Gifted young choreographer Stanton Welch had never made a two-act dance, nor one with a narrative, when he was commissioned by Australian Ballet to produce Madame Butterfly, based on Puccini's opera. Though he had only four weeks of rehearsal he largely succeeded, vividly portraying in dance the tragic story of a beautiful young Japanese geisha, Cio-Cio-San, who trustingly marries a visiting American naval officer, Pinkerton, only to be betrayed by him. John Lanchbery rearranged Puccini's romantic score, and the striking costumes and sets were designed by Peter Farmer.
Welch has illustrated each individual character clearly in dance. Butterfly's movements have an Ashton-like delicacy. Pinkerton, carelessly ignorant of the hurt he will cause, dances exuberantly, living for the moment. The concern and integrity of Sharpless, the American consul, is made clear, as is the devotion of Suzuki, Butterfly's maid.
The choreographic highlight is a glorious pas de deux for the two principals on their wedding night. Beginning shyly, developing through ecstatic lifts and increasingly abandoned embraces, they are swept along by the soaring music.
Act One establishes the story and characters, while Act Two is all drama, building up to the heartrending conclusion. Welch neatly contrasts the formal, stylistic movements of the Japanese, particularly the geishas, with the broader, more expansive movements of the Americans. He uses mime at times, as it would be hard to convey the story otherwise.
Vicki Attard is delicate, passionate, and heartbreaking as Cio-Cio-San, her finest performance to date. Steven Heathcote's partnering strength is notable in the intricate lifts of the pas de deux, but he is not comfortable with Pinkerton's treacherous character. Adam Marchant is an excellent, caring Sharpless, and Miranda Coney is distinctive as Suzuki.
Heathcote and Marchant swap roles in another cast, Marchant more suave and aware as Pinkerton, Heathcote nicely suited to the decent Sharpless. Japanese guest artist Miyako Yoshida, a principal with Birmingham Royal Ballet, is an exquisite Butterfly, the classical purity and amplitude of her dancing matched by the passion and tragedy of her interpretation.
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|Title Annotation:||State Theatre, Melbourne, Australia|
|Article Type:||Dance Review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 1995|
|Previous Article:||Le Rouge et le Noir.|
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