Dancing Butterfly

Dancers: Simon Ball and Barbara Bears; Photo: Jim Caldwell

From September 6-16, Houston Ballet launches its 2012-13 season with Stanton Welch’s balletic adaption of Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. The title role of the opera is one of the great works of the repertoire for dramatic sopranos. Stanton Welch’s ballet version of Madame Butterfly is also a tour-de-force for the leading ballerina, requiring a dancer who is also a very gifted actress and can convincingly take the audience on the wrenching emotional arc of Cio-Cio San’s journey: from exuberance of first love to the passion of her wedding night in the first act – to her despair at her betrayal by Pinkerton in the ballet’s second act.

The role of Cio-Cio San was first created by principal dancer Vicki Attard of The Australian Ballet in 1995. Since the work’s Houston premiere in 2002, a number of Houston Ballet principal dancers have given memorable interpretations of Butterfly, including Sara Webb, Barbara Bears and Mireille Hassenboehler.

Dancers: Ian Casady and Sara Webb; Photo: Jim Caldwell

But one dancer has a unique connection to Cio-Cio San: principal dancer Amy Fote, who has performed the lead role of Butterfly more frequently around the world than almost any other ballet dancer. Ms. Fote’s first experience with this work was in 2004 in a guest appearance with the Royal New Zealand Ballet where she performed the role 16 times and was coached by Houston Ballet’s Ballet Master Steven Woodgate, who recognized her exceptional talent and set in motion the process of her joining Houston Ballet.

Madame Butterfly is one of my favorite ballets I have ever danced. It’s a gift to perform the title role in such a beautiful work, observed Ms. Fote. “The emotional arc that Madame Butterfly endures throughout the story is so moving and tragic: experiencing first love and getting married, to defying her religion and becoming an outcast, having a child and holding on to hope for years that Pinkerton will return, to eventually taking her own life.”

Mr. Woodgate, who created the featured role of Goro in the original production of Madame Butterfly in Australia in 1995 and has staged the work for companies across the world, gave Ms. Fote the freedom and space to discover her own conception of Cio-Cio San. “He would offer suggestions and tell you if something didn’t work, but he would let you discover the character on your own,” observed Ms. Fote. “He wanted everyone to be their own artist.”

Dancer: Amy Fote; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

When she returns to Cio-Cio San on September 6 – 16, Ms. Fote will be able to find even more depth, nuance, and power in the beautiful story of Madame Butterfly.

Tickets to Madame Butterfly are on sale via our website at www.houstonballet.org. Tickets go on sale to the general public via phone and walk up on August 6.

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