I saw the Sept 21, 7:30 performance. I am in still in awe at what I witnessed.
The performance opened with the Five Poems. The costumes were simplistic beauty. Designed by Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) she also designed the set which was simply a blueish sea swirl backdrop. Nothing to distract from the dancing. It opened with two separate pas de trois groups, lifting the ballerina, leapfrogging over each other, while she cycled her legs, reminiscient of gazelles leaping on the Saringetti (sp) plains. Each poem had it own dance phrasing, accompanied by the beautiful soprano voice of Jessica Jones. Most interesting to me was the Fourth Poem in which the ballerina was carried aloft by three men, twisting, swaying, swooping and turning without every touching the floor. The Fifth Poem featured the entire ensemble, each repeating their particular phrasing, intricately weaving with the other poems. I might be a bit biased, but I really like the choreography of Ben Stevenson. My daughter and I really liked the Five Poems.
Madame Butterfly: What can I say except that it was absolutely beautiful. All the way home (1 1/2 hours) I kept saying and thinking, "That was a beautiful ballet." My daughter agreed with me - until she fell asleep halfway home!
This ballet was first premiered by the Australian Ballet in 1995. The scenery, costumes and properties were provided by The Australian Ballet. The choreographed by Stanton Welch. (I also saw his "Indigo" last year that he created for Houston Ballet. I loved it.)
I'm not going to give a play-by-play. The ballet was beautiful, the costumes and properties very colorful, the scenery simple and fit with the story. The movements of the scenery were for the most part done while the curtain was up. There was during the opening scenes a section that I must talk about - the reveal of Madame Butterfly to her betrothed. A scrim was set up in the back part of the stage, behind the houses and dias. A fogging machine filled the space behind the scrim with fog. (When I say "filled", I mean FILLED!) The scrim was raised and the servants of Butterfly danced within the fog, giving the audience flitting glimpses of their fans and dark headdresses. Eventually, Madame Butterfly was revealed from the fog. Fascinating! (Although, I do have to wonder how the dancers didn't choke from all that fog!)
It was obviously apparent that Pinkerton (Butterfly's betrothed) did not understand that what he was doing was a binding relationship. To him, having a geisha bride was just another thing to boost about when he got home. He flirted with the servants and scoffed the traditions of the Japanese culture. (Swiggig down the saké was an obvious faux pas.)
I found that one viewing of this ballet probably isn't enough. There is so much going on on stage during the ceremony. I found myself watching the main action and would miss something interesting that was happening to the side. So I would watch that and miss something else on the other side. There wasn't a lack of interest on stage.
I also have to comment on the pas de deux of Butterfly and Pinkerton. MB was danced by Sara Webb. I have seen her in other ballets and enjoy her dancing, but after last night, she will remain one of my favorite dancers. The role of Pinkerton was danced by Nicholas Leschke. (During the opening scenes he did this tour jump that looked like a tour jeté except that it ended with his leg up in devant rather than derriére.) This pas de deux was up there with the Spartacus pas de deux, but not quite as exquisite. (The difference is that in Spartacus, there is a true love between the characters that is lacking in the Madame Butterfly story.) At first, Butterfly is demure - a perfect Japanese bride. As Pinkerton continues his overtures, she begins to relent. Butterfly blossoms into a woman in love, in love with the dream of a perfect marriage and perfect love - with her dream. The loosening of the chains that bound her to the traditions of her geisha life and embracing her married vision was absolutely breathtaking. Sara Webb did a fabulous job of bringing this out. Her dancing was flawless and uninhibited and Nicholas Leschke's partnering was dead on. You got the idea that as he danced with her, he felt her passion and it drove him deeper in his lust for her. (Lust it was, since he leaves her soon after for his "beloved" back in America.)
In the second act, my daughter, of course, really enjoyed the antics of Butterfly as she teases Prince Yamadori, who wishes to marry her after 10 years have passed since Pinkerton left. He was obviously an older, fat man who was enamored by the beauty of Butterfly and wished to have her as a doll at her side. Butterfly hits him in the face and head with her fan and kicks him several times. His antics at trying to keep up with her and look at her face (and share the spotlight) had my daughter giggling in her seat.
The scene with Butterfly and her servant Suzuki (this name reminds me of when I was learning to play the violin using the Suzuki method.) in which Suzuki is trying to convince Butterfly that Pinkerton will not return and Butterfly is resisting. Suzuki was portrayed by Tyann Clement. There was such fury and stubborness in each of these women for their respective positions. I would have been surprised that neither one was injured during the grabbing, yanking and throwing of the other that each did during this scene. Eventually Suzuki relents, because she loves her Butterfly so.
The ending suicide scene was not too long or too short. Butterfly just missed Pinkertons return and finds his beloved "Kate" (Julie Gumbinner) standing with Butterfly's son. The truth is made clear - Pinkerton only returned for his son, not for Butterfly. She lets her son go, releases Suzuki from her service, throws aside the money that was given to her to ease her poverty and gives herself to the sword. Suzuki runs to Pinkerton, who arrives too late to prevent her death.
An additional note: My daughter was wearing her white flower girl dress from her aunts wedding. She fell in love with a white fan that was offered at the gift shop. Yep, I bought it for her. Everyone we met on the stair and in the restroom commented that she looked like a Madame Butterfly herself. Boy, did she like that!
An additional, additional note: Some asked last spring for a list of the apprentices for Houston Ballet. I believe they knew one of the new apprentices. The list in the playbill last spring was for the last season, but I now have the list for the new season....
Vaness Perovsek, Nathan Griswold, Amanda Harper, Alexander Kotelenets, Michelle Carpenter, Keith Glen.
<small>[ 09-22-2002, 13:44: Message edited by: ahallmark ]</small>