Ballet.co Postings Pages

 Some Special Threads:
  GPDTalk about George Piper Dances ! NEW !
  NBTTalk about Northern Ballet Theatre
  SBTalk about Scottish Ballet
  ENBTalk about English National Ballet
  BRBTalk about Birmingham Royal Ballet
  TodaysLinks - worldwide daily dance links
  Ballet.co GetTogethers - meetings and drinks...

  Help on New Postings

Subject: "Review: NBT Madame Butterfly" Archived thread - Read only
  Previous Topic | Next Topic
Printer-friendly copy     Email this topic to a friend    
Conferences What's Happening Topic #2518
Reading Topic #2518

21-02-02, 02:49 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Bruce Click to send private message to Bruce Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
"Review: NBT Madame Butterfly"
   NBT Madame Butterfly
Leeds Grand
18th February 2002

In Short:
Bankable piece well executed as dance theatre. Really rather moving.

This is the first production by David Nixon who took over as artistic director last September. Nixon's background, at BalletMet in Columbus Ohio, was to concentrate his own choreographic efforts mainly on strong narrative works while commissioning more diverse pieces from elsewhere. Madame Butterfly, as a full length ballet, was first seen there and has since entered the repertoire of a number of North American companies. However the NBT production is much rethought with some 50% changed with new designs and orchestration. The character and Kabuki elements have been brought more to the fore and the production even credits a Butoh teacher. Which is a long way of indicating that this is a serious and thought-though piece that aspires to more than merely a literal telling of the story.

As plots go Madame Butterfly is very simple. Love misunderstood and betrayed - was it ever really different?

Set in 19th century Japan, Butterfly gives her all for a US Navy Officer (Pinkerton) who is enchanted for all of a day/night and then goes home for years, marrying an American girl along the way. Posted back to Japan, an ever waiting Butterfly, dutifully bringing up his son and longing for his return, at last sees her life betrayed and kills herself.

The programme notes are comprehensive, but the story is told clearly on stage and you can read them at your leisure later if you like.

Design, Sets and Costume:
Set designs are by Ali Allen - a Leeds 'girl' with a wide theatrical track record - following David Nixon's 'design concept'. The sets are simple, Japanese minimalist and have the look of the scenes you get on pots and plates. Pleasantly effective I thought. The costumes of course look very period Japanese and for the girls are quite sumptuous.

Choreography and Music
Nixon likes both the literal and the more suggestive and both come to the fore in this production. The ballet begins and ends to the echo of traditional Japanese music and occasional accompanied singing - they set the scene in a totally oriental perspective of honour and code. The Puccini music, so well known in its own right, supports the majority of the action and the more western story telling.

Nixon's choreography is very moving at times. The central pdd between Butterfly and Pinkerton does have inventive lifts, unique poses and gestures that convey growing love in new ways. I was moved. As I was by the final deathly solo. The geishas' parasol dance at the beginning was also a pleasant spectacle though I think there should be more than four of them. In fact I got the overall feeling of a chamber ballet rather then a piece for the whole company and at times some of the numbers come over as a little too pat.

It was almost a one woman show for Chiaki Nagao. Obviously from Japan she looks the part and the nuances of modesty and despair come ringing through. At the curtain call she looked totally drained from giving her theatrical 'all' - in what is a particularly poignant end. There was a fair silence before the eventual applause as the audience came down too. This is dance theatre so it's pointless being po-faced about company technique etc since that is not what the company has put to the fore and I don't think I missed much in this context anyway. Nagao is very much worth seeing but I'm intrigued to see what some of the non-oriental girls will make of it.

There is one lapse which is possibly a poor production value more than anything: Jerry Kerridge (a terrific and thoughtful character dancer) is the Marriage Broker and played it rather in the style of a jester in a Russian production of the classics - it needs to be much straighter.

Does it Work?
Yes - an encouraging work in the NBT tradition but wider in scope and all the better for it. A pretty good start for Nixon I thought at curtain down.

  Printer-friendly page | Top

  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Review: NBT Madame Butterfly Jim 05-03-02 1
     RE: Review: NBT Madame Butterfly Jim 11-03-02 2
         RE: Review: NBT Madame Butterfly Bruceadmin 11-03-02 3

Conferences | Topics | Previous Topic | Next Topic

05-03-02, 11:02 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Jim Click to send private message to Jim Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
1. "RE: Review: NBT Madame Butterfly"
In response to message #0
   Keiko Amemori was my Butterfly in the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, this evening (she joined NBT in October 2001 via Japan and Hambourg), and I don't think there was a dry eye in the house when the lights went up. Mind you, Puccini's heart-tearing music didn't help much in this respect. It seemed a bit odd at first seing geisha girls dancing on pointe, but Keiko's arabesques gave me the tingles, again and again. As Bruce noted, there was a lot of dancing for solos or small groups - a distinct change from my idea of NBT with a stage crowded with prettywell the whole company throwing fruit or other objects around the place. The dance for the three sailors in the first act had overtones of South Pacific, and I was half waiting for strains of 'There ain't nothing like a dame'. There was some delightful choreography, some of it rather MacMillanesque in places, I thought. But I think he was a rather silly Lt Pinkerton to take his wife back to Japan with him after all that time. The real live three year old boy ('Trouble') was extremely well behaved.

I thought the lighting was ingenious in several places and was intrigued to note the lighting designer is Peter Mumford - same guy who lit up 'This house will burn'.

This is a real tear-jerker - the 'dream' scene was one of the most memorable for me.

Typical NBT - a thoroughly entertaining show - a bit of everything, absolutely entrancing, couldn't take my eye off it, good all round emotional fix. I thought the ballet had a lovely symmetry about it and I can't wait to see it again next week in Sadler's Wells.

  Printer-friendly page | Top

11-03-02, 09:16 AM (GMT)
Click to EMail Jim Click to send private message to Jim Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
2. "RE: Review: NBT Madame Butterfly"
In response to message #1
   LAST EDITED ON 11-03-02 AT 09:17 AM (GMT)

Just to record on this thread that Chiaki Nagao and Neil Westmorland performed the Act 1 pas de deux in Beryl Grey's 75th Birthday gala at Sadler's Wells last night. It seemed to me to be perfection personified, I couldn't find a fault and it was clearly very moving, at least to those in the part of the house where I was. It's hard to compare with the performance of Keiko Amemori I saw in Nottingham last week as the gala performance lacked a contextual set, but I think Chiaki's was more assured and more technically accomplished.
This will do the reputation of NBT among London audiences no harm whatsoever.

  Printer-friendly page | Top

11-03-02, 10:15 AM (GMT)
Click to EMail Bruce Click to send private message to Bruce Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
3. "RE: Review: NBT Madame Butterfly"
In response to message #2
   Glad you liked it Jim - I think it a very moving piece and pdd and Londoners who like dramatic ballet should see it. Nagao and Westmorland were first cast and it has moved on further from when I saw them in Leeds I think.

Madame Butterfly opens at Sadler's Wells this Wednesday and its good to see the company bouncing back with David Nixon as new director.

  Printer-friendly page | Top

Conferences | Topics | Previous Topic | Next Topic

Questions or problems regarding this bulletin board should be directed to Bruce Marriott