Choreographer: David Nixon OBE
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Musical Director: John Pryce-Jones
Reviewer: Ray Taylor
The Public Reviews Rating:
What an absolutely stunning, ravishing evening! All that is required of the audience is to sit captivated by the heartfelt drama unfolding on the stage as the tragedy of Madame Butterfly’s love for the naval officer Pinkerton was played out in a scintillating blend of dance, music and colour.
David Nixon’s concept of adapting this most famous of operas into dance form began to take shape in 1983 as part of a short choreographic workshop. Since then it has expanded and developed into the full-length version we see today. David has written that he believes the medium of ballet can capture as much, if not more of the emotional and physical reality of the story and the results are outstandingly apparent.
Of course Puccini’s music, so well-known and loved by millions, has a huge part to play in the overall effect but the genius of this production is the way in which John Longstaff has orchestrated the original score and blended it with original Japanese music to create a new being – a condensed orchestral transcription of the opera with a Japanese ‘feel’ to it. East meets West as the Company blend classical ballet with Japanese-inspired dancing. All of this is expertly played by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia under the assured and vastly experienced direction of John Pryce-Jones.
At this performance the main dancers were Michela Paolacci (Butterfly), John Hull (Pinkerton), Martin Bell (Sharpless, American Consul), Giuliano Contadini (Bonze and a Samurai), Victoria Sibson (Kate, Pinkerton’s American wife) and Thomas Aragones (Goro, marriage broker) all admirably complemented by the whole company.
Among an evening of highlights there are two stand out moments. The first is the pas de deux (love duet) at the end of the first half in which Butterfly prepares for her wedding night. She has been disgraced and denounced by the holy man for converting to Christianity and declared an outcast. All her guests have departed. At first she feels shy and tentative with Pinkerton but soon her love is fully released and she finds freedom in his arms as they perform a beautiful and heartfelt duet.
The second is the climax of the evening, Butterfly’s suicide. The dancer in this role has a very demanding second half being on stage nearly the whole time. Finally, completely alone, stunningly lit in red, Butterfly commits Hari Kiri with her father’s Samurai sword. In a packed house you could have heard a pin drop.
No-one who loves ballet and great romantic music could fail to be impressed by this production. If you are anywhere near where it is being performed, or even if you’re not, go see it!
Runs until Saturday 22 September and then tours nationally
Madame Butterfly – Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield,
Tags: David Nixon, Giacomo Puccini, Giuliano Contadini, John Hull, John Longstaff, John Pryce-Jones, Madame Butterfly, Martin Bell, Michela Paolacci, Northern Ballet Sinfonia, Sheffield Lyceum, Thomas Aragones, Victoria Sibson