Music: Giacomo Puccini
Choreographer: David Nixon
Conductor: Nathan Fifield
Reviewer: John Roberts
Madame Butterfly has been adapted/translated/re-visited many times before in many different ways, its story of love and tragic loss is timeless and strikes a chord with every new generation that is introduced to its heartbreaking story, however in this production choreographed by David Nixon for Northern Ballet something of its enchantingly powerful tale is lost through a lack of narrative clarity in its choreography.
That’s not to say it isn’t beautifully performed, the ensemble company of dancers are sublime, their lines crisp and clear and their strength and conviction a joy to behold – Pippa Moore is delicate as Butterfly, her innocence and naivety blossoming into courageous rose towards the end is a delight. Her chemistry with housemaid Suzuki played by Luisa Rocco is warm and tender and never fails to raise a smile. Strong performances are also given by Kevin Poeung and Issac Lee –Baker as the American sailors, while Kelley McKinley as Pinkerton cuts a dashing figure as Butterfly’s love interest.
The strength of the production however lies in other areas the first is Puccini’s music which stand’s the test of time through its strong emotive themes, and the second is Alastair West’s lighting design, which brings a splash of colour into what could otherwise be a very empty performing space, its never easy to balance such strong colour in such a way, but West’s design sculpts the space effortlessly in a vibrant and well placed design.
As mentioned previously the original story has so much within it, that Nixon’s 80 minute production lacks clarity in telling the tragic tale – a difficult task indeed especially when no words are spoken or sung, its also a shame that the final scene feels out of place to the rest of the production – Butterfly’s death suddenly feels like a moment from a piece of contemporary dance rather than part of the Ballet already been shown to the audience.
It may not be the strongest production in Northern Ballet’s repertoire but it certainly isn’t their worst and with the powerful short 15 minute piece Perpetuum Mobile choreographed by Christopher Hampson as a pre-show appetiser ensures there is plenty for everyone to enjoy and provides plenty of entertainment for your money.
Reviewed on Friday 29th May 2015