No composer ever wrote a better opera than Puccini’s sad tale of love and abuse set in early 20th century Japan. The late Anthony Minghella’s production has been regularly staged at the Met since it opened the season in 2006. I was at that first performance and liked its colorful and spare staging except for the puppet used to depict Butterfly’s son. It was a bad idea that has worsened over the years. This production of the perennial favorite served as the debut of the celebrated soprano Asmik Grigorian who has sung just about everywhere before her New York appearances as Cio-Cio-San.

I’ll begin with the end. Just before the Butterfly’s death scene the screen went dark and the sound departed with it. After a few seconds, the video returned but without the sound. This type of outage has happened with distressing frequency over the years since the start of the HD series. One such event was Werther’s death scene with Jonas Kaufmann as Massenet’s lovesick protagonist. Today’s technical disaster was particularly upsetting as Gregorian’s Butterfly was exceptionally well done. Everything was in place for a cathartic conclusion when the opera morphed into a silent movie. I don’t know how widespread the signal loss was.

The emotional core of Puccini’s masterpiece is Act 2. One punch to the emotional gut follows another. From ‘Un bel di’ to Sharpless’s futile attempt to read Pinkerton’s letter to Butterfly’s moment of false triumph when she thinks Pinkerton is coming back to her to the Humming Chorus – inspiration follows inspiration. The measure of a production’s stagings and the soprano’s grasp of her role is the audience’s reaction to Butterfly’s expression of triumph. If they don’t applaud even as the music continues the director and/or the singer has discharged a blank. Today Grigorian belted out the phrase of victory and then collapsed. The audience applauded. Puccini’s theatrical and musical genius is so powerful that an audience is compelled to applaud a powerful rendition of the scene. In more than a score of Butterfly performances I’ve never seen a reaction like that of Grigorian, but it worked and the audience got the message.

Grigorian’s voice and persona are unique. Her middle voice is stentorian and is why she can sing demanding roles like Turandot and Salome. Her top is secure, but sometimes thins a bit and doesn’t have the volume of her middle voice. Her acting is on the mark and suggests that she spends a lot of time perfecting her characterization of the person she portrays.

Puccini’s orchestration is so evocative and powerful that a conductor of great sensitivity and control is needed behind the baton. Maestra Xian Zhang who made her Met debut with this run of Butterfly led a fine performance from the Met’s matchless orchestra. She deserves more work from the company.

Tenor Jonathan Tetelman has a nice sounding voice that he pushes too hard. Also, his basic vocal production is off, and his sound sometimes flutters. I doubt his career will be long if he doesn’t find his vocal equilibrium.

Elizabeth DeShong has sung the faithful servant, Suzuki, many times. As usual, her performance was satisfying and emotionally engaged.

Baritone Lucas Meachem is a solid performer who brings all the right vocal and acting gear to everything he performs. He typically sings the less demanding baritone leads with the company. Away from it, he sings many of the big baritone parts like the Count in Il Trovatore. He was engaging as a career State Department employee stuck at a dead end post.

The remainder of the cast all played their roles with dispatch. The production is well worth attending the rerun next Wednesday. Presumably, the opera’s riveting conclusion will be repaired and intact by then. But there’s no way to avoid the damn puppet. The Met’s program for this performance is below.