproduction Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Gran Teatre del Liceu
Direction: Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier (original)
Justin Way (revival)
Sets: Christian Fenouillat
Costumes: Agostino Cavalca
Lighting: Christophe Forey

Hui He and Roberto Alagna Photo (c) A.Bofill
Hui He and Roberto Alagna
Photo (c) A.Bofill


If there was any doubt that Madama Butterfly is one of the most popular operas in the repertoire, Liceu has proved it with sold-out houses at each of the 5 performances in March. The opera will return to the theater in July for 8 additional performances.

This production was first staged here in the 2005/2006 season. It premiered at Covent Garden in 2003, and was revived in London in 3 additional seasons, the last time in 2011 when Kristine Opolais had a great success. The production bears the signature of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, who offer an elegant and simple work. Jim Pritchard reviewed the Covent Garden production, and there is nothing I can add to his comments. José Miguel Pérez Sierra was making his debut in the pit of Barcelona’s Liceu, and he offered a compelling reading of the score. His performance gained in strength and emotion as the opera progressed, and I found his debut quite successful. In July the baton will pass to Daniele Callegari, and we might miss Mr. Pérez Sierra. There was a strong performance from the orchestra, and the chorus showed their quality in the famous coro a bocca chiusa that closes Act II.

Ermonela Jaho and Jorge deLeón. (c) A Bofill
Ermonela Jaho and Jorge de León. (c) A Bofill

There were two alternating casts at Liceu, and the overall results were not very different. Hui He’s soprano was well-suited to the demands of Cio Cio San, although her timbre is not particularly attractive. Ermonela Jaho was too light for the part and rather weak in the bottom range, but she was an outstanding interpreter of the role, especially in the last two acts where she was quite moving. Hui He was also good but her interpretation was not as convincing as her colleague’s. Both sopranos hit the high D flat in their entrance on stage.

Roberto Alagna’s presence was a luxury in the character of Pinkerton; his splendid voice was more lyrical than Jorge de León’s in the alternate cast. De León has a poweful voice, with true metal in it and an easy top, but he fell short of the nuances that Alagna offered in Addio fiorito asil. Both Alagna and De León hit the high note at the finish of the love duet.

Giovanni Meoni was a correct Sharpless, but I preferred Angel Ódena and his more attractive baritone in the alternate cast. Jossie Pérez was a well-played Suzuki, but her voice was not especially appealing. Catalan Gemma Coma-Alabert was a serviceable Suzuki. The supporting cast included a good performance from Vicente Ombuena as Goro.

There were resounding cheers for both Butterflys, and also for Alagna and Pérez Sierra.

José M. Irurzun