Lianna Haroutounian sings the role of Cio-Cio-San in Madame Butterfly extraordinarily well.
Lianna Haroutounian, on the right, sings the role of Cio-Cio-San in Madame Butterfly extraordinarily well. Jacob Lucas

• It's an intense, unforgettable show. It's problematic, the story itself, as Rebecca Brown writes in her review, but, as she puts it: "Oh my God—the music!"

• On opening night, as noted, the man singing Pinkerton had to step down after the first act. His voice couldn't cut it. The general manager came out during the intermission to deliver the news and to say that the man who would be singing Pinkerton in the next day's matinee happened to be in the house, and he would be stepping into the role for act three. Never seen that happen halfway through an opera before. Feel bad for the other guy. I blame the smoke.

• The way the servant collapses to the floor when she finds out the bad news about Pinkerton is seared into my mind, the shape of her body itself. Probably because of the lighting design.

• The set consists of very little but lighting design. The lanterns held by people that slowly go out one by one are a nice touch. The blood-red color that builds and deepens (and then is extinguished all at once, as if from within) is strangely more powerful than seems possible.

• The thrill at the possibility that everything will work out is palpable—it's hard to explain. The ending of this show is famous, but somehow the music and the singing and the staging in this production conspire to make it seem like that's not the ending that's coming. It killed me watching the little kid throwing flower petals into the air as his mother got out the big knife. As an opera fan said afterward, "I thought it was going to be like, 'Okay, just kill yourself already,' but it wasn't like that at all."

Seattle Opera's Madame Butterfly plays through August 19.