It's beautiful, but this Royal Opera House performance of Puccini's opera misses out on the big picture
Despite hummable tunes, heart-stopping arias and a timeless story of love betrayed, Puccini's opera is a far from obvious choice for cinema treatment, let alone in 3D. The chorus appears in one scene only, the drama is all inward, and takes place – at least in this Moshe Leiser/Patrice Caurier Royal Opera House version – in a single, elegantly spare set. This production is blessed with great singers who are also powerful actors: James Valenti brings a swagger to the role of Pinkerton, and Liping Zhang sounds and looks ravishing as Butterfly. The story is told straightforwardly, the closeup filming allows details to emerge vividly. And yet I wished for a wider view every so often, to allow us to hear more of the orchestral colours and remember that we're watching a live event staged for a huge opera house. The intensity and excitement of the live experience are missing, and this doesn't grip like it should: however much you marvel at its beauty, this Butterfly feels trapped, under glass.
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