The first did not do anything for me. The production was OK (though I cannot understand why they would want to move the timeline from Peter the Great's era to pre-revolution Russia), the singing was good, but I found Mazeppa heavy. Too many words and not enough melody for my taste. I think I'll stay away from Russian opera in future. Too serious for me, maybe.
Well, life is too short to sit through an opera you don't enjoy - so I left at the interval. Thankfully, I had gone on my own, and I had bought a cheap ticket. The man beside whom I was sitting must have been wandering where I disappeared to!
Madama Butterfly, on the other hand, was a joy. It was a Met HD live broadcast, showing at Movies@Dundrum. I had managed to get tickets for it just as they started selling them. It was completely sold out, filling Screen 1 and 4. The whole Met live broadcast is very polished, with a count-down 5 minutes before the start, and during the intervals, and interviews with the artists too. And you get good onstage close-ups, better than the best seat in the house.
This Madama Butterfly was a production by Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) and it was excellent- very modern (not like most Met productions, which can be a tad old-fashioned), with good use of light and very simple props (and, of course, Japanese paper screens). The singing was glorious (apart from Pinkerton's American wife, who had a much weaker voice than the rest of the singers, but it didn't really matter, as she only has a line or two to sing). Patricia Racette was Butterfly, Marcello Giordani - Pinkerton, Maria Zifchak - Suzuki, Dwayne Croft - Sharpless the American Consul were all excellent - good voices and genuine acting skills. Everything worked towards a successful production: not only the singing, and the lighting, but also the acting, the costumes, the dancing, and of course, the puppets.
Cio Cio San's 3-year-old son is a puppet, animated by 3 men in black, and was much more convincing than a child on the stage. (You can't really get a 3-year old to act, and if you get a 6-year old, it just doesn't look right, and they often still can't act.)
Altogether, a very memorable opera. I'm glad I brought Brendan along. At €7 per ticket, a real treat.