By Lawrence Budmen 

In recent seasons Gold Coast Opera has formed a working relationship with Teatro Lirico dí Europa, a Maryland based touring company. Utilizing the casts and productions of the former Bulgarian opera ensemble, Gold Coast founder Thomas Cavendish remains a familiar presence on the podium.

On February 19 Cavendish led Pucciniís Madama Butterfly at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts. Despite serious orchestral problems, a strongly cast, intelligently conceived production offered a compelling evening of music theater. 

Teatro Lirico founder Giorgio Lalovís direction was straightforward, moving the drama toward its final inevitable tragedy with a minimum of artifice. Valentin Topencharoví set emphasized simple, clean lines that suggested a garden and hilly path next to the heroineí s house. His multi-hued costumes filled the stage with color, an eye catching wedding gown rich in blends of white and yellow pastels. 

Elena Razgylaeva embodied the heroine Cio-Cio-San Her gleaming lyrico-spinto soprano is effortlessly produced. Cio-Cio-Saní s treacherously difficult entrance aria was capped by a fearless high C. A consummate singing actress, Razgylaeva turned Un bel di into a dramatic declaration of faith rather than mere vocal display. Her agitated death scene proved a final musico-dramatic tour de force. Razgylaeva encompassed the heroineís emotional spectrum in a radiant vocal palette that could ring out in fury and rhapsodize in romantic ecstasy. 

Gabriel Gonzalez epitomized the self righteous arrogance of Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton, Cio-Cio-Sanís faithless husband. He voiced Pucciniís lyrical paragraphs in a sizable, vibrant tenor that was not always securely focused.

As Suzuki, Cio-Cio-Sanís maid, Viara Zhelezovaís rich , smoothly produced mezzo glistened in duet with Razgylaeva. Plamen Dimitrov brought dignity to the American Consul Sharpless but struggled with the vibrato laden remnants of a burly baritone voice. 

As Kate Pinkerton, the lieutenantís American wife, Veselina Ponorska looked like a Hollywood goddess and sang with a molten, dusky soprano timbre that made one regret the roleís limited opportunities. 

Cavendishís heavy handed, plodding conducting lacked dramatic cohesion. He had to contend with scrappy playing from the Florida Classical Orchestra with particularly glaring errors and wrong entrances from the winds and brass. At times the conductor was reduced to giving verbal directions to the musicians. 

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