Welsh National Opera’s Madam Butterfly at the Mayflower Southampton, opened Wednesday night to rapturous applause.

This cleverly designed and skilfully interpreted tale of tragedy, based on Puccini`s acclaimed opera, is a tale of love, betrayal and innocence, unfolding in the picturesque gardens of a Japanese Villa.

Cio-Cio San Butterfly, portrayed by Cheryl Baker, is a young fragile geisha, who sacrifices everything for the love of American Lieutenant Pinkerton (Gwyn Hughes Jones), who deserts her – only to return years later.....

Baker gives a spirited performance as the fifteen year old Butterfly. Perhaps too much so to be believable of someone her age, but she teases out all aspects of the character. Her fragility, shyness, patience and duty, fabulously supported by maid Claire Bradshaw (Suzuki) the pair reduce the audience to tears with their heart wrenching duets.

With Julian Close as The Bonze and Sharpless, The Consul, cleverly portrayed by Alan Opie, the tale unfolds gracefully.

Tenor Hughes Jones is confident in exaggerating Pinkerton`s callow demeanour and his disdain of Japanese tradition. And Sian Meinir brings character, understanding and care to a near impossible situation as wife, Kate Pinkerton.

Stand out scenes include the wedding night when Butterfly and Pinkerton share their love for each other. Their duet is moving and the brief moments they share are surprisingly tender. You can hear a pin drop as the audience, enthralled, come to realise that Butterfly, abandoned and betrayed is left with one honourable course of action.

Conductor Frederic Chaslin, always in fine fettle, has realised both the early bustling energy of Giacomo Puccini`s score and exploits the talents of the brilliant Welsh National Orchestra.

This nostalgic glimpse of a vanished world flows with grace and emotion to a moving and breath-taking finale.