Helping to make the loss of Liu all the more telling on Saturday was the gorgeous singing of Sabina Cvilak in that role. Whatever she lacked in depth of acting, the soprano more than made up for in tonal radiance. Her floated pianissimo notes were alone worth the price of admission.

Puccini always felt extra sympathy for the female characters who expired in his operas, and he created some of his most exquisite music for Liu. Cvilak unleashed that beauty in phrase after melting phrase. No wonder it was her solo bow during the curtain calls that brought the audience to its feet.

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