THE eagerly awaited annual visit to Oxford by Opera and Ballet International presented audiences with two of the best loved works in the repertoire.

Verdi’s Rigoletto on Thursday night was followed on Friday and Saturday by Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, a work scarcely less affecting and every bit as tuneful.

Director and producer Ellen Kent created a lasting hit with her good-looking production.

This features lovely costumes, including antique wedding kimonos, and superb set, with a spectacular water garden at the heroine’s house overlooking Nagasaki harbour.

This supplies a memorable location for the Act I nuptials in which teenager Cio-Cio San (otherwise known as Butterfly) becomes the bride of Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton (Giorgio Meladze.

Soprano Maria HeeJung Kim gave us a touching portrait of the girl, at once fragile and spirited but doomed to be crushed by a man for whom she is no more than an easily bought – and easily rejected – commodity.

The matchmaker Goro (Ruslan Pacatovici) is doing the selling.

In vain does the American consul Sharpless (Iurie Gisca) advise Pinkerton to tread cautiously in the matter, aware of the harm that could result from the deal.

The furious intervention of the bride’s uncle, The Bonze (Vadym Chernihovskyi) reveals family opposition to the match to confirm his fears.

Such worries must nevertheless be dismissed during the long and lovely love duet that precedes their first night of passion.

That she has been abandoned is understood by everyone but her three years on as Act II opens, and especially to her maid Suzuki (Zara Vardanean).

When the ‘fine day’ of his return eventually comes it will not lead to the happy conclusion Butterfly hopes for. Cue tears for all,