Surely the Met can do better than the flat and tedious "Madama Butterfly" they mounted at Wolf Trap on Saturday.

Puccini has provided everything needed in the way of a juicy score, a setting that cries out for exotic scenery and color, and a three-hankie story of unrequited love.

And what did the Met do with this package of goodies?

They wrapped it in a first-act set of uncommonly garish squalor, cast what should be a marvelous variety of personalities with the most featureless personages imaginable, and then misdirected some of the most poignant moments of the show.

Picture, if you will, the love scene that ends Act I, with Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton exchanging lyrical sweet nothings in midpond (a dull gray pond) on two halves of a pointless bridge that don't meet, each lover, of necessity, teetering on one foot and leaning over to embrace.

Gilda Cruz-Romo, as Butterfly, has grown in the role vocally since she performed it here six years ago, but it still takes a considerable act of faith and suspension of disbelief to see in her ample figure and coy department the young Japanese girl of Puccini's opera.

Gianfranco Cecchele's Pinkerton and William Walker's Sharpless were sturdy characterizations and smoothly sung.

But Suzuki, sung by Shirley Love, and Goro, sung by James Atherton, were almost painfully miscast. They seemed to have no clear idea of who they were or of what to do onstage.

Conductor Gianfranco Masini, who paced the work nicely, couldn't save things from the pit, where the orchestra never seemed to be able to muster the shimmering sounds one likes to associate with Puccini's music.