Posts Tagged ‘Madame Butterfly’


Houston Ballet Helps Miller Theater Celebrate Its 90th Anniversary In Grand Style

May 7, 2013

From May 10 – 12 at 8pm, Houston Ballet celebrates Miller Theater’s 90th anniversary by performing three stellar works in three free performances. The evening will open with two short, dazzling pieces: the duet from the 19th century classic Flower Festival in Genzano and the exquisite classical set piece Grand Pas Classique, set to music by Daniel Auber and showcasing the virtuosity of two superb classical dancers.

Madame Butterfly_Artists of Houston Ballet_Amitava Sarkar

Dancers: Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

The program concludes with Stanton Welch’s signature work Madame Butterfly, the story of a beautiful Japanese geisha who gives up her faith and her family to marry an American naval officer. Set to Puccini’s powerful score with lavish costumes and sets by Peter Farmer, Madame Butterfly is at once compelling and heartbreaking. It is a stunning achievement in neoclassical ballet that has been an international success, with performances on three continents.

Free tickets to these performances are available (4 per person over age 16 while they last) at the Miller Outdoor Theatre box office the day of the performance between the hours of 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. If tickets remain at 1 p.m., the box office will re-open one hour before show time to distribute the remaining tickets. As always, open seating on the hill. This is a ticketed event for the covered seating area.

NERIO PHOTOGRAPHY Miller Outdoor Ballet9004Houston Ballet at Miller Outdoor Theatre; Photo: Nerio Photography


Summer Diary Series – First Soloist Kelly Myernick

September 7, 2012

Ever wondered what our Houston Ballet company dancers do over the summer? Well, we asked our dancers what they did over the summer and what they are looking forward to the most in the 2012-2013 season. Read about our last summer diary entry from First Soloist Kelly Myernick!

Hello ballet friends. HB has asked me to tell you about my summer. This was my absolute best summer yet. I got married! My husband is Kyle Kubin. He is an actual native Texan from the non-dancing realm. We met almost 3 years ago when mutual friends of ours invited me to Kyle’s “Lights in the Heights” party after a Nutcracker show. If you live in the Heights, Kyle’s the guy who wins “Most Wattage” every year. Kyle felt like my home immediately. Last October he surprised me and took me out to Point Reyes, CA for the weekend. The real surprise was that he proposed, I said “yes”, and we decided to bring our families back there for a wedding in the summer.

I never considered myself a big wedding person and was definitely begging Kyle to just elope sometime during Cinderella. I am so glad that we had the wedding when we did because it was so special to have all of the people we love in one place. Beth Everitt, the amazing new teacher of our youngest students and my best friend since our own academy days was my maid of honor. Oliver Halkowich, Jessica Collado, Mireille Hassenboehler, Amy Fote, and Nic Leschke all made the trip out as well and made a very impressive showing on the dance floor. We had the most unforgettable night. My friends who originally convinced me to go to Kyle’s xmas party wrote us a funny song for their toast, the last line being, “. . . now my dream has come true. . . and I’m Mr. Most Wattage’s Wife!”

We went to Bali for our honeymoon so we could lie on a beach for a while but also have a bit of a cultural adventure. One of our board members, Melza Barr has lived in Indonesia and she and her family were very helpful in steering us in the right direction. The Balinese people make everything so incredibly beautiful and sacred. We snorkeled and rode bikes from a volcano down through villages and rice fields. People struggle not to use the word “magical” when they describe Bali and we completely understand why.

Poor Aszure Barton. Needless to say I’m still a little unfocused in her rehearsal after that kind of summer but I’ll get back to into it. We have come back to incredibly challenging but rewarding work with Aszure, Twyla Tharp and the drama of Madame Butterfly. I think I am most excited about playing the role of Suzuki opposite Mireille (Cio-Cio San). I think the “One Fine Day” scene at the beginning of Act 2 is one of the most beautiful and dramatic in our repertoire, and I am so excited to finally dance it.

This was a memorable summer and this is shaping up to be a very memorable year.  Welcome back!

-First Soloist, Kelly Myernick


Our 2012-2013 season is here! Check out our first program of the season – Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly from September 6-16, 2012. See Kelly Myernick perform the role of Suzuki in the love story of  Madame Butterfly.

P.S. Make sure you mark on your calendars our second program called Women@Art from September 20-30, 2012. Three of the world’s leading female choreographers take Houston Ballet on a spectacular odyssey of dance with a fall repertory program unlike any other. Featuring a world premiere Angular Momentum by Aszure Barton, the company premiere of Twyla Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations, and the return of Julia Adam’s Ketubah.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or by visiting


Summer Diary Series – Principal Sara Webb

September 4, 2012

Ever wondered what our Houston Ballet company dancers do over the summer? Well, we asked our dancers what they did over the summer and what they are looking forward to the most in the 2012-2013 season. Check out this week’s entry from Principal Sara Webb! Enjoy!

Our Summer in Japan 2012

Ballet: Manon; Dancers: Sara Webb and Nicholas Leschke; Photo: Jim Caldwell

As the 2011-2012 Season was coming to an end with the tragic love story of Romeo & Juliet, Connor Walsh and I were preparing for another tragic and memorable love story of Manon and Des Grieux. Former Principal dancer Barbara Bears-Gadbois did a wonderful job coaching us and getting us ready to jump into the production being performed by the National Ballet of Japan in Tokyo. We had very little time once we got to Japan to work with the Company, so we had to be “performance ready” when we arrived.

The final Houston Ballet performance of Romeo & Juliet was on Sunday afternoon (June 17). Connor and I flew on a 13-hour flight Monday morning, arriving in Japan Tuesday afternoon. We were happy to see familiar faces on our flight. Fellow HB dancers, Nozomi Iijima and Megumi Takeda, and Megumi’s father were on their way home to Japan for the break as well.

While we were getting over jet lag and adjusting to a 14-hour time change we had four days, a one-hour stage call, and a final dress rehearsal to acquaint ourselves with the company and their production of Kenneth Macmillan’s Manon.

The Company and Staff of the National Ballet of Japan and the New National Theater Tokyo were very welcoming and helpful. It was a unique and wonderful opportunity to be able to perform in Japan with these accomplished Artists- one I will always remember. It was a treat for us as well to be on stage again with former HB II member Mina Bonkohara. She is dancing beautifully.

Connor and I are grateful to Karl Burnett, Patricia Ruanne, and Lady Debora MacMillan for their last minute coaching and inspiration, as well as Martin Yates for his masterful composing and conducting of the music. We had a lot of work to do in four days–we usually rehearse for weeks– but it was an enjoyable challenge.

This was my third time performing the role of Manon. Each time I have danced this role I have been in different places in my life. While I have enjoyed every opportunity, Japan will always be my favorite. I’m grateful to our director, Stanton Welch, and National Ballet of Japan’s director, David Bintley, for giving me this opportunity.

Connor and I danced two performances in the New National Theater Tokyo – an amazing facility.

What a treat it was for us to see some familiar faces at the end of our shows. We so appreciate the support of our Houston friends who made the trip to see us and cheer us on. Thank you to Jim Nelson, Akemi & Yasuhiko Saitoh and their two daughters, Machiho Yoshiyama, Charles-Louis Yoshiyama, Katelyn May, Nao Kusuzaki, Megumi Takeda and her mother.

When the curtain closed after our second show, Connor and I were officially on vacation! My husband Ryan bravely flew with our two children Joshua (4) and Lillian (21 months) to Japan just as I was finishing up my performances so we could enjoy our summer vacation together in Tokyo. We had many adventures, especially with two children in tow, and tried to see and experience as much of Japan as we could in a week. We visited the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Zoo, Senso-ji Temple, the shrines and great Buddha in Kamakura, Shibuya Crossing, the Sumida River, and my kids’ favorite—DisneySea:

Joshua loved Japan so much that, on our first night home, he came into our room at 2:00 am in tears because he already wanted to go back. In his words, “Japan is so much funner than Texas. I want to go there forever.” Maybe not “forever,” but one day we hope to find ourselves there again for another memorable visit…

– Sara Webb, Principal

Our 2012-2013 season is almost here! We are opening our season with Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly from September 6-16, 2012. Watch Sara Webb return as the beautiful geisha Cio-Cio San in the love story of  Madame Butterfly.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or by visiting Please click here to view, print or download casting.

Ballet: Madame Butterfly; Dancers: Sara Webb and Ian Casady; Photo: Jim Caldwell


Countdown to Clear and Madame Butterfly! Are you ready?

August 28, 2012

Houston Ballet is opening its exciting 2012-2013 season with Clear and Madame Butterfly, September 6-16, 2012 at Wortham Theater Center in Houston, TX.

Dancers: Amy Fote and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

The program starts with Stanton Welch’s Clear –an abstract work, for seven men and one woman, showcasing Houston Ballet’s male dancers and set to Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor and the first and second movements from the Violin Concerto in G minor (Denise Tarrant, Violin; Elizabeth Priestly Siffert, Oboe). Noted fashion designer Michael Kors created the costumes for Clear. Sleek and sexy, Mr. Kors’s flesh-toned designs focus the attention on the dancers, emphasizing the emotional impact of Mr. Welch’s choreography.


Enter Madame Butterfly, the love story of a beautiful Geisha (Cio-Cio San) and handsome American naval officer, Lieutenant Pinkerton is told in an exhilarating two-act ballet. Cio-Cio San renounces her faith and her family to wed Lieutenant Pinkerton, the centerpiece of the work is a ravishing wedding night pas de deux. The production unfolds dramatically on Peter Farmer’s picturesque sets, which beautifully evoke the mystery and languor of nineteenth century Japan.

Dancer: Sara Webb; Photo: Jim Caldwell

Tons of exciting things to look for September 6-16, 2012! Madame Butterfly will feature dancers making their debuts in leading roles. Debuting in the role of Madame Butterfly will be soloist Nao Kusuzaki and debuting as Pinkerton are first soloist Linnar Looris and demi soloist James Gotesky. Principals Amy Fote, Mireille Hassenboehler and Sara Webb will revisit the role of Cio-Cio San, and principals Simon Ball, Ian Casady and Connor Walsh will reprise the role of Pinkerton.

Here’s what some of our dancers and artistic staff have to say about Madame Butterfly:

Principal, Amy Fote –

“Madame Butterfly is one of my favorite ballets I have ever danced. The emotional arc that Madame Butterfly endures throughout the story is so heart moving and tragic – experiencing a 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.”

Dancer: Amy Fote; Photo: Maarten Holl

Soloist, Nao Kusuzaki –

“It is an honor to portray the role of Cio-Cio San through this beautifully poetic ballet Stanton has crafted, […] I am especially excited to share with the audience the Japanese cultural heritage which speaks to me most authentically, and to tell the story of this ballet’s pure beauty, unwavering strength, and passionate drama.”

Ballet Master, Steven Woodgate –

“Madame Butterfly was my first full length ballet that I have ever set and I have now set it on seven different companies. I understand all of the characters and what they do, so I am not struggling to figure out every step; you become more comfortable with it. […] It is a challenging ballet technically dance wise and pas de deux wise.”

Watch the Clear and Madame Butterfly preview to learn more!

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or by visiting Please click here to view, print or download casting.


Summer Diary Series – Soloist Nao Kusuzaki

August 17, 2012

Ever wondered what our Houston Ballet company dancers do over the summer? Well, we asked our dancers what they did over the summer and what they are looking forward to the most in the 2012-2013 season. Check out this week’s entry from Soloist Nao Kusuzaki! Enjoy!

This summer, I returned home to Japan and performed Giselle in Hiraki Ballet School’s 30th Anniversary performance. Demi soloist Charles-Louis Yoshiyama grew up dancing here, and I was excited to celebrate their big birthday with the teachers, current students, and dancers who came back to perform for this occasion. An added bonus was to share this experience with family and relatives, and friends who flew out from the island I grew up in Ehime. It was their first time at a ballet. It was a very special Giselle performance!

Nao Kusuzaki (middle) with friends and family after a Noh class in Tokyo

When I was not in Chiba for Hiraki, I visited Ehime and took ballet class from a friend who recently opened a ballet school, Ehime Takeichi Ballet. We were classmates from age 3 to 10, and my earliest memories had her included. She went off to Russia, I to the States, and now back taking her barre in our hometown was a little odd at first, but something very familiar. I got in touch with my roots through taking a Noh lesson. A classical art form in Japan since 14h century, Noh uses voice and dance with a fan and a mask. I found it quite similar to ballet, in the way performers carry their body, and a basic stance of a turned out position of feet, although very subtle. Completely intrigued. A new destination of the summer was South Korea, where I visited my cousin Yoko. Only 2 hours flight from Tokyo but very different in culture, I embraced their food, frequented the bath houses, and relaxed on the beautiful beach east of Seoul.

Back home now in Houston, Madame Butterfly rehearsals are underway, and am very much looking forward to it. Also in the works is Aszure Barton’s creation for Houston Ballet. Aszure Barton & Artists toured Houston in 2010 and I was fascinated. Now working in the studio, the interest continues to grow and develop. Second half of the season, La Bayadere is a ballet I’m looking forward to. Such a gorgeous ballet with extraordinary dancing, dramatic story, and exotic setting!

– Nao Kusuzaki, Soloist

Congratulations to Soloist Nao Kusuzaki! She will be debuting in the lead role of Cio-Cio San in Madame Butterfly which runs September 6-16.

Tickets to Madame Butterfly are on sale via our website at


Dancing Butterfly

June 26, 2012

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 Tickets go on sale to the general public via phone and walk up on August 6.


My Favorite Roles

August 27, 2009

Continuing with questions posed to us on Facebook, Nancy Sands asks:  What are your dancers’ favorite roles and why?

Soloist Nao Kusuzaki took a break from rehearsal to answer:

I’ve been thinking about your question for a few days–there are so many!–and I’ve narrowed it down to four.  They are:

“Red Couple” in Stanton Welch’s Tu Tu.  This ballet is simply gorgeous–its movement and music harmoniously creates an exquisite piece of jewelry to be showcased.  So just from watching the ballet, Tu Tu was a special piece to me.  And it became even more so in dancing the Red Couple.  The Red Couple dances a luxurious pas de deux: always flowing and graceful, and unexpectedly dynamic, balancing fragility, strength, searching, yearning.  Experiencing and exploring these sensations in studio and on stage, it now holds a special place in my heart.  

Suzuki in Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly is another one of my favorites.  From the beginning of rehearsal, I felt a deep sense of connection to this ballet through my Japanese roots, and while exploring Suzuki’s character I became attached and attracted to her attributes—her strength, integrity, stubbornness, kindness, charm, drama, and character–a true friend who is always on Cio-Cio San’s side.  I came to find out how complex this character was and couldn’t leave her alone.  I enjoyed nurturing her.


Grandmother in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker–because she is the oldest character I’ve tackled so far!  She and the Grandfather are the oldest characters in the ballet, and yet they have as much fun as Clara and Fritz.  I love that!  Not to mention it has stretched me in a different way than a typical dancing role or a character.

Dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker is a role I love and look forward to every year because it is one of the most elegant, classical, and challenging ballet characters.  Every year I’m humbled–it does not get easier!  She is the quintessential ballerina role; growing up, I looked up to her, and I’m finding out it’s quite a task portraying and becoming this beauty!

Best Regards,


Free Performances of Madame Butterfly This Weekend!

May 5, 2008

Fresh off their successful tour to Montréal, Houston Ballet will present free performances of Madame Butterfly at Miller Outdoor Theatre this weekend, May 9-11, at 8 PM on all three days.  Free tickets are available at the Miller Theatre Box Office on a first-come, first-serve basis between 11:30 AM and 1:00 PM on the day of the performance. Remaining tickets are given out one hour before curtain.  You do not need a ticket to sit on the lawn.  For more information, please visit


The Road to Montréal

May 2, 2008

Guest writer: Jim Nelson, general manager

Houston Ballet’s performances of Madame Butterfly in Montréal mark the second round of exchanges between the two companies. Previously, Houston Ballet presented Les Grands Ballet Canadiens de Montréal at the Cullen Theater in 2005 with Ohad Naharin’s ballet Minus One, and the following spring, Houston Ballet performed the classic Giselle on Les Grands’ 2005-2006 season.  The model of reciprocal exchange is one of the innovative ways Houston Ballet and Les Grands are keeping large-scale touring of dance alive.  Following our performances here over the next three days, Houston Ballet will again present Les Grands in Houston in November 2008 as part of Houston Ballet’s Cullen Series.  They will perform Didy Veldman’s TooT and Stijn Celis’ Noces.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008
While the crew is busy loading in the Butterfly production at Place des Arts, the dancers’ journey north starts with airport bus-calls at 8:00 am from Houston Ballet Academy to IAH.  As there are no direct flights between Houston and Montréal and as Continental Airlines (the official airline of HB) has only smaller aircraft going into YUL with our routing, getting the company to Canada requires a stopover and two separate itineraries.  Half of the group travels through Cleveland and the other half travels through Newark.  Luckily we had no delays and both groups arrive on time (5:30 and 6:15).

The evening is free to recover from the travel day and rest up for the marathon day on Thursday.  Oliver Halkowich, the company’s resident foodie, lead a group of dancers to Le Club Chasse et Peche, while Ballet Mistress Louise Lester and I head to Au Pied de Cochon.  Both groups return with raves for the local fare.

Thursday, May 01, 2008
Thursday morning starts with a master class given by Ballet Master Steven Woodgate to local dance students at Ballet Divertimento.  To deepen our impact on the communities we visit, Houston Ballet provides at least one master class in each city we tour to.  This was the first of two Montréal master classes arranged by our presenter, Les Grands Ballet Canadiens de Montréal and US Consulate General. 


The dancers start their day with company class at noon at Place des Arts followed by their one and only dress rehearsal from 2:30-5:30.

7:00 PM
In a similar format to Houston Ballet’s Dance Talks series, Stanton Welch participates in a pre-performance lecture/discussion about the creation of Madame Butterfly.  I’m impressed with the sophistication and insight of the questions from the audience.  Montréal obviously loves and supports dance, and they are very complimentary of Houston Ballet.

8:00 PM, opening performance
The company, lead by principals Amy Fote and Ian Casady as Cio-Cio San and Pinkerton, danced beautifully.  The audience response in Montréal is quite reserved throughout performances compared to Houston audiences where they respond after solos or pas de deux.  Here they generally wait until the end of the act to respond.  I noticed this when we were here performing Giselle.  Obviously the audience loved Madame Butterfly—they jumped out of their seats and gave the company a standing ovation!

I managed to sneak in a few shots from backstage before the performance:

Friday, May 02, 2008
This morning, Ballet Mistress Louise Lester taught the second master class at École supérieure de ballet contemporain de Montréal.

This afternoon the dancers have a couple hours of rehearsal after company class, and tonight Mimi Hassenboehler and Nicholas Leschke dance Cio-Cio San and Pinkerton. Tomorrow night, Melody Herrera and Connor Walsh have their first full performance of the ballet.

From all accounts, the company is having a great time here in Montréal, and we hope to come back soon.



Company Leaves for Montreal Today

April 30, 2008

Houston Ballet dancers are flying to Montréal as we speak to perform at the Place des Arts.  The company will dance Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly on May 1-3 at 8 PM on all three days.  In an upcoming blog, general manager Jim Nelson will give us an update on what the company is up to.

In the meantime, check out this great preview article for the performances in the Montréal Gazette.


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