Madama Butterfly

After then there was the wonder of the entrance of the beautiful Cio Cio- San by Hui He. The beautiful Chinese girl has taken us, she surprised as for her well used vocal possibilities. She was Butterfly, she was the betrayed tiny girl for whom the Sun doesn’t rise, the mother of the Piccolo Iddio, the woman who see in Sharpless a friend and a confidant, the girl who believes in the superficial love of a yankee. She was the woman who moved us with a “Tu? Tu? Piccolo Iddio!” really thrilling. Absolutely deserved the hurricane of applauses after a beautiful “Un bel dì vedremo” and a moving “Scuoti quella fronda di ciliegio”. We will remember Hui He for a long time: we will remember her voice of soprano lirico with a round and soft sound emission and her ability to damp her voice showing beautiful mezzevoci. We believe that soon we will hear a lot about her.” Marilisa Lazzari, Operaclick (Madama Butterfly at Puccini Festival di Torre del Lago, 2003)

“Hui He’s debut as Butterfly was sensational. She not only convinced us with her big voice, her wonderful technique and her beautiful timbre, but she moved us with an intense and emotional interpretation. The best Butterfly you could wish for. The ovation was absolutely deserved.” Wiener Zeitung, (Madama Butterfly at Volksoper Wien 2004)

“From her first note Hui He spreads nothing else than emotion. With a simple and effectual gestures, and her inexhaustible strength of dramatic shades, favored by her rich tone, she transforms the theatrical tragedy in a real tragedy, leaving anyone breathtaking.” Der Standard (Madama Butterfly at Volksoper Wien 2004)

The protagonist is extraordinary: Hui He is an excellent Butterfly! She is dramatic in her vocal explosions, always sure and moving. A real discovery. For her applauses and ovations really deserved. Kurier, 2003 (Madama Butterfly at Volksoper Wien 2004)

“Hui He is one of the best interpreter of this role right now. The vastness of the house does not allow her, as in Bordeaux a few years ago, to model her interpretation on the pains of the heroine, but she possesses the tragic greatness, the intensity revealed by the creamy material of the timbre and sumptuousness of the high notes. Christophe Rizoud, ForumOpera (Madama Butterfly at Paris Opéra Bastille)


“The Hong Kong Philharmonic Season opened with a concert perfomance of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly. Chinese soprano Hui He sang the title role, a part demanding stamina and extensive vocal characterisation, which she delivered with impressive technical control, taking the score’s alternative notes in alt with terrific effect. The restrained purity of her entrance as a 15- year old developed with intelligent theatricality as her betrayal in love unfolded. Un bel dì from Act II, for example, was sung refreshingly as a delicate vignette rather than an applause-seeker, making the climax doubly powerful. He made little recourse to portamento to underscore emotions – her command of the character’s overall development didn’t need it. Whenever the work’s dramatic pace moved glacially, the quality of He’s singing was a pleasant diversion. She sounded as tough she could have continued all night, and the audience’s reception indicated that they would have listened.” South China Morning Post (Madama Butterfly at Hong Kong Philarmonic, 2006)

“Hui He in the title role was great” Kultur (Madama Butterfly at Wiener Staatsoper, 2006)

“Hui He is extraordinary for adherence to the character of the title-role and the Chinese somatic traits increase the suggestion: She is the call girl in the window or perhaps bought from Goro’s catalog; the voice is extended and luminous, able to best convey the vast range of emotions of a Butterfly of painful humanity.” Francesco Rapaccioni, Teatro.it (Madama Butterfly at the Teatro Regio di Torino, 2011)

“Above all, we have to emphasize the superlative performance of the soprano Hui He in the title-role, Cio-Cio-San who is now a consolidated role for her, must be emphasized. Hui He portrays perfectly, both vocally and scenic, first the 15-year-old in love who lets herself be naively seduced by the American lieutenant, then the young woman who had to mature prematurely and suddenly due to the sad vicissitudes of life. From the initial love duet with Pinkerton, rendered lightly and childly carefree, we witness a gradual interpretative maturation that culminates in the heartbreaking and desperate ending of a woman whose life has taken everything away. Butterfly is the role of Hui He. The voice is of a very beautiful quality, emitted softly, homogeneous and in focus in all registers – well deserved the long ovation following the splendid performance of “Un bel dì vedremo”. Furthermore, the diction of the Chinese soprano is perfect and denotes complete awareness of what she is singing. It must be said that at the end of the opera there were very few people who did not dry their eyes due to the strong emotion they felt.” Susanna Toffaloni, Operaclick (Madama Butterfly at the Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova, 2011)

“Hui He is an ideal Cio-Cio-San, not only for the oriental traits (and ways) that give more truth to the character; her Butterfly, already marked by the bitterness of living, carries drama from the very beginning, no infantile affectation but natural reserve and oriental submission in a lucid and painful tragic progression. The lyrical voice of important volume bends with a ductile technique to inner folds and dampings and then takes off in steady and bright high notes. A performance in crescendo rich in accent that won over the Genoese audience who gave her an ovation at the end of “Un bel dì vedremo”. Francesco Rapaccioni, Teatro.it (Madama Butterfly at the Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova, 2011)

“We know that the title role calls for a performer capable not only of expressing the illusions of youth, the fervor and the impulses of an absolute commitment, the obstinate determination and the courage when she is the object of solicitations which outraged her, finally the dreadful despair accompanied by a dignity that embraces. The Capitol found her with Hui He, who greeted with endless standing ovations. For her debut in loco, she confirms the flattering reputation that preceded her. Capable of the softest modulations, subtle pianos, almost childish colors and dark vehemence, her voice of beautiful homogeneity and role-proof length never falters when she confronts the gleam of the orchestra. She evolves the character by giving the illusion of a personal investment which, if genuine, would prevent her from singing.” Maurice Salles, ForumOpera (Madama Butterfly at the Theatre Capitole de Toulouse, 2012)

“Hui He was a breathtaking Cio-Cio-San. The role is difficult because it demands intense stamina; a flair for lyricism and the theatrical; an almost unforgivable range of vocal color; and a consummate confidence that must be continually presented as demure subtlety. He sang the role with most of these most of the time, no easy task, and at moments–“Un bel di vedremo” especially–displayed a stunning amount of commitment that filled the ornate hall with a dark tone full of color.” Michael Migliore, MusicalCriticism.com (Madama Butterfly at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, 2013)

“From the production on stage these days at the Met, we will first remember the formidable Cio-Cio-San by Chinese Hui He, reference interpreter for this extraordinary role, which requires going through the full range of emotions. Endowed with an immense voice, which a priori would suit Princess Turandot more than the fragile Butterfly, her pianissimo art makes it possible just as well to suggest the cracks and ambiguities of the character. The spontaneous standing ovation offered to the performer upon her appearance in front of the final curtain tells a lot about the magnetism she operated on the audience throughout the evening.” Pierre Degott, ResMusica (Madama Butterfly at The Metropolitan Opera, 2014)

“Cio-Cio San is without doubts Hui He’s signature role. The Chinese soprano knows the slightest torment and all the little feigned joys. Happy, she is fifteen. Still candid when she is already a mother, she hides her anguish behind babbling with the Consul, as if she wanted to blind herself and not understand the evidence surrounding her. “Che tua madre” is not sung like a lament, at least not at the beginning. It’s a nursery rhyme she tells the child before spitting it out at the American. Often airy, her high register radiates diaphanous: Her sentences behind the scenes, or its little aria out of the stage (“dormi amor mio”) before the final scene give shivers. The volume, the flesh of the voice constantly move. Each musical phrase becomes an emotional wave, each note a drop of water in the sea … until the overflow that overwhelms the viewer and culminates in a last heartbreaking tune. Groggy, the audience is initially shy in their applause before reserving a triumph to the Chinese soprano, which not even Kirill Petrenko the day before or Jonas Kaufmann on Friday can compete with. Hui He carved an indelible memory that evening.” Yannick Boussaert, ForumOpera (Madama Butterfly at the Bayerische Staatsoper, 2015)

“The Chinese soprano Hui He may not look like she is 15, but her every motion and facial expression create a youthful girl on the threshold of womanhood. She works this magic with a composite of genuinely Asian mannerisms, youthful gestures and a remarkably nuanced voice. But, the real coup de théâtre is her transformation from innocence to fury and then to absolute despair at the end.” Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, TheaterJones (Madama Butterfly at The Dallas Opera, 2017)

“It was a performance where a singer fully embraced the character they are portraying and Hui He’s Butterfly metamorphosed into someone rather more defiant than vulnerable. That Hui He is many years older than Butterfly is supposed to be never mattered in the slightest as in the end her identification with the role was so complete. With excellent stamina Hui He poured forth some wonderfully exciting sounds from a large voice ideal for Puccini. When she sang ‘Un bel di’ her faith and longing were tangible and her eventual suicide – after a heart-breaking cry of despair – was deeply affecting.” Jim Pritchard, Seen and Heard International (Madama Butterfly at The Metropolitan Opera, 2019)

“The title role was played by Chinese soprano Hui He. She is very comfortable vocally, she develops her game from the childy sentences of the first act until the climax of the drama with naturalness. The tone is nourished and the high notes are ample. It is in the third act that the singer fully captures the drama of her character, towards a final scene imbued with full and assumed dramatic intention with the final overwhelming “Va, gioca, gioca” accents.” Jeanne Auffret, Olyrix (Madama Butterfly at The Metropolitan Opera, 2019)

“Luckily, the opera has a beating heart in Hui He as Cio-Cio-San. Her performance is completely credible. She knows how to look into the girl’s soul corners: naive, spasmodically hopeful, serious when it comes to death and above all, clinging to that wonderful positivity. Hui He brings it all in. Her performance really touches.” Peter’t Hart, Place de l’Opera (Madama Butterfly at The Metropolitan Opera, 2019)

The exception is soprano Hui He, who billows with old-school prima donna energy; a hurricane of determined if not always poetic movement. That’s how her voice works, too: a full out wait that sets the theater vibrating. She alone on stage understands the high stakes of this opera” James Jorden, Observer (Madama Butterfly at The Metropolitan Opera, 2019)

“In the role of Butterfly, Hui He made a splendid entrance with Act one’s “ancora un passo,” flanked by her proceeding relatives and their eye-catching, traditional costumes. The soprano’s youthful tones carried wonderfully through the excited, legato phrases which blossomed into a soaring B-flat conclusion. Her infatuation lent itself to her flirtatious lines with Pinkerton, as she revealed her conversion to Christianity and willingness to leave her family, framing these as loving sacrifices. The character’s volatile emotions were expertly captured by Hui He throughout her time onstage, with her sensitivity to the words of others able to drive extended passages of suspicious or romantic fervor. This was powerfully heard in her Act two aria “Un bel di vedremo,” where her delicate passion quickly swept her up into a sonorous reverie, finishing as she demurred and closed the screen door as if to give herself a reprieve from the emotional excess. After the truth of Pinkerton’s return is made clear to her in Act three, Hui He’s utterly crushed lines were highly gripping as she readied for her suicide; her final aria “Tu? Tu? Piccolo iddio” was a thing of ruinous beauty as her grieving farewell to her child swelled to tremendous vocal heights.” Logan Martell, Operawire (Madama Butterfly at The Metropolitan Opera, 2019)

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