Minghella’s ‘Madam Butterfly’ returns to English National Opera


English National Opera’s ‘Madam Butterfly’ returns to the London Coliseum
© Clive Barda

Anthony Minghella’s sublime production of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly returns to the London Coliseum this month – its fifth revival since it was first presented by English National Opera in London in 2005.  A co-production with the Metropolitan Opera New York and the Lithuanian National Opera, Madam Butterfly launched the artistic relationship between ENO and the Met, and following its London premiere, it subsequently opened at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre in Vilnius in March 2006, and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in September 2006.


‘Madam Butterfly’ is a co-production between ENO, the Metropolitan Opera and the Lithuanian National Opera
© Clive Barda

Madam Butterfly – Minghella’s Olivier Award-winning opera debut – was described by The Times as “one of the most deeply thoughtful and ravishingly beautiful re-creations of Puccini’s opera that you’re ever likely to see”, and hailed by The Sunday Telegraph as “the most beautiful show of the year in operatic London”.  It was the only opera directed by British film director, playwright and screenwriter, the late Anthony Minghella, and his wife Carolyn Choa – choreographer and associate director of the production.  Minghella’s other accolades include an Academy Award for Best Director for The English Patient in 1996. The film also won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the BAFTA Award for Best Film and Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama.  Mr Minghella also won a BAFTA for The Talented Mr Ripley.

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Mary Plazas (Butterfly) and Gwyn Hughes Jones (Pinkerton)
© Clive Barda

Puccini’s tragic love story about a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval officer posted in Japan, is one of opera’s most heartwrenching tales of unrequited love.  Based partly on the 1898 novel by John Luther Long, it was also the inspiration for Schönberg and Boublil’s spectacularly successful 1989 musical Miss Saigon which returns to the West End next year.

Puccini originally wrote Madam Butterfly in two acts, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Guiseppe Giacosa.  It premiered at La Scala, Milan, on February 17th, 1904, but wasn’t well received, so Puccini made some changes – which included dividing the second act into two.  The revised version, performed in Brescia on May 28th, 1904, was a resounding success.


Mary Plazas as Butterfly and Pamela Helen Stephen as Kate Pinkerton
© Clive Barda

The current ENO production features debut performances by Russian-American soprano Dina Kuznetsova – known for her outstanding musicianship and  compelling stage presence – as Cio-Cio San, and Timothy Richards – recognised as one of Europe’s leading tenors – as F B Pinkerton.  The lead roles will be shared by Mary Plazas and Gwyn Hughes Jones.  The role of Kate Pinkerton will be sung by Catherine Young, and that of Sharpless by George von Bergen – both ENO Harewood artists.  Pamela Helen Stephen appears as Suzuki, Alun Rhys-Jenkins as Goro, Mark Richardson as The Bonze and Alexander Robin Baker as Prince Yamadori.

Conductor Gianluca Marcianò also makes his ENO debut appearance with Butterfly.  Musical Director and Principal Conductor of the Tbilisi State Opera & Ballet Theatre in Georgia, Mr Marcianò is also Artistic Director of the Al Bustan Festival in Beirut, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Beijing Drama, Dance and Opera Orchestra.

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Gwyn Hughes-Jones and Mary Plazas
© Clive Barda

The production will be directed by Sarah Tipple who returns to ENO to direct Madam Butterfly for the second time, having directed the May 2012 revival production in London.  Ms Tipple’s most recent success has been the UK and South African tour of the musical Dirty Dancing.  She directed the acclaimed production Barbershopera in 2008, and in 2009 was shortlisted for the Arts Foundation Fellowship in Theatre for Directing.  During 2008-9 Sarah Tipple completed a year-long residency at the Young Vic.

ENO’s Madam Butterfly will feature the original creative team – set designer Michael Levine, costume designer Han Feng, award-winning lighting designer Peter Mumford and puppetry by Blind Summit.  Anita Griffin is the revival choreographer.

Madam Butterfly runs at the London Coliseum for 14 performances, between October 14th until December 1st.  For further information on performances and tickets, please visit the ENO website.

Anthony Minghella

Dina Kuznetsova 

Timothy Richards 

Gianluca Marciano

History of the ENO 

History of the Coliseum


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