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One of those strange coincidences of programming mean that both Northern Ballet and Operal North are performing their productions of Madame Butterfly in Leeds in a couple of week.


As a taster, the companies organised a joint event in Leeds last night under the title of Butterfly (from the) Wings. The evening was led by Jon Hammond who had a Q&A session with Martin Pickard from Opera North and David Nixon, Artistic Director of Northern Ballet. The was started by Maribeth Diggle, accompanied by Martin Pickard, singing Un bel di so beautifully that I had shivers running down my spine,


The Q&A session covered the approach taken to the opera and ballet productions (unsurprisingly similar) and the background of the productions and also some specifics about both the productions. It was very insightful.


During the course of the Q&A we were treated to the ladies of Northern Ballet performing a dance from the Tea House scene where Butterfly first meets Pinkerton (to traditional Japanese music) and Ms Diggle singing Butterfly's final aria (caused big lump in throat). The evening ended with Micaela Paolacci dancing Butterfly's final dance, which again is performed to a traditional Japanese song. It was breathtaking and I know that I am going to need plenty of tissues for the performances I am seeing in a couple of weeks!


I find these types of evening really enhance my experience of the actual performance - long may they continue!


Thanks to all the participants for giving us such an interesting and rewarding evening.

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Janet may I echo your view that these events enhance understanding and provide illuminating insights into productions. I too, thought it was a remarkable and enjoyable evening. David Nixon was particularly informative about the quality of movement he looked for in his Butterfly and in doing so explored the way American and Japanese people move. He also paid his wife some lovely compliments as she is both Japanese and a former principal dancer. In short the perfect coach for the role.

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  • 1 month later...

Northern Ballet's short run of David Nixon's elegiac Madame Butterfly in Leeds ended on Saturday evening. I was lucky enough to catch the final three performances.


Madame Butterfly was the first ballet that David Nixon mounted for NB when he had just taken over as Artistic Director. I loved it then and I love it now, time has in no way diminished its power to move and its beauty. The set is a simple Japanese style house at the back of the stage with various side and hanging sections depicting either blossom or Autumn leaves. It's very simplicity lends itself to the story. David Nixon also designed the beautiful costumes - adaptations of traditional kimonos for the Japanese ladies being particularly striking. I was able to see all three casts over the weekend.


On Friday evening we were able to enjoy Keiko Amemori gracing NB's stage again with Kenneth Tindall as her Pinkerton. They have often danced together and were very comfortable in the choreography meaning they were able to give their all to the characterisations. Kenny has got to be one of the best actors around on the dance stage today; you utterly believe in the character he is dancing. He seemed genuinely fond of Butterfly but was ultimately cowardly when faced with the reality of his situation. I'm surprised his wife Kate (gorgeously realised by Martha Leebolt) didn't run off with Sharpless (or maybe she did after our story was ended!).


Saturday afternoon was one of those magical afternoons when the air is sprinkled with star dust and we were treated to a breath-taking and extremely moving performance from Pippa Moore and Toby Batley. I was in floods of tears by the end and, yes, I was one of the people on my feet at the end acclaiming this wonderful performance. Georgina Roberts greatly enhanced the performance as a sympathetic and caring Kate, she was genuinely distressed by the torture that Butterfly was going through as she reached her decision to give up Trouble.


Michela Paolacci and John Hull took the honours on Saturday evening and gave a beautifully nuanced and moving performance.


I particularly enjoyed Sebastian Loe's performances as Goro - he had just the right amount of obsequious money-grubbing and danced the role beautifully. Martin Bell was similarly excellent in the role and, in another performance, as Sharpless. Darren Goldsmith also brought gravitas to the role of Sharpless.


Saturday evening saw Yi Song's final performance with Northern Ballet. He danced the triple role of Father/Bonze/Prince Yamadori with sharpness and an enormous stage presence. At the curtain calls, David Nixon gave a short speech thanking Yi for his contributions to the company, explaining that he will be undertaking a university course in Japan. All Yi's many fans will really miss him and I would like to send very best wishes to him for the future.


Madame Butterfly is being performed at some venues during the Autumn tour and I would highly recommend it.

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