Madama Butterfly Russian State Opera Wyvern Theatre, Swindon

AUDIENCES packed the Wyvern Theatre this week for one of the world’s most popular operas.

And the Russian State Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly made it clear to aficionados and newcomers alike why Puccini’s masterpiece continues to delight.

With a traditional set and costumes, the performers swept the audience along through Puccini’s exquisite score, aided by a 50-piece live orchestra.

Madama Butterfly tells the tale of a young Japanese geisha, Cio Cio San, who falls in love with an American naval officer, Lieutenant Pinkerton.

The pair marry, but unbeknown to Cio Cio San, Pinkerton only does so because according to Japanese custom, he can divorce her at his whim so he is not bound to anything.

Pinkerton returns to America and for three years, Cio Cio San hears nothing from him, but she remains convinced he will come back for her.

When he eventually returns to Japan, it is with his new American wife in tow — and heartbreak and tragedy ensue.

A stellar cast brought passion, sorrow and humour to the performance.

Special mention must go to Elena Razguliaeva in the role of Cio Cio San. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as she made her electrifying entrance, her pure soprano voice raising the bar to a whole new level.

And given the rapturous applause, verging on standing ovation, which came from the audience at the end of ther night, I was not alone. A truly splendid production of a true classic. - Gill Harris