Ellen Kent's admirable production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly with Ukrainian National Opera of Odessa has become something of an old friend, so frequent have been its visits to Oxford's New Theatre. Returning there last weekend, however, it had a quite different appeal owing to the casting of an excellent new singer in the title role.

For the young soprano Elena Dee, the challenging part of the doomed Cio-Cio-San - as Butterfly is properly known - represents her first professional opera role. In at the deep end, then. In a sense, though, her very lack of experience - one might almost say her gaucheness - is a positive advantage. How good it is, for once, to enjoy the work of an artiste who is able credibly to show us - as verismo ought to demand - the abandoned child bride in all her tender frailty.

Cio-Cio-San is, of course, only 15 when she is, in effect, sold to the feckless Lieut Pinkerton (Ruslan Zinevych) of the US Navy by the marriage broker Goro (Anatol Arcea). Pinkerton has no illusions as to the temporary nature of their union and pays no heed to the warnings of the consul, Sharpless (Vladimir Dragon), that his bride may see things entirely differently. Indeed she does. Pinkerton's departure for home and what he describes (though not to Butterfly!) as a "proper" American bride is not recognised as that by her.

Two years after he promised he would return, she is still looking forward to that "one fine day" - the aria beautifully delivered - when his ship will steam again into port. And, indeed, of course, it does - with the new Mrs Pinkerton on board.

This was an evening of considerable musical delight, with the singers and the very large orchestra giving a sensitive performance of this great work under conductor Gheorghe Stanciu.

Until the next time . . .