Award-winning producer Ellen Kent returns to the west country with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and Verdi's Rigoletto, the dark opera they tried to ban.

International baritone Iurie Gisca, will be starring as Rigoletto alongside soprano Alyona Kistenyova from Odessa National Opera.

Based on a play by Victor Hugo, who penned Les Miserables, the opera was almost banned because it exposed the licentious behaviour of the powers-that-be at court.

It was banned due to its sexual content – at least officially. In reality, it was banned for political reasons as it made covert jabs at politicians of the time.

Inspired by the tradition of renaissance painting, Verdi turned the tragedy into an opera, reflecting the sexual depravity of the Mantuan Ducal Court and featuring seductive, naked courtesans.

It incurred the outrage of the censors, and the rape scene in Verdi’s original version created an uproar at the time. The opera was banned after one performance until he agreed to remove the controversial scene. He then battled with censors in Italy and renamed the Opera, Rigoletto.

Wishing to reproduce Verdi’s original intentions, Ellen Kent has tastefully reinstated the naked courtesans. The production has also sensitively reintroduced the rape scene.

Ellen has long been a campaigner for animal welfare. The animals featured in this production come from small registered charity Bristol DAWG (Greyhound & Lurcher Rescue) and Black Mountain Falconry in Abergavenny.

Ellen said: “To be able to promote animal welfare and preservation of endangered species through the drama and spectacle of my operas is a great joy and privilege for me.”

Ellen Kent's Rigoletto is at The Bristol Hippodrome on Thursday, January 18 at 7.30pm.

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly tells the heart-breaking story of a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval lieutenant – with  heart-wrenching results.

International Korean soprano Maria HeeJung Kim from the National Opera House of Seoul will be making her debut in the UK singing the role of the tragic Cio Cio San.

talented young star studied in Milan and made her debut as Madama Butterfly at the Milan Opera.Maria has sung Madama Butterfly and La Traviata at many of the major opera houses in Europe.

Madama Butterfly is on Friday, January 19 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £19.90 to £46.90 on 0844 871 3012 or visit