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Madame Butterfly

Music by Giacomo Puccini (1858 - 1924)
Arrangement by John Lanchbery (1923 - 2003)
Choreography by Stanton Welch
Scenic and Costumes by Peter Farmer
Lighting by Lisa Pinkham

Premiered by The Australian Ballet in 1995, Madame Butterfly was Stanton Welch’s first full-length ballet.  The two-act work tells the story of the beautiful geisha Cio-Cio-San who renounces her faith and her family to wed Lieutenant Pinkerton, the handsome, but cynical American naval officer who is betrothed to another.  The centerpiece of the work is a ravishing wedding night pas de deux for Pinkerton and Cio-Cio-San, which closes the first act.  The production unfolds dramatically on Peter Farmer's picturesque sets, which beautifully evoke the mystery and languor of nineteenth century Japan. 

Madame Butterfly is a wonderful and famous love story, along the lines of Romeo and Juliet,” said Mr. Welch.  “When I first became interested in choreography I was working as an extra with The Australian Opera.  While my father drove me home, I would quiz him on various opera stories, searching for the one most suited for ballet.  The one he spoke about most passionately, and in the most detail, was later to become my passion; it is the story of Cio-Cio-San and her fatal love for Pinkerton.”  

At the ballet’s Houston premiere, Marene Gustin of the Houston Press wrote, “Houston Ballet needs more story ballets like this one…the company really danced, flowing through the choreography and shining in the storytelling.”  (September 26, 2002)

Mr. Welch’s Madame Butterfly utilizes the score by Puccini, in an arrangement by the late, acclaimed British conductor John Lanchbery.  Mr. Lanchbery arranged scores especially for six Houston Ballet productions and was recognized as a world-renowned musician. 

Mr. Welch recalled working with Mr. Lanchbery on the score to the ballet, “I was 24, and he treated me like everybody else, giving me with the same respect and attention as other choreographers.  He was very generous, and it was wonderful working with him.  He was very interested in and passionate about dance, and nobody has approached his oeuvre or replaced him.”

Madame Butterfly is Mr. Welch's most popular work and is in the repertoires of companies across the globe, including Boston Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, Atlanta Ballet, and the Royal New Zealand Ballet. 

Houston Ballet Premiere of Madame Butterfly on September 19, 2002, by Houston Ballet in the Brown Theater at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston, Texas.

Dancers: Barbara Bears and Nicholas Leschke
Dancers: Amy Fote and Nicholas Leschke
Dancers: Artists of Houston Ballet
All Photos: Drew Donovan